PITTSBURGH -- The initial idea behind expanding September rosters seemed simple enough. Give young players a taste of the big leagues while allowing clubs to further evaluate the talent from the upper levels of the Minor League system.
But after watching 41 players be used in a nine-inning game between the Pirates and Cardinals on Monday, manager Clint Hurdle questioned the fairness of having what sometimes seems as an unlimited number of available players in games that are critical for several clubs this month. Right now that list includes the Cardinals.
"I made five straight switches in the eighth inning," said Hurdle, who used two pinch-runners and three pinch-hitters in that game-changing inning. "We're playing by the rules. Everybody's done it. I really hope there comes a point where we're going to play the same game for six months. You don't have the luxury to do what I did in the eighth inning in a regular-season game [before September]."
On the other side, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used three different pitchers in the eighth, had three different players play center field in the game and moved Skip Schumaker to three different positions in the span of three innings. Having 10 bench players and nine relievers allowed for such liberal flexibility.
What Hurdle suggests -- and he's not the first to do so -- is that September callups continue, but with a caveat. One idea Hurdle proposed was for each club to submit a roster of players who are in play on a given night. This would allow a club to continue to carry as many as 40 players, but only a specific number of those players would be on a night's active roster.
Joe Torre, who serves as Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, discussed ideas of how to revamp September roster rules while visiting with all 30 clubs during Spring Training. Even still, Hurdle said he did not sense that any changes are imminent.
Grilli making most of opportunity in relief role
PITTSBURGH -- While all the attention was left for Pedro Ciriaco to enjoy after Monday night's win over the Cardinals, on the other end of the Pirates' clubhouse, reliever Jason Grilli had his own personal celebration of sorts.
The highlight of Grilli's night came not at the end of the eighth, after he retired Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Rather, it came when Joel Hanrahan clinched the win by striking out Corey Patterson. The save went to Hanrahan; the win, it belonged to Grilli.
"I'm really a 20-game winner in the big leagues," said Grilli, unfazed that it took nine seasons to get there. "Every pitcher wants to be a 20-game winner. I've done it."
While the right-hander's comments were made partially tongue in cheek, there is no understating the impact Grilli has had on the Bucs' bullpen since joining it in July. Looking for an opportunity to return to the big leagues -- a place he hadn't been since 2009 -- Grilli was granted his release from the Phillies' system when he knew there would be an opportunity from the Pirates.
Since then, Grilli has been scored upon in only four of 22 appearances. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he has allowed just one of 17 inherited runners to score.
"I knew I had to re-earn my stripes," Grilli said. "I've always wanted to really test my skills as a big league pitcher. I'm getting the chance to do it here again and showcase myself."
He could be showcasing himself right toward a spot in Pittsburgh's bullpen next year, too. Grilli has shown superb versatility, jumping from a long relief to, more lately, late-inning leverage situations. He will be eligible for arbitration this offseason, meaning the Pirates will have the option of retaining him for 2012 if they'd like.
"Jason has been a very good addition," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was looking for a spot to land where he thought he could make a difference. We felt like we had a opportunity for him. It's worked out very well for him and for us."
Outfielder Jose Tabata (left hand fracture) has still not resumed swinging a bat. He has kept busy with an extensive workout program, though it would seem questionable that Tabata will be cleared to return before the end of the season.
Pedro Ciriaco is slated to play winter ball this offseason and will continue to work on his versatility by playing some in the outfield. After getting some practice in the outfield this spring, Ciriaco appeared in only six games there with Triple-A Indianapolis. Ciriaco continues to garner most of his playing time as a middle infielder.
With his appearance on Tuesday, Jeff Karstens became the fifth Pirates starter to make 25 starts this season. That has been done only four previous times in franchise history, most recently in 1997.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.