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Hurdle plans to ease Grilli back into closer's role

Hurdle plans to ease Grilli back into closer's role

NEW YORK -- Eventually, manager Clint Hurdle says, Jason Grilli will be the Pirates' closer again. He just doesn't know when.

Grilli opened the season in that role, but since back-to-back blown saves and a month-long stint on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, Mark Melancon has been getting most of the save opportunities. Melancon closed out Pittsburgh's 5-3 win over the Mets on Monday for his 10th save of 2014.

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Grilli, meanwhile, earned a save against the Nationals the day he came off the DL on May 23.

"I would like to get Jason out there another time in a different situation than we placed him in the first time out. Running him right back out to a save situation, it might not happen," Hurdle said before Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Mets.

"I think we use our eyes on his next opportunity that he gets. Just look -- look at the pitch crispness. He's not going to be far away. But I would like to get him out there another time before we make any kind of statement or get the bullpen together and proclaim roles."

That opportunity came in the eighth inning Tuesday. After allowing a leadoff single to Ruben Tejada, Grilli struck out the next three batters -- Eric Campbell, Juan Lagares and Daniel Murphy -- swinging.

"[Russell Martin] said the ball was fresh," Hurdle said. "There was good finish to his fastball and good tilt to his breaking ball."

Re-installing Grilli into the ninth inning would make the bullpen deeper overall. Melancon can go back to setting up, and Hurdle said lefty Justin Wilson could be used when the team is tied or behind by a run or two.

"Our bullpen is moving toward as good a place as it's been all year," Hurdle said. "I do like my bullpen best with Grilli closing."

Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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