The Blue Jays acquired reliever Jason Grilli from the Braves in exchange for minor leaguer Sean Ratcliffe
In adding veteran relief pitcher Jason Grilli in a minor deal on Tuesday, the Blue Jays have brought aboard a long track record of major league experience. With Toronto’s bullpen struggling to find top-to-bottom consistency, Grilli offers the potential to stabilize the group and comes at a relatively small cost.
Keeping up with the day-to-day of Toronto’s team is enough work, so for those of you who know the name Jason Grilli, but not the story of the player, allow me to introduce you.
The baseball backstory
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Grilli was drafted all the way back in 1997 by the San Francisco Giants, fourth overall. He was selected just behind former Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, and the pick immediately behind him? Vernon Wells.
In 1999, prior to his MLB debut, Grilli was traded from San Francisco to the Florida Marlins for longtime starter Livan Hernandez.
Grilli’s MLB path
After spending his first few seasons in Florida, Grilli was actually selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago White Sox. Outside of a minor deal between the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies in 2008, however, Grilli’s transactional history isn’t as splashy as you’d expect for a relief pitcher with 14 seasons under their belt.
For much of Grilli’s career, he was just hanging on. From his major league debut in 2000 until the end of 2009, the right-hander posted a 4.74 ERA with a low strikeout rate of 6.6-per-nine. He underwent surgery to repair a torn quadricep in 2010 then spent the entirety of 2011 pitching in the minor leagues.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Jason Grilli landed in Pittsburgh and it all turned around.
Arriving with the Pirates organization in 2011, Grilli, like J.A. Happ, found pitching coach Ray Searage and managed to salvage his career by completely altering his game. In three years with Pittsburgh, Grilli 2.74 ERA with 36 saves and a whopping 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Talk about night and day.
Grilli was dealt from the Pirates to the Angels in the middle of a down 2014 season, but turned things around and earned a two-year, $8 million contract with the Atlanta Braves (expiring after this season with a $3.5 million team option).
What to expect: Pitches
Grilli is primarily a straight fastball-slider reliever.
Fastball: Averaging 91.8 MPH according to PITCHf/x data, down from a ballpark average of 93 MPH over much of his career. Expect to see Grilli’s fastball around two-thirds of the time.
Slider: The other third of Grilli’s pitches should be his slider, which has dropped to an average velocity of 80.3 MPH after spending most of his career around 82.5 MPH.
Just For Fun
Grilli is a huge Pearl Jam fan. Put in some headphones if you’re at the office (language), but here is Grilli hyping a Pittsburgh crowd before a concert in 2013.
You can also follow his wonderfully-named Twitter account @GrillCheese49, where you’ll find an 80-grade profile picture of Grilli standing with… Chewbacca.