Triple-A relief pitcher David Aardsma has elected to opt out of his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. The veteran right hander had pitched 13.2 innings with the Buffalo Bisons this season, recording a 5.27 ERA and striking out 14 batters.
The report of Aardsma’s opt-out comes one day after it was announced that he’d been reassigned to extended spring training. The opt-out decision had already been made, however, and was not in reaction to the roster move that was made to find Bo Schultz a necessary spot after his activation from the disabled list. Aardsma’s final date to opt out of his minor league deal was today, May 23rd, and he’s now in New Orleans putting in work for his next opportunity.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of the Blue Jays,” Aardsma said, “but at the same time, I need to be better. So that’s why I’m coming down here. We see some glaring issues in my mechanics that we think can be cleaned up pretty quickly. And at the same time, hopefully to find a situation where I’ll be on the mound more often.”
Last season, Aardsma followed a similar path after opening the season with the Los Angeles Dodgers triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City, where he pitched very well. He opted out of that deal in early June and was able to latch on with the Atlanta Braves, where he pitched the majority of the season at the MLB level.
The former first round selection of the San Francisco Giants (2003) notes changes in his strength and mobility as the primary differences he notices between 2015 and this season.
“In 2014 I was really unhappy with how I was pitching,” he said, “my velocity had dropped, there were some major flaws in my mechanics, I tore my adductor, so we made a lot of changes in my mechanics. I think because I wasn’t as strong and because I wasn’t as mobile, things actually worked better last year and connected really easy.”
With his strength and mobility both advancing this past offseason, Aardsma described himself as being “out of sync” as he searched for his rhythm on the mound. “A better way to put it is that I was so mobile that my body hadn’t quite caught up to my mechanics.”
This became especially difficult with limited spring training work and some gaps between his usage in Buffalo. Through his 14 outings this season, Aardsma pitched twice in three days only two times (April 12th and 14th, April 21st and 23rd).
“I’ve kind of played a little bit of everywhere,” Aardsma said when asked about his next step. “Proximity to home would be nice, but at the end of the day it’s all about opportunity. It’s all about finding a place where you’re going to throw every day. I feel like I’m a workhorse, like I can throw every single day. Last year in triple-A I threw back-to-back-to-back. This year I haven’t even thrown back-to-back yet.”
Aardsma has strong career numbers at triple-A, with a 3.18 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He also comes with closer’s experience at the major league level, having saved 69 games for the Seattle Mariners between 2009 and 2010.