Blue Jays to be cautious with Osuna

Young right-hander likely to remain in short-relief role

February 28th, 2016

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have yet to decide whether Roberto Osuna will be the closer or a setup man this season, but regardless of what direction the club takes, it seems unlikely he will be used for more than one inning at a time, except on rare occasions.

Osuna came up through the Minor Leagues as a starter, but since arriving in the big leagues last year, he has been a short-stint reliever. That will be his role again this year with the club, which wants to be cautious and avoid overworking his young arm.

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Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was asked Sunday afternoon whether the club would use him in a role similar to the one Dellin Betances occupies in New York. Betances tossed 84 and 90 innings during the past two seasons, and 26 of his 2015 appearances were longer than one frame. While Gibbons didn't completely rule it out, that job seems unlikely for Osuna.

"That's tough on a reliever, because there are so many ups and downs," Gibbons said. "It's not like a starter, where it's every five days. That can take its toll on guys. Betances is a big, strong, hairy kid, too. I wouldn't plan on that, I think [Osuna] could do it, but it might catch up with him in the long run."

There was a line of thinking in some circles that suggested the Blue Jays should turn Osuna into a multi-inning reliever. The reasoning was that it might ease a possible transition to the starting rotation in future years, but Toronto does not appear to subscribe to that approach.

Osuna underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in his career in 2013, and the club wants to protect his arm. He hasn't started a game since 2014, and the further he is removed from that role, the more unlikely it becomes that the native of Mexico will ever return to the starting rotation. For now, he's a reliever, and there's a decent possibility that's the way it's always going to be.

"I think when guys throw a lot of innings out of the bullpen, what gets them is they're up all the time," Gibbons said. "They might be doing it back-to-back or three days in a row -- that's what really takes a toll.

"You could probably get more innings out of them if you said they throw every third day or something like that, but you can't really do that. ... They're all different, some guys hold up a lot better than others, nobody knows why. I don't know where [Osuna] ends up in the future, anyway. I think he could be a good starter; we know he's a very good reliever."