Blue Jays: Biagini will get his starter’s audition now

TORONTO, ON - JULY 24: Joe Biagini
TORONTO, ON - JULY 24: Joe Biagini /

With the roster shuffle in Toronto before Friday’s game, Joe Biagini has been sent down to Buffalo, presumably to stretch out as a starting pitcher again. This will be his second go around as a starter this season, and will likely serve as his audition for next year.

We know Joe Biagini can pitch, and that he brings a tremendous amount to the Blue Jays. What we don’t know is how he’ll serve the team in 2018, and the final two months of this season will likely serve to determine his role going forward.

The 6’5 right-hander was optioned to Triple A Buffalo on Friday, as the team activated Danny Barnes to the big league roster. Biagini’s demotion wasn’t performance related, it was a move that allows him proper time to stretch out and prepare to start at the big league level again, a luxury he wasn’t afforded earlier in the season.

He made 11 starts for the team earlier in the season, and jumped right into the role without having time to stretch out. Through his first half dozen starts, he was actually very good as he stretched out on the fly and built up his pitch count over the course of several starts. Things fell apart for him in the role before he returned to the bullpen, but he looked well suited to being a starter in the early going.

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He returned to the bullpen on July 8th, and has been largely effective since getting back to where he’s had the most major league experience. He’s had two rough outings that have hurt his ERA, but otherwise he’s been a pretty shut down reliever, as he has been throughout his tenure in Toronto.

I’ve been pretty vocal about my desire to leave Biagini in the bullpen, especially for the remainder of this year. I’ve never been a fan of a pitcher flip-flopping between roles, especially during the course of the season, and even more so when it’s more than once inside one year. Pitching at the major league level is already tough enough on a throwing arm, and any additional stress doesn’t feel like a good idea to me.

That said, I understand the line of thinking here, even if I’m not a particularly big fan of it. The Blue Jays will need at least one starter, and likely two for 2018. They’ll have Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez (assuming he can get healthy) returning, and there are rumours of mutual interest between the front office and Marco Estrada as well. Even if they decide to bring back Estrada, there will still be one opening in the rotation with the departure of Francisco Liriano.

Without an obvious candidate for 2018 in their minor league system, I understand the Blue Jays looking at Biagini as a viable option. I also understand why they may want to evaluate him now in advance of the offseason, that way they can tailor their offseason shopping a little differently if they come to a definitive conclusion about the 27 year old as a starter, or reliever.

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Either way, I’m just hoping for health for the arm of the former Rule 5 draft pick. At least he’s being given the time to stretch out in Buffalo this time, and hopefully having that opportunity will make for a smoother transition. As long as it’s not at the sacrifice of his health, it makes sense that the Blue Jays would like to answer the question in advance of the offseason. I guess we’re about to find out.