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October 06. 2012 7:55PM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: NH hurler looks to lock up spot in rotation


Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) hopes he has earned a spot in the Bucs' starting rotation. (Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE)

Jeff Locke didn’t help the Pirates reach the playoffs — the plan when called up in early August — but he might have pitched his way into the starting rotation beginning next spring.

The southpaw from Kennett High of Conway, in his final start of the season, yielded two hits over six innings and notched his first big-league win against Atlanta last week. Locke’s command wasn’t his sharpest, but he executed all the big pitches in a 2-1 victory, dashing the Braves’ hopes of winning the National League East.

Everything came together for the 24-year-old Locke this season. Pittsburgh General Manager Neal Huntington, who grew up in Milford, now must look to a fellow Granite Stater when naming the starting rotation next spring. Locke was among the best pitchers in the Triple-A International League, going 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA, and a late-season audition with the Pirates ended on a strong note.

He’d made nine previous starts in the majors without a win, dating to last season. The Pirates, however, kept Locke in the rotation for six consecutive starts as he put the finishing touches on a breakthrough season.

“It feels really good. They keep giving me the ball for a reason, and today it paid off ... It will make the offseason feel a lot better, that’s for sure,” Locke said after the win.

Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are set to lead the team’s rotation next season, while Locke and fellow 2012 rookie Kyle McPherson will be among the leading candidates for a starting job.

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SILVER KNIGHTS: The champion Nashua Silver Knights of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League promoted manager B.J. Neverett to vice president of player development while promoting pitching coach J.P. Pyne to manager last week. Everett, who coached at Nashua High School and Nashua South for 17 seasons, guided the Silver Knights to two straight championship seasons.

“B.J. has shown us a knack for finding premier talent for our rosters these past two years,” Silver Knights President Tim Bawmann said. “This promotion is a reward for his previous accomplishments with us, and I am excited to see what kind of talent he’ll find for us in the coming seasons.”

Pyne, the head coach at Daniel Webster College, has also worked with the Double-A New Hampshire pitching staff under the guidance of Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore.

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CARPENTER WATCH: Trinity High of Manchester graduate Chris Carpenter, who owns the most postseason wins in St. Louis Cardinals history, is a candidate to pitch Game 3 or 4 (if necessary) of the National League Division Series at Washington.

A year ago, the Cardinals rode Carpenter’s bionic arm into the playoffs and won the World Series. The Bedford resident made two starts on three days’ rest and beat the Rangers in Game 7 of the Fall Classic. Carpenter owns a 9-2 record and 3.05 ERA in 15 postseason starts.

The 37-year-old made remarkable comeback this season following a July surgery to alleviate symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. Carpenter had one of his right ribs removed to reduce pressure on a nerve in his throwing arm.

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BASEBALL DINNER: Gold Glove ex-Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere, a Manchester Memorial graduate, will among the guests of honor at next month’s Granite State Baseball Dinner at the Radisson Hotel Expo Center in Manchester. Fans can ask LaValliere about the Pirates’ most recent winning season — 20 years ago — in which they eventually lost to Atlanta in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

The dinner, set for Nov. 17, features a star-studded lineup. Carpenter, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, former home run champion Cecil Fielder and former major leaguers Scott McGregor, Ron Blomberg and Darrell Evans will be at the head table. Yankees minor leaguers Jordan Cote from Winnisquam Regional of Tilton and Joey Maher of Bedford High were recently added to the list, along with Fisher Cats Brad Glenn and Brian Jeroloman. Dinner tickets ($80) can be purchased at the Fisher Cats Ticket Office, by visiting nhfishercats.com and by calling 641-2005.

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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com. Twitter: @graymatter11.


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