Blue Jays’ Grilli eases Osuna’s workload with closer cameo

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Jason Grilli (centre) celebrates with catcher Russell Martin (left) after striking out Baltimore Orioles Jonathan Schoop to end the ninth inning and give the Jays a 10-9 win. (Chris Young/CP)

TORONTO – A heavy workload for Roberto Osuna led to a weekend of rest for the 21-year-old closer and Jason Grilli’s first save as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Grilli’s outing Sunday wasn’t necessarily pretty — he allowed one run on one hit and two walks — but he got the job done on a day he was ‘a little bit tired’ as the Blue Jays completed a 10-9 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Nobody said life in the AL East would be easy.

“It’s like a heavyweight boxing match every night,” Grilli said. “No big lead is big enough from the sounds of it and from the looks of it.”

An Ezequiel Carrera catch at the right field wall helped Grilli earn his first save with an AL East team, and his third on the season. After just six appearances in Toronto it’s clear that Grilli has earned the Blue Jays’ trust, becoming their primary setup reliever.

“Our new, big acquisition came through,” manager John Gibbons said. “He’s got a lot of guts.”

The Blue Jays called on Grilli because Osuna, their closer, was ‘hanging’ after working often in recent weeks. He pitched 10 times in a 17-day span from May 25 to June 10, throwing 172 total pitches. Days off Saturday and Sunday should provide a little breather for Osuna, who has 13 saves and 35 strikeouts in 29.1 innings for a 1.84 ERA.

“He was a little sore,” Gibbons said. “Nothing major, but we can’t afford to lose him. He’s carried a pretty big workload.”

The Blue Jays have had trouble bridging the gap to Osuna this year, contributing to his heavy workload in recent weeks. Drew Storen and Brett Cecil were initially expected to provide shutdown setup relief but Storen’s struggles and Cecil’s lat tear forced the Blue Jays to adjust on the fly. Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini got a chance to set up before Grilli displaced him on the team’s depth chart.

In 27 games for the Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves, Grilli has a 4.57 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. His first save with the Blue Jays led to one of the more exuberant save celebrations of the season.

“It’s raw and unscripted. Some people like it, some people don’t,” Grilli said. “Just being with Russ (Martin) there’s a good connection there, a batterymate of mine from the past. Just to have that feeling again, he gives me a lot of confidence out there.”

Grilli’s not the only one bringing intensity, either.

“(Martin) incredible Hulk’d it probably even more than I did,” Grilli said. “It was a good feeling all around. I think everybody could exhale.”