Locke makes quick appearance

PITTSBURGH – Jeff Locke returned to the major leagues for one night under unusual circumstances.

No matter what he did Monday night against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park, Locke was a virtual lock to return to Class AAA Indianapolis today.

The Pirates won’t need a fifth starter for at least 10 more days, so they’ll return Locke to the minor leagues today and replace him with a position player, possibly outfielder-first baseman Andrew Lambo.

So whether the outing was good, bad or somewhere in between, Locke’s return ticket to Indianapolis was already punched.

“I think he has enough experience to know what the challenge is for him today and what he needs to do,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s best served by just staying in the moment and staying focused. Just take this opportunity and make the most of it.”

Despite the present one-and-done circumstance, Locke will get another shot with the Pirates this season.

To clear a roster spot, Casey Sadler was returned to Indianapolis. He pitched well in two relief appearances, his first major league experience.

Working to get back

Closer Jason Grilli threw before Monday’s game as he continues to recover from the oblique strain that put him on the disabled list.

“It felt great,” Grilli said. “I’m way ahead of where I need to be.”

Grilli has been throwing off a flat surface. His next step will be to get back on a mound.

“He hasn’t been on a slope yet,” Hurdle said. “He’s playing catch right now. We’ll wait another couple of days.”

Catcher Russell Martin is working his way back from a lower body injury, and has been cleared to start baseball-related activities by the end of the week.

“He’s progressing,” Hurdle said. “He’s done the strength and conditioning work, cardio, live-tracking. Friday will be his first hitting and throwing.”

Staying put

Josh Harrison batted first and played right field for the third straight game.

Giant challenge

San Francisco is one of two teams to have posted 20 wins already, and the Giants lead the National League in home runs.

“Every hitter has a hot zone,” Hurdle said. “You have to stay out of the hot zone. They’re putting good swings on the ball.”

Getting better

Tony Sanchez, who is likely to be next year’s starting catcher, is focused on improving his defensive skills.

“He continues to work on overall consistency,” Hurdle said. “He’s been very receptive. The defensive part of the game, we feel he has a natural talent for it and can continue to get better.”

Catchers play a demanding position, and there’s plenty to learn.

“The game calling, with more reps and facing the same teams over and over, you get hitter catalogs, you get to know your own pitchers better,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes it changes from day to day with that same pitcher. The guy might not have a slider that day, he might have to go with a curveball. Or it may just be fastball and change up on one day. He figures that out as he goes through the process of the education behind the plate, the awareness, feeling swings on pitches that are thrown.”