PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pirates aren't ready to replace Salomon Torres as their closer. That doesn't mean Torres is guaranteed to be on the mound in the ninth inning Friday night if Pittsburgh has a lead against the Cincinnati Reds.
With Torres and the Pirates in jeopardy of losing a 5-1 lead to Houston on Thursday, Tracy pulled Torres in the ninth with two outs, two runners on base and a run in. Left-hander John Grabow came in and allowed Mike Lamb's RBI single, but Adam Everett grounded into a force play that preserved the Pirates' 5-3 victory.
Grabow returned to the team Tuesday after starting the season on the disabled list with a sore left elbow, and was needed to get two key outs in a 4-3, 16-inning victory on Wednesday night. Tracy hadn't intended to use him on successive days so soon.
``We didn't finish the way I would have liked, but the important thing was to win the game,'' Tracy said. ``We wanted to win the game and deal with tomorrow when it comes.''
Torres' sudden inability to close out games is a major problem for a team whose bullpen was weakened when former closer Mike Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta during the offseason.
The right-handed Torres, who is 35, has been scored upon in five of his last seven appearances, and he gave away a 3-1 lead in the ninth Wednesday by giving up two runs. The Pirates needed seven more innings to get the lead back.
Torres converted his first four save opportunities, but has since blown three of five - and that doesn't include Thursday's failed outing that elevated his ERA to 7.20.
As a result, Tracy may be tempted to use right-hander Matt Capps (1-0, 0.73 ERA) during the next save opportunity. Torres became the closer late last season, when Gonzalez was sidelined with an elbow problem, and he converted 12-of-15 save opportunities. All of his saves came after September 1.
``We'll do what's necessary to win the game,'' Tracy said. ``But to suggest I'm taking something away from him, I'm not doing that, not right now. He'll stand up to this, he'll get it straightened out.''
Still, Tracy was unhappy that Torres didn't challenge hitters Thursday with his difficult-to-hit sinker.
``I think some of it has to do with thought process, realizing where you're at and trusting your stuff,'' Torres said. ``Go after people. A four-run lead? Go get them with your good stuff. Some of it has to do with the mental aspect of it, and there's a little bit mechanically he has to put in place because his pitches are not sharp right now.''
Despite Torres' struggles, Grabow doesn't detect a loss of confidence by Torres' teammates.
``He's a smart guy,'' Grabow said. ``Everybody goes through these things. I have no doubt he is going to get through this and contribute to the team.''
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