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Locke shines in return to Majors

Kennett grad pitches in relief for Pirates

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

JEFF LOCKE was in Pittsburgh for the teamís official photo. He is in the second row, third from the left. Pittsburgh Pirates - Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
August 13, 2012
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — If Jeff Locke was hoping to make a good impression on his third stint in the Major Leagues, he was successful.

The 2006 Kennett graduate got the call on Tuesday, Aug. 7, that he was being called up from AAA Indianapolis the following day and drove to Pittsburgh in time for the team's game that night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In fact, Locke even made it to the big club in time for the team picture, in which he got to appear for the first time.

In his first game appearance with the Pirates this season, Locke entered Thursday's game against Arizona in the seventh inning and stranded an inherited runner at second. He faced seven batters in two and a third innings, retiring all seven batters, including one on a strikeout. He threw 37 pitches, 22 of them for strikes. Though the Pirates lost by a 6-3 score, Locke made his season debut a strong one.

The appearance also marked Locke's relief debut in the Major Leagues.

"The nervousness of, I guess, the first impression was kind of gone," Locke told MLB.com. "I know it's a different role, relieving as opposed to starting.

"Pitching is pitching, no matter whether you're starting or relieving. It's all the same game," he continued. "Getting my feet wet last year definitely made it a little bit easier on me this time around."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was impressed with the lefty's work.

"I liked what I saw today," Hurdle told MLB.com. "(He had) very good composure on the mound. Mixed his pitches well. Kept the ball in the strike zone. Used all his pitches."

While this was Locke's first appearance of the season in a Major League game, he was up with the Pirates earlier in the season, filling a spot in the bullpen when a teammate was on bereavement leave for a weekend.

Locke made his Major League debut last September as one of the additional call-ups at the end of the season when rosters expand. He went 0-3 with a 6.48 earned run average in four starts. He allowed 12 runs on 21 hits in 16 and two-thirds innings.

The atmosphere was a bit different this time around. Last year when Locke was summoned, the Pirates were out of the pennant race and were playing out the season. This year, the Pirates are still in the middle of the pennant race.

"Last year was an eye-opener, for sure," Locke told MLB.com. "I had a taste and I knew I wanted to get back.

"They were out of it by the time I got here and now it's a completely different clubhouse," He continued. "Everyone is ready to keep this thing rolling."

Locke's work at AAA Indianapolis made him the perfect contender to get the call to the Major Leagues. The lefty started 21 games for the Indians, posting a 9-5 record and a 2.66 earned run average. In 125 innings he had 113 strikeouts and just 38 walks.

A 2006 second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, Locke was acquired by the Pirates in a 2009 trade deadline deal involving then-All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth.

The Thursday appearance was Locke's only outing of the weekend for the Pirates.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at sportsgsn@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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