Jeff Locke works against the Baltimore Orioles on February 28, 2011.

Video: Pirates Jeff Locke Turns Heads Against Vlad, Adam Jones, Blue Jays Prospects

The pitcher most talked about when the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves is Charlie Morton.  That’s rightfully so, but many smart observers have been watching the other pitcher included in the deal, left hander Jeff Locke. 

We talked a little yesterday about how Locke has been one of the more impressive young pitchers in camp for the Bucs.   We took some video of Locke facing Vlad Guerrero.  The lefty had to be shaking in his spikes, but it didn’t show.  Locke got a quick strike and then went inside on the veteran free swinger.  Vlad took a one strike fastball that Locke said “should have hit him in the stomach,” and flicked it over Lyle Overbay’s head into right field for a single.

Locke came back to strike out Jones on a full count.  He would give up a run in his first appearance, but Locke still impressed me despite a line of 1IP/2H/1ER/1BB/1SO.  Despite the not so perfect line, it was the type of outing a young pitcher will remember forever.

Locke bounced back in his second spring outing on March 3rd.  The left hander faced some prominent Toronto Blue Jays prospects.  Locke induced ground outs from 2008 (17th) first-rounder David Cooper and 2009 third-rounder Jacob Marisnick, then got former Phillies first-rounder, Travis d’Arnaud, to pop-out for a perfect eighth inning in a 4-1 Pirates victory.

Locke has fit in well at the big league camp. From a  great story we linked this morning, Locke said that Evan Meek has been a big help.

“There’s a lot of things you shouldn’t do (as a rookie). You don’t want to be the fastest runner (in sprints). You don’t want to sit in the front of the bus. But the way I see it, it’s very professional. Everyone knows we have the ultimate goal of trying to win and build something. We want to bring life back to the great fans in Pittsburgh.”  Jeff Locke

Based on the recent history of how the Pirates developmental staff assigned Locke last season, we would guess as it stands right now, that Locke will start in AA Altoona this season.  But if he continues to impress, one can bet he won’t be hanging with the new railroad engineer mascot for very long.

An interesting thought came to mind as we wrote this and packed for our trip to Las Vegas.  Should Locke blossom into a nice starting pitcher and Charlie Morton has a bounce back year, is it enough to make the Pirates fans who still miss Nate McLouth happy?

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Jeff Locke stares at catcher Jason Jaramilo.

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