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Pirates release Johnny Hellweg so he can go to Japan

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have released right-handed reliever Johnny Hellweg so he can pursue an opportunity in Japan.

Hellweg, a former top Angels and Brewers prospect, has been pitching well, primarily as a closer, for Indianapolis. He has a 1.33 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 8.3 K/9.

It’s a common practice with players, like Hellweg, who are on minor league contracts for a team to release the player when a chance elsewhere arises. It’s how the Pirates got Jason Grilli, for instance. Of course, it implicitly shows that the Pirates had no plans to turn to Hellweg as a bullpen option. That’s understandable, considering what an unqualified success the Pirates’ bullpen has been this year.