With Francisco Liriano having to exit the game on Saturday with tightness in his neck, his status will be up in the air for his next start and beyond. If they need another starter, they should leave Joe Biagini right where he is in the bullpen.
Once again, the Blue Jays may be in need of an injury replacement in the rotation, as Francisco Liriano had to exit after just two innings pitched on Saturday, leaving with tightness in his neck. He’ll be evaluated and we’ll be updated sooner than later, but that’s not how the Jays had wanted to start the second half, especially with Liriano having performed well recently.
If he’s forced to miss time on another DL stint, the Blue Jays will have to find a replacement in the rotation. They have a game every day from now until Aug 3rd, beginning the second half with 20 games in 20 days. In that type of scenario, they have to use five starters, so someone will need to take the ball if Liriano needs to miss time.
One of the first thoughts is to re-insert Joe Biagini in the rotation, as he did an admirable job filling in for the injured starters earlier in the year. He faltered in his later turns, but he was one of the club’s better starters through his first half dozen outings, showing that he’s got the ability to get the job done.
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That said, I hope the Blue Jays’ management will leave him in the bullpen for the remainder of the year, regardless of the rotation needs.
With Aaron Sanchez‘s return before the All-Star break, the club was able to move Biagini back to the bullpen, where he began the year. He had been a starter throughout his minor league career, but had only appeared in a big league game as a reliever before this season.
He also made the transition to the rotation without a stint in the minor leagues, which teams will often utilize to build up arm strength. Unfortunately for Biagini and the Jays, there was no time for that when the move had to be made, so his pitch count was built up on the fly. All things considered, he and the club did an excellent job of navigating that situation.
The former Rule 5 pick threw just 67.2 innings last year out of the bullpen, but had thrown 130.1 the year before in Double A. He should have plenty of mileage left on his arm this season, but regardless of where the total ends up, he’ll have a significant jump from last season. He currently sits at 76 innings in 28 appearances, 11 being starts. Add in the transition to the rotation and having to adjust the way he pitches, it’s likely been a little more stressful on the soup bone than he’s used to.
Keeping him in the bullpen not only keeps his innings total down, but it also avoids a situation where he’s jumping back and forth between roles. Players like former Blue Jay Brandon Morrow, and others like Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard have blamed career struggles on yo-yoing between the roles, and it’s a situation the Blue Jays should avoid with Biagini if they can.
The arm gets used to a routine, especially when you’re a starter. It’s not just throwing every fifth day, it’s the rest and recovery time needed after throwing around 100 pitches, the side sessions, and everything that goes into maintaining the body through a gruelling season. The routines are completely different as a reliever, as you have to be ready to throw on any given day.
High performance athletes count on routine to help them avoid injury, so the Blue Jays need to tread carefully. Depending on how many starts Liriano may need to miss, the Blue Jays could use Mike Bolsinger in a spot start, or look to their minor league depth.
Whomever they decide on, I hope they rule out Biagini, not because he can’t get the job done, but because he should be an important part of the staff, in one role or another. Yes, he’s had a rough go of things lately, but he’s still got plenty of upside, and it would be foolish to jeopardize his future by putting him back in the rotation.