Blue Jays: Is it time to re-examine Osuna as a starter?

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 03: Roberto Osuna /

The debate about whether Roberto Osuna should be a starter or closer seemed like it was finally over after an All-Star appearance in the first half. Now that he’s had a nightmare second half, is it time to re-open the discussion?

Roberto Osuna blew his league high 10th save of the season on Tuesday against the Red Sox, giving up the 2-0 lead they entered the bottom of the ninth with. It was second consecutive blown save opportunity as well, after the Baltimore Orioles were able to steal a win from the Blue Jays on Sunday.

It’s really been a tale of two seasons for the Mexican born pitcher, as he was one of baseball’s best closers in the first half of the year. As most of us remember, he was selected for the All-Star team, and very much deserved the honour. He finished the first half with 22 saves and a 2.06 ERA, and was on a remarkable streak of 22 consecutive saves that continued after the All-Star break.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to continue his dominance in the second half. He hasn’t been the same pitcher at all, and if not for his first two and a half seasons as a dominant closer, it’s hard to imagine him being given the leash that he’s been afforded thus far. As mentioned above, his 10 blown saves give him sole possession of the most in baseball, and he might end up flirting with the MLB record of 14 if things don’t turn around before the end of the month.

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Despite his poor showing in the second half, I’m still among the believers that he can be/is a valuable closer. That said, his recent performance has me wondering if the Blue Jays’ front office won’t re-open the discussion about him reverting back to being a starting pitcher (he was a starter in the minor leagues). It’s a loaded discussion for sure, but with every blown save in the second half, I feel like we’re a step closer to the idea going back on the table.

The number one reason I could see this is because the Blue Jays will want to maximize their asset, which is why starting was on the table in the first place. Osuna has plenty of upside even if he’s had a bad second half, and if he can’t find his touch in the 9th inning again, is he better used in the 7th or 8th? Yes, closers aren’t the only important piece of the bullpen, but to me it just feels like a waste to use him as a set-up man, or worse in middle relief. It’s perfectly fine if the team feels he needs a stint in either role to help him get his confidence back, but it would be a shame if that ended up being a permanent move.

*Note- The stats above do not reflect last night’s game. 

Even as I listened to Jerry Howarth and Joe Siddall on the Fan 590 broadcast in the 14th inning, the two broadcasters discussed how he was likely facing a move out of the ninth inning, at least in the short term. With seven of his ten blown saves coming in the second half, the duo discussed how it was high time to give him a break from the role, and that Mark Shapiro was on hand in Boston to witness the latest blown opportunity.

Ultimately I do believe that his future is as a closer, a role that he has repeatedly said he wants to keep, and a role that he’s flourished in for the majority of his young career. That said, it might be the most volatile position in baseball, so he’ll have to improve his performance whether he wants to close or not. A pitcher who spends his entire career as a closer is a rare thing, especially when you make your debut at 20 years old, as Osuna did in 2015.

If he doesn’t turn things around before the end of the season, don’t be surprised if the discussion about him stretching out as a starter creeps back into the conversation. Maybe he does eventually move on from closing, and if he does, doesn’t it make sense to see if he could join the rotation? Suddenly, it’s starting to make a little more sense to me.

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