PITTSBURGH -- The Bucs' next closer? It could very well be Tony Watson.
As the manager pointed out, Grilli did nothing more than cross a closer's slim margin of error.
"He got one pitch in a bad zone that got covered. There isn't a heightened uneasiness for me, by any means," Hurdle said.
So this isn't about current events. But the Pirates are likely to need a new closer next season. At 37, Grilli is in the second of a two-year contract. Most expect the job to fall to Mark Melancon, who has past closing experience and won't turn 30 until Opening Day 2015.
In a subtle way, Hurdle already seems to be stumping for Watson, which would enable him to keep Melancon in his uncanny eighth-inning role (1.19 ERA the 53 times he has worked that inning for the Bucs).
"He's not a left-on-left guy," Hurdle said of Watson, separating him from the prototypical matchup southpaw. "He's aggressive, self-confident, fields his position and controls the running game."
Watson has not allowed an earned run since April 22, a stretch of 22 games spanning two months. He began this season with a career strikeout rate of 7.8 every nine innings, but with his changeup becoming a weapon, he had 41 whiffs in 32 innings entering Wednesday. Watson is holding right-handed hitters to an average of .195.
"He has continued to emerge as one of the reigning relievers," Hurdle said.
Watson is a top candidate for a spot in the National League's All-Star bullpen. Hurdle, one of Mike Matheny's All-Star coaches, will lobby for him.
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.Less