One of the best feel-good stories of the season took an unfortunate turn this evening, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Pirates closer Jason Grilli left a game against the Nationals in the ninth inning with right forearm discomfort.
Grilli was in obvious pain after he threw a pitch that was fouled off by Steve Lombardozzi. He walked off the field with a trainer before being replaced by Vin Mazzaro, who managed to finish off a 6-5 victory for his first major league save.
Grilli has been a revelation out of the closer role for the Pirates this season, posting a 2.34 ERA and 66/10 K/BB ratio over 42 1/3 innings while leading the National League with 30 saves. The 36-year-old recently made his first All-Star team and the cover of Sports Illustrated. He previously had Tommy John surgery in 2001 while with the Marlins.
The Pirates figure to turn to Mark Melancon at closer if Grilli needs to miss significant time. Acquired from the Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan deal over the winter, the 28-year-old right-hander has a 0.97 ERA and 47/6 K/BB ratio over 46 1/3 innings this season.
Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.
Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.
Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.