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March 06. 2013 10:56PM

Conway's Locke makes his case


Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jeff Locke throws in the third inning Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Locke, of Conway, earned the win. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
New Hampshire native Jeff Locke enhanced his chances of gaining a spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation following his three-hit, four-inning stint in a 9-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday.

Locke, of Conway, improved his spring training record to 2-1. He faced 17 batters, allowing one earned run, with two walks and three strikeouts.

"I was able to throw more pitches in the strike zone and keep the ball down a lot better. For me personally, with it being spring training and preparing yourself for the season, definitely a step in the right direction today," the left-hander told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game.

Locke fell behind in the count to 10 of the 17 batters he faced, but limited the damage. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle told the Post-Gazette, "That was probably one of the bright spots for him today."

Locke retired the first eight batters he faced, getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia to strike out swinging to end the first inning and Jackie Bradley on a called strike three to close out the second frame.

In the third inning, Locke allowed a two-out single to Pedro Ciriaco, who stole second and remained there when Brock Holt drew a walk. Jonny Gomes followed with a double to plate Ciriaco for the only run off Locke.

The fourth inning saw Locke get into a jam when J.C. Linares doubled followed by a walk to Bradley. But Locke struckout David Ross looking for the second out and closed out his outing by getting Jose Iglesias on a fly out.

In three Grapefruit League starts, Locke has a 3.60 ERA. In 10 innings, he has allowed seven hits, four earned runs and five walks. He has fanned seven batters.

The Pirates' 2012 Organization Pitcher of the Year, Locke was 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA in eight games with the Pirates last year including six starts. Locke, 25, was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft. In June of 2009, he was traded by the Braves with Gorkys Hernandez and Charlie Morton to the Pirates for Nate McLouth.

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