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Pirates confident in Locke's health for Cincy finale

CINCINNATI -- Jeff Locke hasn't pitched since July 8 and missed out on a chance to play in the All-Star Game because of lower back stiffness, but when the 25-year-old left-hander takes the mound on Sunday against the Reds, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he'll do so without limitations.

"I don't think we'll have him under a microscope by any means, but we'll just watch him pitch," Hurdle said. "I think his body will tell us how his back shapes up."

Locke was scheduled to pitch in the Pirates' last game before the break on July 14, but he was scratched after feeling the stiffness in his back in his most recent start against Oakland. Thanks to an 8-2 record and 2.15 ERA in 18 starts, Locke was selected as an All-Star. He traveled to New York but did not participate in the game, giving him 12 days between starts.

Hurdle said previously that a nice extended break could be all that Locke needs, and he doesn't expect any issues on Sunday.

"I think he'll let us know how he feels," Hurdle said. "He threw his bullpen very clean and efficient yesterday, which isn't a game. He seems to be very encouraged by what he feels so far, and he's looking forward to the outing."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for
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