Blue Jays: Joe Biagini the starter vs. Joe Biagini the reliever

TORONTO, ON - JULY 8: Joe Biagini
TORONTO, ON - JULY 8: Joe Biagini /

Last season, amongst all the chatter and gossip surrounding re-signing players, making the playoffs, and winning the division, a young pitcher donned the Blue Jay uniform and took a seat in the bullpen.  Throughout the season and in many high pressure, nail biting, heart pounding, crazy, scary situations, the Jays came to rely on this player.

This specific pitcher, Joe Biagini, was selected by the Jays in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2015.  Biagini was signed to the San Francisco Giants at the time but had yet to make it to the majors.  In spring training 2016, he wowed his new teammates and coaches with his four seam fastball as well as his curveball.  He finished the spring having pitched nine full innings, striking out eight, allowing two HRs, all with an acceptable and decent 4.00 ERA.  A week before the 2016 season started, Jays manager John Gibbons announced that Biagini had made the Opening Day roster and would assume a role in the bullpen.

Biagini impressed and silenced many of the doubters almost every time he came into a game.  His first season as a Major League reliever saw him accomplish and achieve things not many players can say they have done – his first career strikeout was to none other than Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz. His first home run he gave up didn’t occur until September 3rd – a full five months into the 2016 season and in his first year in the big leagues. He got to pitch in six games during the playoffs, giving up three hits and no runs while striking out six.  Joe finished the 2016 season with a remarkable 3.06 ERA, striking out 62 batters in 60 games while only walking 19 in 67.2 innings pitched.

In baseball, as in all sports, injuries are inevitable.  Bodies can only be pushed, tested, tried and stretched for so long before something will give.  This season the 2017 Jays have seen their share of players head on and off the DL including most of their starting rotation such as J.A Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Francisco Liriano.  Gibbons has had to be creative in using other pitchers to fill the holes in the rotation and that included testing out Biagini as a starter.  He ended up starting in 11 games, winning two of them while losing seven with an ERA of 5.60.

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That win-loss record (2-7) and somewhat high ERA (5.60) would make for a strong argument as to why he then should stay in the bullpen.  However, even in the bullpen this year, he’s not having as strong the outings as he had last season. In 26 games as a reliever, his ERA is 4.26 with 25 hits in 31.2 innings pitched. That begs the question then – what should the Jays do with Biagini?

As I was writing this article, the news came out that the Jays had made a move; they would be sending him down to the AAA Buffalo Bisons.  If you asked him why he was being sent down, he would have told you he “needs to work on his sense of humour”.

All joking aside, Biagini has had some tough times this summer; his June ERA was 5.88 in 26 innings pitched allowing 29 hits and 20 runs.  He didn’t fare any better in July; that month’s ERA was at a dismal 7.50 in 18 innings, giving up 15 hits as well as 15 earned runs.

Taken into account that every player goes through slumps and difficult times, Biagini going to Buffalo and getting some work in is a positive thing.  He’ll be able to work on his wind up and as he said, his cutter which has been frustrating him all season.

But as the baseball gods constantly show us, the only thing consistent in this game is inconsistently, and after the brutal beating on Friday night where the Jays lost 16-7 and saw five relievers come in and pitch, I believe it’s only a matter of days before Biagini will be called back up again.  And let’s just hope that once he’s back in the Blue Jays uniform and is asked to pitch, it’ll be from the bullpen where he has statistically posted his best numbers.

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