Blue Jays lefty Chad Girodo ready to run with bullpen role
BUFFALO, NY _ Following the Toronto Blue Jays’ 3-1 walk-off win over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night, the club recalled left-handed pitcher Chad Girodo from triple-Buffalo and optioned 1B/3B Matt Dominguez.
Dominguez had appeared in three games with the Blue Jays since his promotion, going 0-for-7 at the plate. The roster now shifts back to an eight-man bullpen, with Girodo joining Brett Cecil as the second lefty. This will be Girodo’s second trip to the major league roster after pitching two clean innings in April.
After a one-and-done stint two weeks ago Girodo will be hoping for an opportunity to unpack his bags, but after his first experience, he realizes that there are no guarantees of tomorrow at the major league level
“There wasn’t any [prior] communication,” Girodo said regarding his first call-up and optioning, “but you never know what to expect. I was ready and I thought I had a good debut. Maybe it was a day, but maybe it was the rest of the year, you never know. You’ve got to pitch like it’s going to be your last day up there.”
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Girodo’s clear value to the Blue Jays comes from his excellent left-on-left splits. The 25-year-old held lefty bats to a 7-for-73 (.096 AVG) line in 2015 across three minor league levels, and profiles as an excellent specialist for the Blue Jays.
Expanding his portfolio beyond those matchups, however, has been a priority of Girodo’s throughout his extended look in spring training and early outings with Buffalo.
“I’m trying to be more versatile,” Girodo said, “because I know the elephant in the room for me is the righties. The big righties. And I want to be able to bridge myself where it’s left-right-left. Where, hey, I’m not just a one-hitter guy. I can get the righty to get to the lefty, and that way I can stretch out to an inning or two.”
After being selected by the Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, Girodo pitched for the Lansing Lugnuts before working a full season with the hi-A Dunedin Blue Jays in 2014. He posted a 2.47 ERA that year over 76.2 innings, and across his three levels last season improved to a 1.34 ERA in 45 outings.
One of Girodo’s standout traits, and one that will help him to stave off those right-handed hitters, is his strong ground ball rate. In nearly 170 minor league innings, Girodo has allowed just three home runs.
“I’m a sinkerball guy so righty, lefty, switch, I’m trying to keep the ball on the ground,” Girodo said. “Punch-outs are always awesome, but if the situation is screaming ‘Hey, get a ground ball right here’, it’s just so much easier and so much more efficient. The fewer pitches you throw that inning, maybe you’re available the next day and you can rack up a lot of appearances doing that. That’s kind of my goal, is to throw the least amount of pitches I have to.”
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This philosophy is evident within the current Blue Jays pitching staff, especially in young starters Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Both are sitting near a 60% ground ball rate early in 2016, and Girodo recognizes that Toronto’s defence could quickly become an asset to him.
“We have an unreal defence,” he said. “If you just let them make contact and hit it on the ground, you’re giving yourself a pretty good chance.”
With Toronto’s positional bench now consisting of Josh Thole, Ezequiel Carrera, and one of Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney, a stronger pinch-hit option could be the next recall from triple-A Buffalo. Given that Ryan Tepera has been considered the “second lefty” prior to Girodo’s promotion, the two relievers are now in competition for a more prominent bullpen role.