An early-season trade sent Jason Grilli from Atlanta to Toronto, where he resurrected his seemingly fading career. In 46 games as a Blue Jay, the 11-year veteran dominated opponents with a 12.4 K/9 en route to 21 holds and a pair of saves. Grilli allowed an earned run in just six of his 31 appearances during the second half of the campaign, limiting opposing hitters to a .182 BAA during that time. Even with many signs of progress comes indicators of deterioration for Grilli. His overall 4.9 BB/9 was the right-hander's worst mark since 2009 and Grilli's 1.5 HR/9 wasn't only a career high, it was one of the worst ratios in all of MLB. However, the good outweighed the bad in the eyes of the Blue Jays, as they exercised his team option for 2017. He will open the year as the setup man in front of closer Roberto Osuna, and given his experience in the ninth inning, he would be the logical option to step in when Osuna is unavailable.
Grilli allowed a hit and one walk, but struck out one Wednesday against the Red Sox en route to his first hold of the season. The 40-year-old earned 23 holds last season, but he's well off that pace early in the 2017 campaign. Grilli's 1.41 WHIP through six appearances isn't all that encouraging, but his 3.18 ERA over 5.2 innings is decent.
Grilli logged his first save Thursday against the Rays by striking out both batters he faced. After serving up a home run in his first outing, Grilli turned things around in a big way to close out Thursday's contest. The veteran reliever entered the game with men on second and third with one out, and he managed to limit the damage to one run (albeit due to a wild pitch thrown by him). Thursday's outing showed just how good Grilli can be when he's on, so hopefully this version shows up more frequently than the no-control version of himself while he fills in as the closer for Roberto Osuna (neck).
Grilli is likely to begin the season as Toronto's closer after Robert Osuna was placed on the 10-day DL, Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun reports. Osuna was able to pitch in spring training, so his placement on the DL is a surprise. Unless Osuna suffered a significant setback, Grilli may only be Toronto's closer for about 10 days. And it's not totally clear that Grilli would get all the save chances. Still, Grilli looks to be the player to grab for saves in the near term.
Grilli has allowed three runs on six hits -- including two home runs -- through four Grapefruit League appearances. The 41-year-old has been worked into the mix slowly this spring, but look for him to ramp up the intensity over the final days of camp. Grilli's exhibition numbers are nothing to fret about, as the veteran is simply working on locating his fastball and building up his stamina. The Jays' setup man can be counted on to rack up holds while contributing plenty of strikeouts in 2017.
Grilli's usage will be closely monitored by manager John Gibbons this season to ensure that the veteran doesn't get overly fatigued, Steve Buffery of the National Post reports. In regards to his physical ability to pitch deep into the 2017 season, Grilli has responded to the plethora of doubters with a playful smile. "Why does everybody keep asking me if I was tired [last season]?" said Grilli. But the truth is, the 40-year-old fully understands that he isn't a pup anymore, even though he said he still feels like one. The right-hander's average fastball in 2016 (92.4 mph) was more than a tick below his previous season with the Braves when he notched 24 saves while posting a 2.94 ERA. "I got great genes," the personable pitcher added. "I'm Italian, a lot of olive oil running through the veins. There's a lot of fight in me. Hey, if Bartolo Colon can still do it, I best keep up." Grilli, who was traded to Toronto from the Braves in May will be the primary set-up man once again this season for the Jays. Owners can expect 20-plus holds and a handful of saves from Grilli during the 2017 campaign.