The Pirates have been without All-Star closer Jason Grilli since late July because of a right forearm strain, but he recently started pitching in minor-league rehab games and is moving closer to rejoining the team. When he does return, he may do so in a role other than closer.
"We'll talk about that when he gets back," manager Clint Hurdle said to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. "We're in a lot of different discussions now."
Mark Melancon stepped in as closer when Grilli got hurt and has since gone 8 for 9 in save chances while allowing just two earned runs and 19 baserunners in 23 innings (0.78 ERA and 0.83 WHIP). The idea would be to ease Grilli back into things before giving him back the ninth inning.
Grilli, 36, threw one inning for the team's Double-A affiliate on Saturday and is scheduled to make two more rehab appearances Monday and Wednesday. Although Hurdle wouldn't reveal the plan after that, the expectation is the right-hander will rejoin the team later this week if all goes well.
In 45 games before the injury. Grilli was nearly automatic. He went 30 for 31 in save chances and pitched to a 2.34 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 42 1/3 innings. Grilli and Melancon were arguably the best setup man-closer combination in baseball.
The Pirates came into Monday tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central at 79-57.