Last night Jason Grilli gave up a game-tying homer against the Reds and today the Pirates announced that he’s been demoted from the closer role.
According to manager Clint Hurdle it’s not intended to be a permanent change, although surely that depends on how fill-in closer Mark Melancon fares in the role and on how Grilli bounces back with some middle relief work.
Melancon has been fantastic filling in as closer during Grilli’s injuries this season and last season, saving a total of 26 games with a 1.55 ERA in 104 innings, so the Pirates are in a very good situation in terms of having an extremely capable alternative.
Grilli had a sub-3.00 ERA for the Pirates in 2011, 2012, and 2013–including an All-Star appearance last year–but he’s allowed runs in three of his last four games and at age 37 it’s possible Hurdle and company think he might be slowing down overall.
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.