Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke has gone from potential Cy Young candidate to Double-A player in the span of about a month. The Pirates optioned the 2013 All-Star to Altoona on Wednesday, the club announced in a press release.
Catcher Tony Sanchez was also sent to Altoona.
"This move allows us to give Jeff Locke a short break,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. “It also allows Tony Sanchez to get back to the Major Leagues as soon as the rules permit us to do so. In addition, this gives us the opportunity to maintain a full roster until both Jeff and Tony can return to the club on September 3. That is when the Double-A season is over and when the club intends to recall both players."
Locke, 25, was once one of the best stories of the season. After a victory on July 21, he was 9-2 with a 2.11 ERA. He had a quality start next time out but lost and then the serious regression began. In his last six starts, Locke has an 8.10 ERA and 2.33 WHIP. In that span, opposing hitters are having an absolute field day with him, hitting .388/.460/.491.
On the year, Locke is still 9-4 with a 3.22 ERA, but his struggles have gotten to a point where something had to happen. The Pirates are fighting in a three-way battle for the NL Central championship, something they've never won -- remember, the last time the Pirates went to the playoffs, there was no such thing as the NL Central.