Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli has made a pair of one-out appearances since arriving in a trade from the Atlanta Braves
The lack of high-leverage, back-end arms in the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been a prominent issue through the first 56 games. At least, the lack of healthy or effective high-leverage, back-end arms.
Brett Cecil certainly fills the description, but is on the disabled list. Drew Storen has been one of the league’s best at times, but is still searching for “it” in 2016. Enter Jason Grilli, the 14-year veteran who could be looking at a role similar to that of Mark Lowe last season.
Grilli has made two appearances thus far for Toronto, both facing just one batter, and it’s the role I expect him to hold until the bullpen collectively improves. In both appearances, Grilli has been the first man out of the bullpen to save his starting pitcher from a runner in scoring position with one out.
More from Toronto Blue Jays News
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
- Toronto Blue Jays: Has the Shift Killed Kevin Gausman’s 2022 Cy Young Hopes?
- Blue Jays: What Yusei Kikuchi’s latest stumble should mean
- Blue Jays: Alek Manoah on pace to succeed in possible postseason
June 1st, 7th inning vs. NYY – Grilli entered with two outs, runners on first and second, and a 2-0 lead. He forced Carlos Beltran to fly out to centre field, keeping Aaron Sanchez‘s pitching line clean.
June 3rd, 7th inning vs. BOS – Again, Grilli entered with two outs, a runner on second, and a two-run lead. R.A. Dickey had just given up a ground-rule double to Mookie Betts, but Grilli was able to force Dustin Pedroia to ground out and end the inning.
Neither situation saw Grilli produce the softest contact, but as his opportunities increase, so will the strikeouts. The right-hander has averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings since the beginning of 2012. If he’s put into situations like this, especially if he’s given an open base at first ahead of any runner in scoring position, he can chase those strikeouts with his fastball-slider combination.
This role in the bullpen was troublesome for the Blue Jays in April. The roles of Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd, and Joe Biagini were not completely clear at that point, and Arnold Leon was still on the 25-man roster through April 13th.
Grilli is not a fix-all for the bullpen, of course. With his decreasing velocity and a 5.29 ERA in Atlanta before the trade, he’ll remain a savvy “upside” addition until proven otherwise, but there’s evidently a value for someone like him and the role he’s filled in his first two outings.