Pirates closer Jason Grilli spent most of his 20’s and early 30’s bouncing from organization to organization — he pitched for the White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, and Rangers. Between 2004-09, working almost exclusively as a reliever, he posted a 4.62 ERA. He suffered a knee injury during spring training in 2010 with the Indians, forcing him to miss the entire season. The Phillies picked him up going into 2011 and stashed him in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he thrived with a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings. With no spot for him in the Major League bullpen, the Phillies had to let him go and the Pirates quickly snapped him up. From there, the rest is history.
Grilli posted a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings pitching mostly in middle relief in the second-half of the 2011 season in Pittsburgh. His performance merited a promotion to set up for closer Joel Hanrahan in 2012, and Grilli once again prospered, posting a 2.91 ERA in 58.2 innings. During the off-season, the Pirates traded Hanrahan to the Red Sox for a handful of prospects, opening up the closer’s role to Grilli.
This afternoon, Grilli nailed down a 1-0 save against the Astros, bumping his MLB-leading total up to 17 on the season and lowering his ERA to 0.92. Grilli, now 36 years old, stands out among a very talented group of relievers across baseball that includes Mariano Rivera, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Papelbon, and many others. The Pirates, often a punchline when it comes to player development, were able to strike gold in Grilli as a reclamation project.