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Locke hopes he quelled concerns

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PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke came to pitch at PNC Park on Monday night, he saw his old surroundings, and did he conquer some of the Pirates staff's concerns about him?

"It's the most comfortable I've felt all season. It felt ... so right, like this is where I belong," Locke said after having pitched the first 5 1/3 innings, mostly dominantly, of what became an 11-10 loss in 13 innings to the Giants.

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Manager Clint Hurdle had urged Locke to not make too much of the start, to not have it frame the big picture of his future with the club.

Locke concurred.

"I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it anyway. I came in to pitch today, and go back out of town [Tuesday]," said Locke, who indeed was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday by the Bucs, who needed his roster spot for reliever Phil Irwin. "My only plan was to come in and help these guys out a little bit."

Yet, he also wanted to show Hurdle that he could adapt to the manager's preferred pitching approach -- a task that could have shortened his outing.

Locke drew some criticism last season, especially when things started to sour, for pitching around batters, lacking the confidence to go at them aggressively. In 2013, he led the National League with 84 walks.

Tuesday night, he struck out five without issuing a walk, and faced 23 batters on a total of only 65 pitches. Ultimately, however, throwing too many strikes may have cost him because the Giants started to catch up to him in the sixth, leading to his removal.

Locke did not have a single start without a walk last season, among the 30 he made.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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