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Locke: 'Step back' is right move for Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Physically, Jeff Locke was still in the Pirates' clubhouse Thursday afternoon. Mentally, however, he was already where the National League All-Star pitcher believes he belongs for a few days: In Altoona.

Not Altoona specifically, the Double-A outpost to where Locke was optioned on Wednesday, the day after his latest short but bitter start -- just away from PNC Park's Major League mound.

"It's not really a situation you want to put yourself in, but at the same time, these guys gotta have somebody going out for them they feel good about," Locke said. "You gotta bring more than what I've been bringing. ... Just get away from it for a while, step back and hit the reset button."

Locke will not be away from it for long. Essentially, the Pirates are simply having him miss one turn in the rotation. The club has yet to announce a starter for that spot, which comes up Sunday in the weekend series against the Cardinals.

Given that decision on Locke, temporarily optioning him to Altoona freed a roster spot for John Buck, the catcher who was acquired from the Mets on Tuesday and was making his Pirates debut in Thursday night's game against the Brewers.

"I'm young, 25, but there is fatigue, and everyone says it's normal," Locke said. "And we're not the only team doing something like this. I'm gonna want to take it every time, gonna want to keep going, regardless of how it's going. But when I step back and look at the whole picture ... we're in a position we haven't been in the previous years."

Locke remained stuck on one win in eight second-half starts when Milwaukee chased him after 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday.

"I do think we saw enough positives to feel we're best served by just skipping a start," manager Clint Hurdle said. "No way we're unplugging him."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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