Shuffling of bullpen is imminent

PITTSBURGH – The operative sign for the Pittsburgh Pirates won’t be the Zoltan Z for the next few days.

It will be crossed fingers.

The Pirates are waiting for a detailed diagnosis on closer Jason Grilli, who left Monday’s game in Washington with pain in his right forearm.

You don’t need a medical degree to know the forearm is in the neighborhood of the elbow, and that’s always a scary territory when pitchers are involved. Dr. James Andrews has become a household name by perfecting the surgery that replaces elbow ligaments.

The Tommy John surgery only takes about 30 minutes, but it effectively sidelines a pitcher for a full year.

However, that is getting ahead of the story as it pertains to Grilli. The doctors will examine him today, and perhaps they’ll have some information to share.

Even if it’s just a forearm problem, that’s not the best news, either. Starter Wandy Rodriguez has now missed seven weeks with what was described as forearm tightness, and there’s no sign that he’s close to returning.

In theory, the Pirates are better equipped to deal with the loss of their closer than many other teams. Mark Melancon can take over the ninth inning. Manager Clint Hurdle can mix and match other pitchers to get to the ninth.

But Grilli’s stay on the disabled list is a blow to the depth of the bullpen, and that’s a concern as the season grinds on.

The Pirates have been remarkably resilient through adversity this season. Starters A.J. Burnett, Rodriguez, Charlie Morton and James McDonald have all spent time on the disabled list this season. Others have stepped in and allowed the team to succeed.

Now they need that kind of effort in the bullpen.


So Ryan Braun is not only a cheater, he’s a liar, too.

Unfortunately in today’s culture there’s not a lot of shock value in his revelations.

When you have an NFL player in jail accused of first-degree murder, it seems like less of a big deal that a baseball player used banned substances, then aggressively lied about it.

Who knows why people like Rafael Palmiero and Braun are so adamant in lying when they know they’re guilty. Maybe it’s just the arrogance that afflicts athletes who are so often indulged.

Whatever it is, Braun’s career will always be tainted by his behavior.

Of course, the $113 million remaining on his contract will provide some consolation.

Mehno can be reached at