Blue Jays’ Osuna likely to be pleased with closer’s role
The Blue Jays elected not to fix what wasn’t broken, and have given Roberto Osuna the closer’s duties to begin the 2016 season, in spite of offseason acquisition Drew Storen.
We’re almost there sports fans. Just a few short days left until Opening Day 2016, and with that the final roster decisions are being made across the MLB this week.
For the Blue Jays, they left many decisions until nearly the bitter end, finally announcing several roster spots this morning. Among them, Joe Biagini, Arnold Leon and Ryan Tepera will all begin the season in the 8 man bullpen (which will shorten to 7 once Marco Estrada returns from his back-dated DL stint). Ezequiel Carrera has been named the 4th outfielder, beating out the likes of Junior Lake (who is out of options), spring training MVP Darrell Ceciliani, and former Phillies prospect Domonic Brown.
Arguably the most significant announcement forthcoming today was who would get the ball in the 9th inning. John Gibbons told us this morning that 2015 closer Roberto Osuna would retain the job he had in 2015.
After the performance Osuna gave the Blue Jays as a 20-year-old rookie, it should be no surprise that the Jays are reluctant to try a different role with the young fireballer. Almost nobody expected Osuna to make the opening day roster in 2015, but Alex Anthopoulos and the former Jays’ regime decided to go with the arms they believed had the most raw talent, and that included Osuna. While others like Miguel Castro faltered under their inexperience, Osuna quietly pitched well as a member of middle relief, and was the “next man up” when both Castro and Brett Cecil couldn’t lock down the closing duties.
All said and done, Osuna finished with a 2.58 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, striking out 75 against only 16 walks. He had a WHIP of 0.919, and finished with 20 saves after taking over the closing duties. He also pitched well in the playoffs, regardless of the final inning that saw the Royals eliminate the Blue Jays while Osuna was on the mound.
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While this seemed like a “no lose” situation with both Osuna and Storen as viable options at closer, it’s a decision that certainly carries more weight than who will get the ball when the first save opportunity comes along.
The reality is, Osuna found a role that he really enjoyed with the Blue Jays in 2015, and has stated that he’d like to remain as a closer going forward. This is not a common stance made by young pitchers (especially with the influence of their agents), but Osuna is happy where he is, now and for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jays would like to leave the door open to Osuna starting in the future, possibly as soon as 2017, which will inevitably bring this debate up all over again down the line.
That said, if Osuna is dynamite as the closer and happy in the role, is that something to mess with going forward? That’s a question the Blue Jays brass will have to ask themselves again (likely several more times in the next couple years), as the young Mexican right-hander continues to develop.
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There are all kinds of variables to consider down the road, including maximizing the value of his right arm, his short and long term health, and future contract considerations. But for now, Osuna is where he wants to be and ready to pick up where he left off in 2015, with ice-water in his veins.
That’s good enough for me today.