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June 22. 2013 8:18PM

Ian Clark's On Baseball: Conway product not a Locke for All-Star game


Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at PNC Park on May 30. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Will Conway's Jeff Locke be playing in the MLB All-Star Game next month?

If the question is, does the rookie pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates deserve to make the All-Star roster for the National League, then that answer would be yes.

A 25-year-old lefty, Locke is 6-1 with an ERA of 2.01, tops in the NL and second in all of baseball to Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox, who has a 1.71.

Locke made his big league debut in 2011, going 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. In 2012, Locke appeared in eight games, going 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA.

This season, it all appears to have come together for Locke, who has honed his best pitch, a nasty inside fastball to both righties and lefties.

"We call them survivors here initially when guys get up (to the majors). Then we look for them to turn that corner and become competitors, and then the last stage is a winner," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told bucsdugout.com earlier this month. "I think we've seen Jeff grow out of that surviving stage. I think he's right in the middle of the competing stage now."

While Locke's numbers are great, they could be even better. But the Pirates' offense has failed to deliver for Locke in several outings this season. On two occasions Locke threw scoreless baseball into the sixth inning only to leave the game and end up with a no decision.

Last Wednesday, Locke left a game against Cincinnati with a 1-0 lead after seven frames but Pirates closer Jason Grille allowed a home run to Jay Bruce to spoil a potential Locke win.

Locke, who pitched at Kennett High in Conway, also put together several strings of scoreless innings, going 13 without allowing a run in April, 18 1/3 in May and currently has thrown 14 frames of shutout ball.

So with great numbers that are only getting better each time he takes the mound, why would Locke not make the All-Star Game at Citi Field (home of the New York Mets)?

Each team is only guaranteed one spot on the roster and Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen is the likely candidate for the Pirates. He was seventh in fan voting for outfielders and is a two-time all-star, which always seems to carry some weight.

The good news for Locke is that no one says the Pirates can't have more than one player in the ASG and another positive is that the fans don't vote for pitchers, taking the popularity contest aspect out of it.

The pitching staff is selected by the coaches and players and Locke will have several more starts between now and then to garner some attention and make his case.

Locke's next scheduled start is set for Tuesday against Seattle as the Pirates are on a west coast road trip.

- - - - - - -
Carpenter suffers setback: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and Bedford native Chris Carpenter suffered a setback to his rehabilitation last week, sustaining a back injury during a bullpen session.

According to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, Carpenter's rehab will be put on hold.

"We don't think it's as serious as we first thought," Mozeliak told the Associated Press. "It's slowing things down. Hopefully we can continue to work at it. As you can tell, we've got to be patient here."

The Cardinals were not expecting to have Carpenter at all this season, so if he can return - even late in the season - it would be a bonus for the team that boasts the best record in baseball.

Carpenter is 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA in his career, won the 2005 NL Cy Young award and has two World Series championships. But injuries have plagued Carpenter throughout his career.

Ian Clark is a New Hampshire Union Leader staff writer. His email is iclark@unionleader.com.


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