Blue Jays Notebook: Roberto Osuna looking strong in spring debut

Joe Biagini pitched three innings and allowed one run as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna pitched his first outing of 2018 Wednesday, needing only six pitches (five strikes) to retire the three batters he faced.

He struck out the first (ramping his fastball up to 95-m.p.h. for strike three), allowed a first-pitch single to the second, and got the third to ground a first-pitch fastball to third for an inning-ending double play.

“That’s good,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the quick appearance. “I like the way he looks. His body looks strong. He’s turning into a man, you know? He’s still a baby but he’s turning into a man. He looked good.”

Osuna worked towards adding some muscle this offseason, in hopes of pitching with more consistent velocity in 2018. Last season, Osuna’s average fastball velocity fluctuated from as high as 95.7 m.p.h. in June to as low as 93.7 m.p.h. in August.

In 2015 and 2016, Osuna averaged 96.4 and 96.6 m.p.h. on his fastball over the course of the year. In 2017, that season-long average dropped to 95 m.p.h.

“It feels good to be back. I actually felt pretty good for the first outing. Everything worked well today,” Osuna said after his debut. “I’m really happy with the job today. My fastball command was good. The velo came back. Really happy.”

Osuna threw almost exclusively fastballs, except for one back-door cutter which he felt he located well. He’ll look to incorporate his slider in his next outing, and likely would have Wednesday if hitters weren’t being as aggressive as they were.

Osuna says he’s fine with as much or as little work as he receives this spring, and is leaving those decisions up to the coaching staff. His only goal between now and opening day is rather simple.

“Just staying healthy, you know? Feel good. Exactly what happened today,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for. Stay healthy for the season, stay strong, keep up the good work, and get ready for opening day.”

Set-up man Ryan Tepera also made an appearance Wednesday, his second of the spring. He allowed a single between a couple strikeouts and a groundout. Tepera threw 15 pitches (12 strikes) and ramped his fastball up to 95 m.p.h. while mostly working on his change-up and slider.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Garcia and Oh debuts upcoming

Blue Jays fans have yet to get a glimpse of the club’s two newest pitchers, but they won’t have to wait much longer.

Jaime Garcia, signed two weeks ago to fill out the club’s rotation, was scheduled to throw live batting practice on the minor-league side Wednesday, and will get into his first major-league spring training game sometime soon. He’s earmarked for only an inning in his first outing, and will aim to progress to three innings in his second appearance.

Recently signed reliever Seung-hwan Oh, meanwhile, is merely waiting for his work visa to be sorted out before he makes his spring training debut. He was already throwing bullpens when he was still a free agent, and was scheduled to throw another at Blue Jays camp Wednesday.

Status quo for Tulowitzki

Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki continues to work towards a return at camp as he recovers from ligament damage in his right ankle suffered during a play at first base last July. But opening day is fast approaching and the 33-year-old will need to get into spring training games soon if he’s going to avoid beginning the season on the disabled list.

There’s also the matter of a chronic bone spur in his right heel which has delayed his progress thus far. Tulowitzki has been taking groundballs regularly, but has yet to begin running at full speed, which will be a big hurdle for him to surpass. The Blue Jays will be cautious with the veteran in order to avoid any further hiccups.

“He’s moving in the right direction,” Gibbons said. “I couldn’t tell you when he’s going to actually go out there, but he’s feeling pretty good.

“When you watch him take his groundballs, he’s moving pretty good. You really don’t notice anything. But it’s one of those things where let’s make sure we do this thing right. Instead of jumping the gun and then having a setback.”

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