Pirates option Jeff Locke to Double-A Altoona

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Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke was a first-half hero, posting a 2.15 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star break. But he has been roughed up in the second half — it got especially bad in August — and may not play a role down the stretch for the Bucs.

According to beat writer Michael Sanserino of the Pittsbrugh Post-Gazette, the Pirates have optioned Locke to Double-A Altoona. He could be brought back shortly after rosters expand on September 1, but he will not take his turn in the rotation Sunday against the first-place Cardinals. A fill-in for that potentially-crucial outing will be announced soon.

Locke made it all the way to 176 innings pitched last year between the minors and majors.

The 25-year-old southpaw  had thrown 148 1/3 innings so far in 2013 for Pittsburgh.

Report: Giants in “serious discussions” with Reds to acquire Billy Hamilton

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Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Giants are engaged in “serious discussions” with the Reds to acquire center fielder Billy Hamilton. Talks are apparently advanced enough that a deal could be completed before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

It’s no secret that the Giants would like to make an upgrade in the outfield this offseason, as the club has also been linked to Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. Currently, the Giants’ outfield consists of Denard Span, Hunter Pence, and Jarrett Parker.

Hamilton, 27, owns a meager .248/.298/.334 batting line across parts of five seasons in the majors with the Reds. However, he has plenty of speed, having stolen at least 56 bases in each of the last four seasons. Hamilton is also well-regarded for his defense, which would be a boon at spacious AT&T Park.

Hamilton is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He’s projected to earn $5 million for this coming season. Buchanan notes that the Rangers are also interested in potentially acquiring Hamilton.