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July 14. 2013 7:18PM


Back tightness forces Pirates' Locke to miss Sunday start, All Star play

Pittsburgh Pirates representatives in the 2013 All Star game, from left, relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) and center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) and starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) and relief pitcher Jason Grilli (39) and third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) are introduced on the field before playing the New York Mets at PNC Park. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Pitcher Jeff Locke did not make his scheduled start Sunday and also will be unavailable for the All-Star Game Tuesday at Citi Field in New York after experiencing lower-back tightness after his most recent outing, manager Clint Hurdle announced Saturday.

The Pirates believe the injury to be minor and expect him to be available to pitch when the team returns from the All-Star break.

Gerrit Cole started Sunday against the New York Mets. He is pitching after his usual rest because the Pirates were idle Thursday.

Locke, a two-time Union Leader Player of the Year from Kennett of Conway, said he felt his back tighten in his seven-inning outing Monday against the Oakland Athletics.

“I don’t think it’s anything different than normal tiredness at this point in the year,” he said.

But he aggravated the injury while lifting weights Tuesday and informed team trainers and team management about his back issue.

“He feels just a little bit off,” Hurdle said.

He pitched a scheduled bullpen session Friday, which he said was encouraging as his back tightness mostly had subsided. But he said he does not believe he would be able to get full extension or have full range of motion over a 100-pitch outing. The team will have four off days during the break, and Locke is not scheduled to pitch again until next Sunday.

“To have the type of situation, the physical issue we have, we couldn’t have had it at a better time to take care of it,” Hurdle said.

Locke still will attend the All-Star Game.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about is not being able to (pitch Sunday),” he said. “It’s not one of those things where I can’t go, but I can go in the All-Star Game. I think that’d be disrespectful to the team.”

Locke, 25, is 8-2 with a 2.12 ERA this season. He has never been on the disabled list.

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