This led to the first of numerous trades for Grilli, as in 1999 he was sent to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins in the Livan Hernandez deal. He made his Major League debut with the Marlins May 11, 2000, winning that game. He made six starts in 2001, going 2-2.
Put into the Rule 5 Draft in 2003, Grilli saw the Chicago White Sox snap him up, and in 2004 he was back in the big leagues, making eight starts and going 2-3, but the White Sox would release him, too.
Now Grilli got a chance with the team that drafted his father, going to Detroit in 2005 after helping the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens clinch the International League championship.
And it was in Detroit that two important things happened. First, Grilli made the transition from a starting pitcher to relief. Second, in that new role he appeared in 51 games in 2006, again with a 2-3, but helping the Tigers make it all the way to the World Series before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Switching from a curveball to a slider as his top pitch, Grilli made 57 appearances in 2007 in Detroit, but was traded again early the next season, this time to the Colorado Rockies, where he lasted just one year before getting purchased by the Texas Rangers.
It looked over for Grilli in 2010. He had gained free agency and signed with the Cleveland Indians, only to injure his knee in spring training and miss the entire season.
Somehow, Grilli kept going, latching on to the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, Lehigh Valley, early in 2011, only to go across the state to Pittsburgh in July of that year to sign yet another minor-league contract.
At 34, Grilli made it back to the big leagues in 2012 and, with the Pirates, made 64 appearances, mainly as a set-up man. Though his record was 1-6, he held 32 leads and struck out 13.9 batters per nine innings, fourth-best in the National League.
Moved to the closer’s role at the start of 2013, Grilli played a key role in Pittsburgh’s ascension to first place in the National League Central. He converted 28 of his first 29 save opportunities, struck out 60 batters in 37 2/3 innings and has posted a 2.15 earned run average.
Grilli joins three Pirates teammates – Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Locke – on the National League squad, the most Pirates in an All-Star Game since 1981.