By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — To make room for newcomers Marlon Byrd and John Buck, the Pirates have temporarily sent left-handed starting pitcher Jeff Locke and backup catcher Tony Sanchez down to Double-A Altoona, the team announced Wednesday evening.

Despite a surprisingly successful first half of the season that was good enough to get him on the National League All-Star Team, the 25-year-old Locke has struggled badly with mechanics in the second half.

After Tuesday’s no-decision, in which he lasted just 4 2/3 innings and left with a 5-0 deficit, he has gone 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA and 16 walks against 16 strikeouts over the last month.

For several months Locke was able to overcome inconsistent control and pitch effectively with men on base. However, opponents have posted a .418 batting average on balls in play against him since July.

“This move allows us to give Jeff Locke a short break,” GM Neal Huntington said before Wednesday’s game against the visiting Brewers.  “It also allows Tony Sanchez to get back to the Major Leagues as soon as the rules permit us to do so. In addition, this gives us the opportunity to maintain a full roster until both Jeff and Tony can return to the club on Sept. 3. That’s when the Double-A season is over, and when the club intends to recall both players.”

All MLB rosters will expand to 40 players starting this approaching Sunday.

The Pirates, entering Wednesday, had slipped to one-and-a-half games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central Division lead. The Cardinals visit PNC Park for a weekend series.

At the time of publication, the Pirates had not yet named an alternate starter for Sunday’s matchup.

Sanchez, 25, had been ineffective offensively as Russell Martin’s backup, albeit within a small sample size. In just 15 big-league games this year he’s hit .220 with one homer and four RBI.

The Curve, meanwhile, have promoted catcher Carlos Paulino to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Stay tuned to SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, your flagship home of Pirates baseball, for the latest.


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