As Toronto Blue Jays pitchers and catchers reported to Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday, right-handed reliever Joe Biagini was the subject of debate. Will he remain in the bullpen this season, or might he wind up in Toronto’s starting rotation?
A lot depends on whether the Blue Jays’ current crop of starters manages to stay healthy, but if all goes well, manager John Gibbons says he envisions Biagini as a “dominant reliever.”
Gibbons, who joined Bob McCown and Kevin Barker on Prime Time Sports, said Biagini is “too valuable” to be a long reliever.
While Gibbons admitted that the possibility of Biagini as a starter is “intriguing,” the manager said that if everything goes according to plan, the 26-year-old will be stretched out during spring training, but, so long as an extra starter isn’t needed, “he could maybe go back to his old role.”
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins told McCown earlier this week that he saw a “potential hybrid scenario” for Biagini.
“Depends on the health of everyone,” Atkins said, “but what we’ll do is stretch him out so that we have the option to adjust. It’ll be easier to adjust if he’s pitching a slightly more significant workload in spring training, or just a different workload.”
“My plan is not that he’s gonna be a long reliever,” Gibbons explained. “I think he’s too valuable, what he proved to us last year. I think he’s got a good chance, you know, he could be a dominant reliever.”
In other words, Biagini will throw multiple innings during spring training, but don’t expect him to end up as an innings-eating relief man.
“We’ll decide as we go along, but hopefully the injury bug doesn’t hit us at all in that rotation, and then we run with our five,” Gibbons said.
Biagini’s success last year “came out of nowhere,” Gibbons added. “Joe saved us quite a bit last year, really turned into one of the better relievers, especially when you look at his experience level,” he said.
Biagini, for his part, joked on Tuesday that being stretched out during spring training will involve some very literal stretching. “I think they’re just gonna have people stand on each side of me and then pull my arms really far to try to stretch as far as I can,” he said.
“He’s definitely a different bird,” Gibbons said. The manager explained that he hadn’t quite known what to make of Biagini when he first showed up to spring training last year because “his answers were off the wall.” But now he’s used to Biagini’s offbeat interviews, even if he isn’t always sure he understands what the righty is talking about.
“That’s just Joe,” Gibbons said.