Grilli's first save since return has special meaning

Grilli's first save since return has special meaning

MIAMI -- One month ago, Jason Grilli took the mound in a Spring Training game in Orlando, Fla. It was the first time the reliever had pitched in a game since he was carted off at Coors Field last July with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.

The 39-year-old right-hander took another step forward on Saturday night, when he was called on in the ninth inning to preserve the Braves' 6-4 win against the Marlins, registering his first save of the 2016 season.

"This one is special," said Grilli, who had 24 saves last season before the Achilles injury ended his season. "I tell my kids, 'Don't quit.' I come back from a big injury, and to get that first [save] is meaningful."

In Atlanta's 6-5, 10-innings win against Miami on Sunday, the Braves again called on Grilli in the ninth, but he was unable to preserve their one-run lead, surrendering an RBI single to Ichiro Suzuki.

On Saturday, Grilli allowed a single to Dee Gordon and a walk to Christian Yelich in the ninth, but he struck out three Marlins, the last one Giancarlo Stanton, who went down swinging on a high fastball after Grilli fooled him with a pair of breaking pitches.

"I'm starting to feel a little more like myself and happy to contribute to what we're doing here," Grilli said. "Everybody sits there and goes, 'Oh, you don't want to pitch to Stanton.' That's just the feel of the game. You have to know who you've had success against and trust yourself. Sometimes it's not necessarily who's up there, it's executing on a game plan and watching the ballgame as we do down there [from the bullpen]. I've only had three big league Spring Training outings, and this was my fourth one [this season]."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Grilli spoke with him after his second appearance of the regular season, and the right-hander said he just wasn't feeling 100 percent right.

"He said, 'I feel like I'm a click off with my mechanics,'" Gonzalez said of his discussion with Grilli. "We threw him once or twice in non-leverage situations, and I think it's paid off, because yesterday, he looked like the ball was coming out good and slider was pretty good. He looks like he's back on his click. If I don't want to throw [Arodys Vizcaino], I feel comfortable that Grilli could do that job for us [as closer]."

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.