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Biagini shows he has what it takes to start

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Joe Biagini is no longer a pitcher in transition. After throwing a career-high seven innings and 100 pitches in Saturday's 7-0 loss to New York, the right-hander has been fully stretched out into a starter who looks capable of eating up quality innings at the Major League level.

"He had it all working," said manager John Gibbons. "He had a good curveball today, good fastball. He's slowly turning into a pretty good looking starter. What happens down the road this season, I couldn't tell you yet. But it's nice to watch."

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TORONTO -- Joe Biagini is no longer a pitcher in transition. After throwing a career-high seven innings and 100 pitches in Saturday's 7-0 loss to New York, the right-hander has been fully stretched out into a starter who looks capable of eating up quality innings at the Major League level.

"He had it all working," said manager John Gibbons. "He had a good curveball today, good fastball. He's slowly turning into a pretty good looking starter. What happens down the road this season, I couldn't tell you yet. But it's nice to watch."

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Down the road waits the return of Aaron Sanchez -- who is on the disabled list again with a blister, but is expected to play catch for the first time in the next couple of days. Biagini would seem to be the odd man out when Sanchez returns, but his recent growth and his performance on Saturday don't make the decision an easy one.

Biagini allowed just one earned run in his seven innings, with unearned two runs crossing in the third inning after an error by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki extended the frame. Excluding the third, Biagini didn't throw more than 16 pitches in an inning and forced 13 ground outs to stay in control.

The most noticeable adjustment Biagini made was an increased emphasis on his curveball in any and all counts. He turned to that pitch 40 percent of the time -- more than double his 2017 average -- but was quick to redirect any praise for that idea to catcher Luke Maile.

"[Maile is] really in control of the game and really smart," Biagini said. "You don't really worry about it. I thought that only guys like Russell Martin were like that, but you can tell because the look on his face is like, 'I'm thinking with you. I've got you.'"

With his increased curveball usage came a decrease in Biagini's cutter, a pitch he expressed some frustration with after finding greater success with it in 2016. His pitches have experienced the expected velocity dip across the board in his switch from bullpen to rotation, but his deep arsenal -- which had always made him a unique reliever -- can cover up for that.

"To be a good big league pitcher, you've got to throw something besides your fastball when you fall behind," Gibbons said. "[Batters] lock in on that and that's when you get hit around pretty good. He's got a curveball he can throw over almost at will, whenever he wants it or needs it."

Sanchez's return is coming, but it's not imminent. So Biagini should have at least a couple of additional starts to build on what he's started.

"I need to make my goal to learn as much as I can from each opportunity to pitch," Biagini said. "I don't know with all these guys coming back, how many more opportunities I'll have to start. But there are things that will translate over into the bullpen and there are things I can kind of retain if I continue to start."

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays, Joe Biagini