There’s no denying that Jason Grilli has become one of the most valuable assets for the Blue Jays’ bullpen this season.
The 39-year-old veteran came to the Blue Jays in late May, posting a rather unimpressive 5.29 ERA in 21 appearances with the Atlanta Braves. Heading into August, it seems like everything is going Jason’s way, as he has solidified himself as the eighth inning man and is boasting an extremely respectable, if not All-Star worthy, 1.75 ERA since joining Toronto’s staff. Manager John Gibbons stated how pleased he is with, not only his performance, but his impact on the rest of the bullpen, as relievers Jesse Chavez and Brett Cecil seem(ed) to be additional beneficiaries of the deal, and have made the bullpen look much better since his arrival.
On May 31, Jason officially became a member of the Jays in return for former 18th round pick Sean Ratcliffe. Many concerns around Grilli were his age, as if he kept up an inflated ERA, it would seem like a total waste of a trade. At 39, it wasn’t likely Grilli has much left in the tank. It seems as if Grilli filled the same position as former Blue Jays reliever LaTroy Hawkins, however he doesn’t reap the same publicity benefits of being traded along side of superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Maybe what made Grilli attractive to Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins was his history as a reliever. Several years ago, Grilli was known as one of the most reliable arms coming out of the bullpen, and was named an All-Star closer in 2013. For the few seasons as a member of the pirates, Grilli was known as a superstar arm that could strike out just about any batter, averaging over 12 K/9 in his three complete years in Pittsburgh.
However, last July with the Braves, Grilli took a devastating injury to his Achilles that seemed to slow down his effectiveness that he had been known for. Many speculated that it was the end of the road for Grilli, and that his injury would take a toll on the rest of his career.
It could be that Jason’s immediate turnaround is due to his sudden passion to play for a winning club. At 39 years old, it’s clear that Grilli was not part of Atlanta’s plans for the future. Jason is now given the chance to play for a ballclub that is looking to win in his personal timeline, as key players such as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are expected to suit up for a team south of the border in 2017. Jason stated that the Blue Jays were his favourite team growing up, as his dad, Steve Grilli, played for the Blue Jays in his pitching career as well. Jason also has a familiar face to look to behind the plate, as Russell Martin called Grilli’s save opportunities when he was an All-Star closer in Pittsburgh.
By essentially becoming the saviour to the jays bullpen, having an official nickname of “Grilled Cheese”, and a large social media presence, it’s easy for him to have gained a spot in the hearts of Blue Jays fans. He’s played for over ten teams in his career, and his ability to stick with the game and believe in himself has become somewhat of an inspiration.
It seems as if it’s a dream scenario for Grilli. He has the chance to play for a ring on his favourite team. His sudden passion to win has turned his season around, and he’s making the loss of former 18th round pick Sean Ratcliffe virtually disappear. It’s like he was the missing puzzle piece all along, a blessing that was given to Toronto essentially for free.
For someone who has become something of an inspiration, it seems only necessary to end off with an inspiring quote from “Grilled Cheese” himself:
“OK, I’ll do what I’ve always done, I’ll ride the wave where it takes me. I got knocked off the horse, but I’m gonna dust myself off and keep doing what I do best.”