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Blue Jays: It’s not a weight issue for Biagini

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: Joe Biagini
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: Joe Biagini /
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After Ross Atkins made a comment about Joe Biagini needing to get in the right shape to start, some fans are erroneously questioning his conditioning. A player’s weight isn’t the most important part of the equation, as history in baseball has shown us many times.

Many fans were left wondering exactly what the Blue Jays’ general manager meant with his comments about Joe Biagini on Wednesday when he met with several reporters in Toronto. When asked about the eccentric right-hander and his potential to compete for a rotation spot in 2018, the Blue Jays’ GM said an awful lot with just a few short sentences.

“If he were to come (to spring training) in good shape and looking like he spent the off-season focused on being a starting pitcher, we could start the year with five solid major-league starters”, he was quoted as saying according to Steve Buffery of the Toronto Star.

Many fans read that quote and assumed that it means that Biagini was simply physically unfit to be a professional athlete last season, and there’s not a lot of patience for that sort of thing. When you’re a well paid athlete and the envy of millions of fans, it doesn’t take much apathy, or even perceived apathy to make fans believe you aren’t deserving of the opportunity.

So before everyone gets all riled up, let’s unpack what Atkins said here, and also look at the rest of the comments. First, there was more than just the above quote, as he also said,

"“It was more just about his approach to starting pitching and what that means physically, fundamentally, mentally. We have given him some clear goals for this off-season and if he meets them, he’s going to be in a great position to earn that spot.” – Ross Atkins"

When you look at the full context of the quote, it makes a lot more sense and feels less like an attack on Biagini’s fitness levels. Perhaps he wasn’t in ideal physical shape last year, but that wasn’t necessarily the problem. It takes an entirely different regiment to prepare to be a starting pitcher, and it was a routine that Biagini had been away from since before he joined the Blue Jays’ organization in the offseason before 2016.

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It seems that Atkins’ comments are more directed at Biagini’s specific focus on being a starter, and how that would affect his approach. Part of that is conditioning for sure, and he would need to prepare his body for the endurance required to throw 100 pitches instead of 30. Maybe he needs to be a little more diligent with his body, as we saw from Aaron Sanchez before the 2016 season as well. There’s no doubt that being in “better shape” will always help an athlete and maybe Atkins is trying to give Biagini a little extra motivation to train hard this offseason.

But there’s something else to remember here too when it comes to this conversation.

The Blue Jays started the 2017 season with Biagini as an important member of their bullpen. When they had a spat of injuries to Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano, and they eventually turned to Biagini to help fill out the rotation. In doing so, they didn’t even give him an opportunity to stretch out in Triple A, as he was asked to build up his arm strength on the fly. He did an admirable job, especially in the early stages of his return to the rotation, and slowly but surely but up his pitch count.

"“If he were to come (to spring training) in good shape and looking like he spent the off-season focused on being a starting pitcher, we could start the year with five solid major-league starters” – Ross Atkins"

Then, he was later returned to the bullpen for a second time, only to be asked to return to Triple A and stretch out for a second round as a starting pitcher. At least this time he would be afforded the opportunity to prepare a little bit in Buffalo, but it was definitely a merry go round for the 27 year old.

I get what Atkins was trying to do with his comments on Wednesday, and perhaps he even said more than he meant to, but I felt like the Blue Jays played a part in whatever disappointment Biagni’s 2017 season brought with it. If they want the best out of him going forward there’s no doubt that improved conditioning will help, but I’d be willing to bet that a defined role would be a more important factor.

It’ll be on the Blue Jays to do just that in 2018, even if that means one last try as a starter and then a final move back to the bullpen if things don’t work out. He’ll have the offseason to prepare his body for the rigours of starting, knowing that even if the Blue Jays do add a fifth veteran member to the rotation, he’ll likely be the next man up when injury inevitably strikes.

As far as his conditioning goes, given the proper time and mindset I’m confident he can get himself where he needs to be, cause hey, even guys like David Wells and C.C. Sabathia could do it at a much heavy weight than Biagini is sporting. To me it’ll be more of a case of if his skillset translates better to the rotation or the bullpen, and hopefully 2018 will give us a final answer.

Next: Atkins- 'I wouldn't be surprised if we added a starting pitcher'

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