Humorous Biagini proving to be versatile weapon

Righty was key in long-relief role last year, and has shown he can spot start this spring

Humorous Biagini proving to be versatile weapon

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini really enjoyed his spring stint as a starter.

"I liked that I got to do my pregame rituals of talking to myself in the mirror and flexing and stuff," Biagini said. "It's not as impressive as you might think, though."

Biagini made his fourth start -- and fifth appearance overall -- of the spring for the Blue Jays on Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He allowed two runs -- none earned -- on just two hits while striking out a pair in two innings of a 5-4 loss for the Blue Jays.

In addition to his unique pregame rituals, Biagini has also been working on attacking the strike zone with more frequency to get quick outs and focusing on the mechanics and timing of pitching from the windup. He has settled into more of a routine with his preparation.

"Hopefully, I looked cute out there. That was kind of my main goal," Biagini said. "[I tried] to take advantage of the freedom of Spring Training to do different things, when you're getting your work in and all that good stuff. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to get a couple of starts."

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And, of course, he has been brushing up on his jokes for the postgame press scrum that all starting pitchers must go through. For as good as he was on the mound last season, it was the sense of humor he displayed with the media that made him a fan favorite in Toronto.

With a starting rotation of Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Francisco Liriano all but set heading into the regular season, Biagini will return to the long-relief role he flourished in last season with Toronto.

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"He's going to end up in the bullpen barring an injury or something like that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Originally scheduled to throw three innings, Biagini was pulled after Boston's Marco Hernandez reached on an error and Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to start the third inning. So far this spring, the 6-foot-5 righty has a 1.17 ERA with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings of work.

"It's getting to that point where we will start backing him off to get him ready for that bullpen role," Gibbons said. "[Starting] was something we all wanted to look at. I think he could definitely start, but right now he is so valuable to our bullpen that we need him out there."

Biagini was a 2016 Rule 5 Draft pick out of the San Francisco Giants' farm system. He was able to stick on the Blue Jays' roster in a long-relief role, and finished the season with a 4-3 record and a 3.06 ERA. He struck out 62 batters in his 67 2/3 innings.

"One of the nice things about the bullpen is that it helps you focus on the key elements of what it takes to get ready to pitch everyday," Biagini said. "Any opportunity to pitch on this team is really nice and so whatever role they need me in, I'm happy to contribute."

Although, Biagini would like to start again at some point in his career, he admitted that it would be better for the team to not have to use him in that capacity this year because that means the starting rotation was able to stay healthy over the course of the season.

"It seems like every day you go, 'Who's starting today?' and you'll be like, 'Oh, that'll be a good game for us,'" Biagini said. "So to break into that rotation is kind of a lofty goal. I'm grateful just to get a chance to pitch in Spring Training and try and help the team with whatever role they need me."

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.