Jays look for ways to stabilize late-inning relief

Jays look for ways to stabilize late-inning relief

Jays look for ways to stabilize late-inning relief
ARLINGTON -- Late-inning relief has become the Blue Jays Achilles' heel during July.

Toronto's bullpen has converted just two of its nine save opportunities this month. On the whole, the Blue Jays have blown 17 saves in 37 opportunities this year, which is tied with the Angels for most in the American League.

"That's a high number, obviously," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "And yet we have the guys here that we're going to deal with, we're going to continue to put in situations to close games out.

"You can point to certain things, as long as we don't create opportunities for the opposition, we should convert a greater percentage of the saves that we're presented with."

Toronto lacks at a bona fide closer. Right-hander Frank Francisco was handed the role earlier this year but lost it on a couple of occasions while struggling with a 5.34 ERA and four blown saves in 28 2/3 innings.

Jon Rauch also received an opportunity and proceeded to go 7-for-11 in save opportunities. Every member of the bullpen has at least one blown save except for right-hander Octavio Dotel, who successfully converted his one chance on May 21 vs. Houston.

"I think the biggest thing is when we are able to throw strikes and force the opposition to beat us and not give opportunities," Farrell said. "That's what we've got to focus on first and foremost."

While the back end of the bullpen has received a lot of criticism, the overall numbers haven't been that bad. Toronto's relief corps has posted a 3.64 ERA in 316 2/3 innings, which ranks third in the American League.

Middle relief has become a strength of the team with right-handers Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen enjoying successful campaigns.

Frasor is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 42 1/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .244 average. Janssen is 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA and has been particularly effective vs. lefties, who are hitting just .219 against him.

"The one thing that we continually strive to do is gain some consistency with the overall usage," Farrell said. "That's not to say we have roles etched in stone, but where Frasor has been very good in that seventh and eighth inning, particularly against the middle of the order.

"Casey has thrown the ball extremely well ... whether or not he's a guy we would turn to, he had the one save opportunity in Kansas City and converted it, yet we've got experience out there. Guys that have closed games out in the past and we've got to get them to the point of playing up to their capabilities."