DETROIT-- Joel Hanrahan has been good when it most matters -- nine conversions in 10 save opportunities. But the Pirates closer's outings have been a bit too exciting, only four of 15 having been three-up, three-down.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle even coined a term for what the big righty has been giving him: "Hanrattack."
On Saturday, however, Hanrahan seemed to turn a significant corner with his final pitch of the Bucs' 4-3 victory over the Tigers, the 89-mph slider waved at by Prince Fielder for the game-ending strikeout.
That hard slider is a new weapon in Hanrahan's arsenal, one he developed this spring. Having a new put-away pitch between the 98-mph fastball and the more typical 84-mph slider could raise to yet a higher level a guy who has already nailed 53 of his last 58 save opportunities.
"To throw that pitch that struck out Fielder ... that was a very good sign for me," Hurdle said.
"It's a pitch I came up with in Spring Training and it's been effective so far. I've been going to it to get some strikeouts," said Hanrahan, who this season has 17 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. "I mix it in there once in a while and if I put it in the right spot, I've had success with it."
Bucs acquire veteran Sutton from Braves
DETROIT -- The Pirates acquired veteran Major League corner infielder Drew Sutton from the Braves on Sunday night, in exchange for cash considerations.
Sutton has spent the entire 2012 season with Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett and will report to Triple-A Indianapolis.
However, the 28-year-old Arkansas native does have considerable big league experience, including last season with the Red Sox, with whom he hit .315 in 31 games. He has spent parts of each of the last three seasons in the Majors with three different teams, accumulating a .258 average in 86 games with the Reds, Indians and Red Sox.
Sutton is the second corner infielder acquired in nine days by the Pirates, who on May 11 dealt for Jeff Larish from Boston, also for cash considerations. Larish is at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Locke won't be used in short relief
DETROIT -- Jeff Locke checked in from a day-long trip -- Lehigh Valley to Buffalo to Philadelphia to Detroit -- ready for duty he wasn't about to get.
The left-hander has spent almost his entire career, including the first seven weeks of this season, as a starter. But he was in the Pirates' bullpen for Sunday's series finale against the Tigers, recalled from Triple-A as Jason Grilli went on the Bereavement List.
"I can do two pitches or 50 pitches," said Locke, who had been scheduled to start Sunday for Indianapolis about the adjustment. "It wouldn't be any different than it is in Spring Training."
Manager Clint Hurdle had no visions of taking advantage of a second left-hander in his bullpen, alongside Tony Watson. Simply put, Locke will be on hand for a few days in case a Pittsburgh starter takes an early shower.
"He's here for length," Hurdle said. "He's not going to come into a situation against a left-handed hitter, unless we are ahead or behind by a lot and it's not a big deal. Wouldn't be fair to the kid. He's never done it, never been asked to do it, not gonna do it now."
As for picking up seventh- or eighth-inning duties until Grilli's expected return for Wednesday afternoon's game in PNC Park against the Mets, it sounds like Brad Lincoln is the man.
"[Jared] Hughes is an option. Watson is an option. We'll see how the game's playing out," Hurdle said. "Lincoln is an option. I've told Lincoln as much. We've got guys to fill in during Grilli's absence."
• The weekend callups of both outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and left-hander Jeff Locke made for a bizarre gathering in the visitors' clubhouse: All four players involved in the June 2009 Nate McLouth-for-Charlie Morton, Hernandez, Locke deal with Atlanta.
• On back-to-back days, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez got their first career tastes of DHing. Alvarez went 0-for-3, all strikeouts, with a walk on Sunday after Walker had gone 2-for-4 with one strikeout on Saturday.
• Josh Harrison got a kick out of being targeted by Comerica Park boos all Saturday after having broken up Justin Verlander's no-hit bid Friday night. "First time I've been booed," said the versatile youngster. "I thought it was funny."
• The Interleague series drew a season-high 124,585 fans to Comerica Park. ... The Bucs fanned a total of 41 times in the three games, hitting double figures in each. ... Sixteen of the Pirates' club-record-tying 17 strikeouts were swinging -- all but the last, Nate McLouth taking a called third strike from Joaquin Benoit. ... Clint Barmes (2-for-3) had his first multihit game since May 3, at St. Louis. ... McLouth is hitless in his last 20 at-bats with nine strikeouts.
The Last Word:
"It was our first taste of Interleague Play and we came up a little short. Now we'll go home and get ready for the Mets."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on his way out of Detroit and back to Pittsburgh for the onset of a nine-game homestand.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.