The Pirates defeated the Reds in 12 innings this afternoon at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but Jason Grilli was the reason the game went to extra innings after he gave up a game-tying solo homer to Devin Mesoraco in the top of the ninth inning. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked about Grilli’s status as the team’s closer after the game and he indicated that a change could be coming soon.
While today’s blown save was Grilli’s first since April 20, he also served up the game-winning home run on Tuesday night and has allowed five runs on eight hits and five walks over 6 2/3 innings this month. Perhaps most alarmingly, he hasn’t struck out a batter in his last six appearances, which includes 23 batters faced. The 37-year-old right-hander has a 4.34 ERA and 17/10 K/BB ratio over 18 2/3 innings overall this season.
Mark Melancon was solid as the fill-in closer when Grilli was sidelined from late-April to late-May with a strained oblique, so Hurdle could turn to him again amid the struggles. Tony Watson, who owns a dominant 0.81 ERA and 41/8 K/BB ratio over 33 innings, is another option for the gig.
Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.
Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.
To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.