Blue Jays Notebook: Biagini back with fresh delivery

Follow new Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson through all the stations, as the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays are put through Sportsnet’s media day "car wash" in Dunedin.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – When the Toronto Blue Jays open their Grapefruit League schedule Friday, Joe Biagini will get his first chance of the year to remind club decision makers what he offers as a starter.

He has simplified his delivery since last year, and the Blue Jays are looking for him to work at a quicker pace.

“As a starter, we think that’ll help him since he’s trying to develop some rhythm in his delivery,” manager John Gibbons said. “That’s basically what we’re looking for.”

Biagini now projects as the club’s sixth starter and he’s likely slated to begin the season at triple-A Buffalo barring an injury. Still, most teams eventually rely heavily on starters who don’t open the season in the rotation, and Biagini provides welcome depth behind the front five of Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia.

As for the club’s position players, Gibbons has more upper-minors prospects at his disposal this year and fewer minor-league free agents along the lines of Jake Elmore and Gregorio Petit. Early on, the Blue Jays will rest many of their regulars while mixing in prospects and new faces alike.

“We’ve seen most (prospects) pretty good,” Gibbons said. “We’ve seen Teoscar (Hernandez) quite a bit. (Richard) Urena and those guys up the middle. So it’s really familiarizing ourselves with some of the new guys we brought in: (Yangervis) Solarte and (Aledmys) Diaz and those guys. But they’ll all play. We need to see them play.”

The Blue Jays will honour the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Friday by wearing the school’s hat for the Grapefruit League opener.

“It’s sad as can be,” Gibbons said. “The problem in our country is it’s happening too often. Something needs to be done. This puts the spotlight on the tragedy and honours the victims and their families, which is a great thing.”


When the Blue Jays’ everyday players are healthy, there’s no clear starting role for Yangervis Solarte. Pre-season projections will inevitably bend to the demands of reality, but at this point Gibbons envisions a mix-and-match role for the switch-hitting utility player.

“We acquired him because he can swing the bat,” the manager said. “We’ve got to find a way to get him the most at-bats we can. That may be bouncing him around different spots on the infield. He could play the outfield a little bit if he had to.”

Gibbons said the Blue Jays could also move an infielder such as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki or Devon Travis to the DH spot for a day while playing Solarte in the field.

“He can fill in at those roles,” Gibbons said. “Hopefully we can get him enough at-bats. That’s the plan, anyways.”

A year ago Solarte played all four infield positions for the San Diego Padres while hitting .255/.314/.416 with 18 homers.


Next time you see a Troy Tulowitzki baseball card, take a close look at what he’s doing in the photo. When a photographer mistook him for a pitcher on Blue Jays photo day Thursday morning, the normally stoic shortstop played along and posed as a right-handed pitcher.

For Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez, the episode called to mind a similar mishap that took place 37 years ago. In 1981, Donruss printed a photo of the right-handed hitting Martinez in reverse. His card shows him as a left-handed hitter with a backwards Brewers logo and uniform script.

There’s some potential, then, that Tulowitzki’s 2018 card will become a collector’s item.

Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans inside the Blue Jays and around MLB with news, analysis and interviews.


• Devon Travis and Russell Martin will both make their spring debuts Sunday, according to Gibbons. From there, both players are expected to appear in roughly half of the team’s games as a way of managing their respective workloads. Travis continues recovering from June knee surgery, while Martin’s entering his age-35 season.
Randal Grichuk had a favourable scouting report on former Cardinals teammate Diaz. “The guy can hit,” Grichuk said. “Last year’s type of player isn’t the guy he is. When he’s on, he can straight-up hit the ball and he hits missiles to all sides of the field.”

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