Reliever building confidence after filling temporary starter role
By Jordan Horrobin
DETROIT -- Before Friday's game, Toronto manager John Gibbons talked about using reliever Joe Biagini in low-leverage situations. The goal was to work him back into a groove as he transitioned from his fill-in starting role to a relief spot, where he'd had so much success a year ago.
After the Blue Jays put up three runs in the top of the eighth to secure a six-run cushion, Gibbons called on Biagini, who turned in a clean inning of relief.
"If I was the coach, I wouldn't have put me in in a close game, because I had been a little inconsistent recently," said Biagini, who had one strikeout in a 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the Tigers' lineup.
Biagini was called upon to fill holes in Toronto's rotation this season, making 11 starts from May to July as Aaron Sanchez and Francisco Liriano were sidelined. He tossed nine innings without allowing an earned run in his first two starts, but he began to falter after that, with a 6.70 ERA over his final nine starts before moving back to the bullpen July 8.
Biagini said mechanical inconsistencies grew as his struggling starts piled up, but that his pitching role -- as a starter or a reliever -- had no impact.
"I was kind of dealing with that a little bit earlier this season in the bullpen," Biagini said. "And then as I pitched more innings, it kind of started to exacerbate the situation a little bit."
One solid outing isn't enough for Biagini to say he's completely turned around his mechanical problems, but he said he "feels close" and is on the right track.
Gibbons was encouraged by Friday's outing for Biagini, who posted a 3.06 ERA in 60 appearances last year in his first MLB season, and he hopes his reliever can continue to make a positive transition back to the bullpen.
"I think last night was a big night for him to get back in there, gain some confidence," Gibbons said. "I don't know if it happens to everybody, but there's gotta be a little adjustment."
• Reliever Joe Smith pitched one scoreless inning in a rehab outing for Triple-A Buffalo on Friday, allowing one hit and striking out one batter against Yankees affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Gibbons said Smith will pitch for Buffalo on Sunday and rejoin the Blue Jays in their next series against the Red Sox, which begins Monday.
Smith is 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 34 appearances this season, and he would likely slide back into a late-relief role to set up closer Roberto Osuna.
• Second baseman Devon Travis took ground balls before Saturday's game. Travis, who had knee surgery in June and is on the 60-day disabled list, still figures to be several weeks away from returning to play.
"To be honest, when they told me [Friday] he was gonna take ground balls today, that surprised me," Gibbons said. "I didn't think that was happening that quick."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.