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.