Jason Grilli at ease in closer role

Updated: April 24, 2013, 12:00 PM ET
By Buster Olney

Most first-time closers seek advice from those who have stood at the edge of the plank day after day, to learn about the most effective routines, warm-up regimens, and coping with the adrenaline that is unique to that job. But Jason Grilli didn't really do any of that.

He is getting his first shot at being a closer in the major leagues, yes, but the man is 36 years old, not right out of college. He was the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft out of Seton Hall by the San Francisco Giants, but he could never cut it as a starter. He's been released time and again, traded, passed through waivers, been out of the majors for years at a time. His list of career transactions reads like the lyrics to Johnny Cash's classic "I've Been Everywhere".

Pressure? Seriously?

"This is fun, man," Grilli said over the phone the other day, laughing. "I've been prepping for this for awhile. I was never a made guy."

But so far this season, he has been arguably the best reliever in the majors, with nine scoreless innings, eight saves in eight chances, at the back end of what has been the best bullpen in the majors; the Pirates' relievers have an ERA of 1.98, third best in the majors.