Jason Grilli tied a franchise record on Saturday afternoon against the New York Yankees, but unfortunately it wasn’t the type of record to celebrate.
It’s been an awfully difficult season for Jason Grilli in 2017. In a season that he’s had plenty of bad outings, Saturday was probably the low point of the campaign for the veteran right-hander. On Saturday, he came on in relief in the 8th inning and promptly surrender 4 home runs to the Yankees, tying Brett Cecil‘s franchise record for most long balls allowed in one inning.
Grilli allowing a lead off home run to Brett Gardiner before retiring the next two hitters and looking like he was back in command. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as the Yankees went back- to back- to back, as Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius went deep in succession. John Gibbons came out to get the veteran, relieving him of the nightmare of a frame.
It was an unfortunate turn of events for Grilli, as it was starting to look like he had turned things around on the mound, which was covered by our own Clayton Richer just a couple days ago. In fact, prior to Saturday he had made scoreless appearances in 9 of his 10 outings, and was slowly gaining back the trust of Gibbons and the coaching staff. Unfortunately Saturday’s beat down was a step back, and maybe a significant one.
Beyond his own struggles this year, the landscape of the bullpen has changed a bit in Toronto. Roberto Osuna is throwing well as usual in the closer’s role, but beyond that things have changed a little bit in the depth chart. Both Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera have emerged as trusted arms for Gibbons out of the pen, and with good reason. They’ve both been thrown in high leverage situations far more frequently than Grilli as of late, and have performed admirably.
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Joe Smith has been a pleasant surprise as well, after signing late in the offseason to a relatively modest 1 year, 3 million dollar pact. He’s been worth every penny, and currently has a 3.04 ERA in 26.2 innings. Throw in the lefties in J.P. Howell and Aaron Loup, and that’s the current makeup of the bullpen.
Looking ahead though, at some point Aaron Sanchez will eventually get back on the mound, which will hopefully occur sometime before the end of June. That may be wishful thinking due to the lack of updates, but he will return at some point.
When that happens, the Blue Jays will have to make a move in the rotation, and the smart money is on Joe Biagini returning to the pen. While he’s been excellent as a starter, the Blue Jays will likely want to limit his innings to some degree, and this may be an easy transition that allows them to do just that.
Assuming that eventually happens and everyone stays healthy, someone will get bumped from the bullpen picture. Maybe it’ll be Barnes or Tepera because they have options, but at the moment they’re both pretty important parts of the big league club. Maybe it’ll be J.P. Howell, who has also struggled this season, but big league left-handers aren’t terribly common in the Blue Jays’ system, so he likely sticks around.
What we don’t want to admit is that our time with Grilli could be coming to an end in the not so distant future. Of course, it’s entirely possible that other injuries occur, which would open up the space to keep an underperforming Grilli, but at some point the Blue Jays may have to consider making another move.
Mike Wilner was asked on Jays Talk on Saturday if the Blue Jays may have to release Grilli at some point, and despite making some positive points in Grilli’s defence, even he lead off with, “I hope not” in regards to the idea of cutting him. I think that pretty much sums up how the majority of us feel about the situation as well.
Grilli carried a 10.38 ERA on May 2nd, only to get it down to 6.35 prior to Saturday’s drubbing. His current line sits at an ERA of 8.15 in 17.2 innings, numbers that may have cost him his job already if not for his veteran status and experience. and his extremely likeable and marketable personality.
For the sake of Blue Jays’ fans everywhere, here’s hoping he can put up a string of solid outings in the coming weeks and put the ugly portion of the year behind him. Hopefully Saturday was just a blip on the radar of an otherwise solid stretch, or his roster spot could be in serious jeopardy, whether we’d like to admit it or not.