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Gregg assumes ninth-inning role

Gregg assumes ninth-inning role

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have received eight save opportunities in their first eight games this season, and the club might already have eight wins had it not been for a pair of blown saves by right-handed reliever Jason Frasor.

On Wednesday, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston announced that veteran Kevin Gregg will assume the closer's role that was handed to Frasor out of Spring Training. Frasor will slide back into a setup role, joining Scott Downs as backup options for the ninth inning.

"I just had a talk with them," Gaston said. "We're just going to reverse the roles a little bit until Frasor can get back to where we think he should be."

Gregg -- signed to a one-year, $2.75 million contract over the offseason -- has enjoyed a strong start to this season for Toronto. Through his first four appearances, the 31-year-old right-hander has notched three saves, allowing just one single among the 13 hitters he has encountered over 4 1/3 innings. Along the way, Gregg has compiled six strikeouts, five groundouts and no walks.

Gaston said Gregg's performance convinced the manager to give him the closer's job.

"He's been absolutely outstanding out there," Gaston said. "He's been better than he was even in Spring Training. I don't think he's gone out there and walked a guy yet."

Frasor, on the other hand, has struggled out of the gates this year.

Toronto's only two losses through eight games this season -- on Opening Day on April 5 against the Rangers and in the home opener against the White Sox on Monday -- have included ninth-inning lapses from Frasor. The righty has three saves in five chances, but has yielded eight hits and issued three walks over 4 1/3 innings.

Frasor's main issue early on has been retiring the first hitter in his appearances. The reliever has allowed two doubles, issued two walks and given up a home run to the five leadoff men he has faced. Overall, hitters have posted a .381 average against the right-hander, who saved 11 games a year ago for the Jays.

"There are going to be plenty of opportunities for both of us," Gregg said. "This will give Frasor a chance to get his feet back underneath him and keep throwing the ball the way he's capable of. To me, he's throwing the ball good. He's going to end up all right."

Gaston said Frasor took the news in stride.

"Frasor's great," Gaston said. "He's no problem. He understands."

Gaston did note that he does not plan on using Gregg on three consecutive nights, opening up the door for potential save chances for both Frasor and Downs. In that scenario, Gaston said he would look at the matchups and decide between using the left-handed Downs or the right-handed Frasor.

"I feel good," Frasor said. "I just screwed up two games. What can I say? I'll be ready for whatever. There are a lot of innings to go around."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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