Blue Jays: Biagini got the cheers he deserved

Jun 9, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Joe Biagini (31) walks to the dugout after the final out of the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Joe Biagini (31) walks to the dugout after the final out of the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Despite his worst performance as a professional on Friday night, the fans mostly cheered Joe Biagini as he exited the game in the 2nd inning, and rightfully so.

It just wasn’t Joe Biagini‘s night against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, and it was evident right from the get go. The big right-hander struggled to find the zone with his fastball in the game’s opening frame, and things quickly spiralled out of control.

By the time he was lifted after 1.2 innings, Biagini had allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and a single walk. He threw just 33 pitches before giving way to Dominic Leone, and just 17 for strikes. He consistently got behind the White Sox hitters, and they feasted on 2-0, and 3-0 offerings.

When manager John Gibbons came out of the dugout to mercifully remove the second year Blue Jay, most of the fans gave him a much deserved ovation, with a few boos sprinkled in (naturally). It’s not terribly common for a pitcher to be cheered after getting clobbered the way he did on Friday night, but fortunately the fans were able to see the bigger picture and appreciate what the likeable character has brought to the club.

Prior to this start, Biagini carried a 3.38 ERA, thriving both in the bullpen to begin the year, and in seven (now eight) starts since joining the rotation. He’s been one of the Blue Jays’ most reliable starters of late as well, going seven innings in each of his last two starts.

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Because he’s been so successful at the Major League level, people often forget that he had never made a start as a big leaguer before May 7th of this year. He was a Double-A starter in the San Francisco Giants’ organization prior to the Blue Jays selecting him in the Rule 5 draft in 2016, and has served as a reliever ever since.

The 27 year old has earned a very long leash from John Gibbons, and rightfully so. He’s been one of the most important arms on the injury-ravaged staff this season, providing huge value in whatever role was asked of him. He also made the transition to the rotation without a minor league stint, albeit with limited pitch counts to begin with. Still, the transition was important as the rotation lost three parts in Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano, at the same time.

The California native is incredibly well liked because of his personality, but also because of his performance on the diamond. As good as he’s been as a reliever, his numbers were even better as a starter, before Friday’s start of course. Have a look at the numbers, which exclude Friday’s outing.

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 6/17/2017.

Whether he thrived on Friday or not likely wouldn’t have affected his fate, as he is the most logical candidate to be moved to the bullpen when Sanchez returns, which could be sooner than later. Biagini will provide another boost to a steadily stronger bullpen, and it’s a move that will help protect his arm from gaining too many miles this season. It’s a near certainty that he’ll get a rotation slot next year, so the club wouldn’t want to surpass his career high too drastically.

Every starting pitcher is bound to have a terrible outing like Biagini’s Friday night stinker at some point, especially in their first real go-around in the rotation. Something tells me that he’ll shake it off just fine too, and fans shouldn’t worry about him at all going forward. The important thing is that fans recognize what he’s done for the pitching staff and the team this year, and they showed that awareness with the positive reaction to his second inning removal.

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The cheers coming over the radio as he was removed from the game (I was on road at the time) were music to my ears, and for that, I salute you Blue Jays’ fans. Thanks for recognizing all that big Joe has done for us, and cutting the poor guy some slack on a tough night.