This time last year, Jeff Locke was making his case to be an All-Star. In 2014, things haven't gone quite as well for the 26-year-old, but he'll look to build on two solid starts when he takes on Wade Miley and D-backs at PNC Park on Tuesday.
Locke began the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, but with Wandy Rodriguez getting designated for assignment and Francisco Liriano going on the disabled list, the lefty got another chance in the big leagues.
Last year, Locke turned in a good first half of the season. At the All-Star break, he was 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA. But as the year wore on, balls in play started to fall and his walks increased.
In five starts this year, Locke has posted a 3.74 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP --- he's walked just four batters and struck out 23. Locke allowed three runs on eight hits over 7 1/3 innings against the Rays last Tuesday. In his previous start, he held the Reds to three hits and two runs over six innings.
"I'm just throwing strikes," Locke said after his last outing. "That's all you can attribute it to. One change I've tried to make is to try to get ahead more in the count. You don't have to nibble so much. Put them behind, challenge them a little more and keep the ball on the ground."
Miley, meanwhile, was hit hard in his five starts in June, with opponents posting a .286/.323/.513 slash line against him during that span. In June, he allowed seven home runs and 16 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings.
The lefty surrendered four earned runs on eight hits last Tuesday against the Indians.
D-backs: Owings placed on disabled list; Ahmed recalled
Shortstop Chris Owings went on the disabled list Sunday with a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder, retroactive to June 26. Infielder Nick Ahmed was called up from Triple-A Reno.
Manager Kirk Gibson had been optimistic that Owings would be back Saturday, but the shoulder didn't get any better this weekend. The 22-year-old believes the injury occurred on June 20 when he tried to avoid a tag at home plate. He will undergo an MRI in Phoenix on Monday.
"I just couldn't take an aggressive start like I usually do," Owings said. Owings is hitting .277/.313/.458 in his first full Major League season. He's hit six homers and driven in 21 runs.
Ahmed, who was acquired from the Braves before last season, was hitting .324 at Reno. He made his Major League debut Sunday at shortstop against the Padres, collecting his first hit in the seventh inning.
Pirates: Martin gets extra day off
Catcher Russell Martin didn't play Saturday or Sunday because of a sore left shoulder resulting from a slide into second base on Friday night.
It doesn't seem like he'll miss any significant time and Martin said he was lucky to not get more seriously injured. With an off-day on Monday, the Pirates decided to give the backstop an extra day as a precaution.
"Catcher is a physically-taxing position," general manager Neal Huntington said. "With the pure off-day [on Monday], [Pirates manager Clint Hurdle] and I walked through it and thought it was a good opportunity to give him another day to recover and keep him as strong and sharp as we can for the rest of the season."
Chris Stewart started back-to-back days with Martin active for the first time this season.
• Starling Marte returned to the Pirates' lineup Sunday after missing the last four games with a jammed middle finger. He played center field with Andrew McCutchen receiving a scheduled day off.
• Josh Collmenter, who got the win on Saturday, became the second D-backs pitcher to win three games in a nine-day span. He got two as a starter and one sandwiched between in an inning of relief. Randy Johnson did the same in the 2001 World Series.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.