So as I understand it, Locke will be in the minors until after Sept 1. This means he will NOT be eligible for the playoff roster, strictly defined. You must be on the 25-man active roster as of Sept 1 (midnite Aug 31?), on DL or bereavement. In that view, his demotion seems harsh -- after what he did contribute this year before falling apart. *
No question he should not be starting more games right now. And ultimately the right move for the playoffs, especially a 1-game play-in or even the first series. If Locke is not a starter, he's useless out of the bullpen in the playoffs. Not a strikeout guy and his nibbling can be deadly with walks. Again a shame, but the playoffs need the best roster possible.
In turn I'd hope the Locke demotion signals only 11 pitchers, with 6 players on the bench for offense in the playoffs. At this point it looks like those would be:
1B Jones/Sanchez - whoever sits
IF Barmes, Harrison
OF1 Tabata (assuming of course Marte is back)
OF2 Lambo or Presley (or Snider?)
If you keep 12 pitchers, you lose either the lefty OF bat -- not awe-inspiring names to be sure but it is what we have -- or Harrison, but more likely he stays. Hurdle will not PH Buck unless it's very late in the game or extra innings, so realistically you only have Tabs as a RH bat available (if Sanchez is already playing).
I'd actually love to see just 10 relievers for the playoffs and keep either T Sanchez or one of the LH alternatives as a 7th bat. Assuming the Pirates get to the first round, you only use 4 starters. So the bullpen is plenty deep with 6 good arms. With Grilli back, I'd pick Morris to sit if they go with only 10. The keepers are Grilli, Melancon, Watson, Wilson, Gomez, and Mazzaro. That's plenty deep for a playoff series. And if they go with just 3 starters, you also have Cole in the pen.
* One exception that I found -- Locke could replace a DL player who is placed on the 25-man roster for the playoffs. Could this be Wandy, who gets named to create just such an open slot? If Wandy is healthy, he's definitely on the playoff roster (and then you have to bump Morris off). If not, you get a more flexible move -- I think you can pick anyone who is in the organization, not just on the 40-man.
Apologies if some think the roster talk is wildly premature. But the Locke move shows how management is already thinking methodically about putting together the post-season roster. There's no place for him, if he's not capable of being a (semi) effective starter.