Girodo makes strong debut in unusual circumstances

Toronto Blue Jays reliever Chad Girodo. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – Chad Girodo spent years working toward his big league debut, but there was no way the 25-year-old left-hander could have anticipated the precise sequence of events that led to a successful two-inning relief stint at Rogers Centre Friday.

First, a taxing series in Baltimore took its toll on the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Then, Chris Colabello’s 80-game suspension for using a banned substance created an opening on the big-league roster. Finally, a struggling Aaron Sanchez couldn’t complete five innings, and the Blue Jays needed someone to keep the game within striking distance.

That’s exactly what Girodo did, delivering two scoreless innings with one hit allowed and one strikeout in a Blue Jays loss to the Athletics.

"It’s a dream come true to make it to the big leagues," Girodo. “It felt great."

After hearing Friday that the Blue Jays had selected his contract, Girodo left the Buffalo Bisons midway through their road trip and headed north for the border. He was at Rogers Centre in time for batting practice.

But there wasn’t much time to compare notes with Russell Martin and Josh Thole, so it’s fortunate for Girodo that he had worked with the Blue Jays catchers in spring training. Both backstops ended up catching Girodo, since Martin left the game as a precautionary measure after experiencing neck spasms.

"It’s a funky arm angle, very deceptive. He’s got some good sink on the fastball," Martin said. "First glance, the guy looks like he’s going to be able to get a bunch of ground balls and looks like he’s an uncomfortable at bat for left-handers for sure."

The Blue Jays selected Girodo in the ninth round of the 2013 draft, two rounds after fellow pitching prospect Conner Greene. In the same draft, the Blue Jays selected Matt Boyd in the sixth round (later traded in the David Price deal) and Kendall Graveman in the eighth round (later traded in the Josh Donaldson deal).

Girodo impressed in 2015, posting a 1.34 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 60.1 innings across three levels before earning the chance to compete in the Arizona Fall League. By the end of the 2015 season, the Blue Jays even considered him for a big league call-up, and he competed for a bullpen job this spring. A strong start with triple-A Buffalo — six hits, one run and seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings — earned him the opportunity to impress against a big league lineup.

"I thought he did a great job," manager John Gibbons said. "We saw him really good in spring training and he got on our radar map. He keeps the ball at the knees, moves it around, changes speeds. It was a terrific debut for him."

Girodo hopes many more successful outings will follow, but in the meantime he’ll settle for a strong beginning and a keepsake.

"I’ll probably keep the strikeout ball. Or a ball. Something."

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