Janssen shining in closer role for Blue Jays

May 19, 2012, 12:09 AM

When Casey Janssen was handed the Blue Jays closer’s role back on May 9, he became the main man in a bullpen in desperate need of some stability.

The previous night in Oakland, interim closer Francisco Cordero blew a 3-2 ninth-inning lead by giving up a game-winning, walkoff grand slam to Brandon Inge. It was Cordero’s third blown save since taking over for the injured Sergio Santos and it marked the Blue Jays seventh blown save in 11 opportunities.

The following morning, manager John Farrell announced that the veteran Cordero was out as the team’s closer and taking over would be the 31-year-old Janssen who had nine career saves in six MLB seasons entering 2012.

Farrell did have other options at his disposal including Luis Perez, veteran left-hander Darren Oliver, or a closer-by-committee approach.

But going to back to the spring, Farrell has repeatedly preached how important he believes it is for each member of the bullpen to have a clearly defined role.

And while the ninth-inning duties may be new for Janssen, the early results have been terrific.

In four appearances since the promotion, the California native has recorded three saves in four scoreless innings. Farrell said Janssen has provided the Blue Jays with everything they can expect from the role and more.

“It’s the goal every year coming out of spring training, to have one guy you go back to and there are times through performance or injuries it’s going to change as we’re living right now, but the fact that we can go to someone who in at least the three opportunities he’s had to save games is efficient… (it’s) been a very calming effect,” Farrell said.

“You don’t see a change in the demeanour. The attack plan that he has, and he’s done a very good job.”

As for Cordero, since losing the closer’s job he’s pitched three scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

“If there’s one thing I would say, it’s that his fastball location has been more consistent in the strike zone,” said Farrell when asked what he attributes Cordero’s recent success to. “When he was hurt in some of those ninth-inning appearances, some balls leaked back over the plate and that’s where some of the base hits have come from so he’s done a much better job of being consistent in that area.”

RASMUS GETS A BREATHER: With lefty Jon Niese on the mound Friday, Farrell opted to give the struggling Colby Rasmus the night off in favour of speedster Rajai Davis.

Rasmus, who is in the midst of an 0-for-17 skid that has seen his average drop to .203 would have been in tough against Niese, who entered the game having held left-handed hitters to a .136 batting average (3-for-22) through his first seven starts.

Prior to the game, Farrell said he hoped the night off would do Rasmus some good.

“He’s been over-aggressive at times,” said Farrell. “Some other at-bats have been quality at-bats where he’s squared some balls up and not had much to show for it, and a day down against a good left-hander will give him a chance to catch his breath a little bit. Certainly we need to get him going a little bit more than he’s been — that’s the obvious.”

And when Rasmus returns to the lineup, Farrell said Davis can still expect some additional starts across the outfield.

“He brings the element that others don’t have with his skillset, but the fact is, it’s not just about speed, he’s also swinging the bat well,” said Farrell. “The ability to manufacture runs, create a little bit of hopefully uneasiness when he gets on-base and because he’s swinging the bat well of late, there’s more there than just holding him back for a potential pitch-run…But he’s made an impact in the games that he’s started so he’s certainly earned the additional at-bats.”

HOW DO YOU SAY CHEERS IN PORTUGUESE?: Coming off a two-hit major league debut in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the New York Yankees, rookie Yan Gomes was back in the Toronto lineup Friday, batting eighth and playing third base.

Farrell said Thursday was a special night for the 24-year-old, who became the first Brazilian-born player in MLB history.

“I think you always share some excitement when you’re standing in the dugout with a young guy making his MLB debut,” said Farrell. “But even if he didn’t get the hits (Thursday) night, he’d be back in the lineup (Friday), so I’m sure there are many people in Sao Paulo raising a glass, hopefully.”

FAMILIAR FACES: The New York Mets’ arrival dragged three familiar faces into town, starter Miguel Batista, and relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, who made up the back-end of the Blue Jays troubled bullpen last season.

Coming into Friday’s play, Francisco was 9-for-11 converting saves but also sported a 1-3 record and an ERA of 8.04, while Rauch was 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA and one save.

“I think they’ve been a lot like last year for the Blue Jays, they’ve had some really good moments, and they’ve had some moments that haven’t been great,” said J.P. Ricciardi, a special assistant to Mets GM Sandy Alderson. “For us, we needed a lot of depth, our bullpen was very, very weak last year, we needed to get a little bit more of upgrade which I think we did with these guys.”

Batista, 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA, starts Saturday against the Blue Jays.

–From Shi Davidi

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