Toronto rallies around Osuna amid rough stretch

Hale, Estrada offer full support for young closer despite 10th blown save

September 6th, 2017
Roberto Osuna's 10 blown saves in 2017 are the third-most in Blue Jays franchise history. (AP)

BOSTON -- Less than two months ago, was an American League All-Star and easily one of the most dominant relievers in the game. Now he's clinging to his job as Toronto's closer and can't seem to catch a break. Such is life in the high-pressure life of Major League Baseball.

Osuna's well-documented struggles continued once again Tuesday night, as he was charged with his 10th blown save in Toronto's 3-2 loss to the Red Sox. He allowed two runs in the ninth inning of a game that eventually went 19 frames, and he now finds himself within striking distance of some dubious history.

The 10 blown saves are the most in the Major Leagues and three away from setting a new franchise record. The only Toronto relievers with more blown saves in one season are Duane Ward (12 in 1989) and Joey McLaughlin (11 in '83).

"He left some balls up and they put a good swing on it," Blue Jays acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. "Listen, this is a strong character young man. When an opportunity comes again, for me, see how you respond and, 'Here's the ball to be the closer.'

"He's going through a tough stretch here, but that's what this game will do. This game will definitely test your character and your resolve. He's in that moment, and I'm sure he's going to bounce back."

Hale was asked whether that means the Blue Jays still have confidence in the 22-year-old as a closer. The answer, as expected, is rather complicated. Manager John Gibbons is currently away from the team because of personal business and is not expected to return until at least Friday. Hale is not in a position to definitively say whether Osuna will continue to close, but if the decision was his, and his alone, that's what would happen.

The veteran bench coach cited Osuna's 35 saves and went out of his way to defend the beleaguered reliever. That shouldn't be surprising considering everything Osuna has done for the Blue Jays over the past three years. He easily was Toronto's most valuable reliever during its back-to-back runs to the postseason, but unfortunately for the Blue Jays, that doesn't change the current situation.

Since July 18, Osuna has seven blown saves with a 6.65 ERA over 21 2/3 innings. The velocity is fine, as he frequently touched 95-96 mph on Tuesday night, but the execution was not. He walked the first batter he faced, and then allowed a double to . Two RBI groundouts later, and the game was tied.

"Gibby's not here ... but me answering the question, yes I do," Hale said when asked about Toronto's confidence in Osuna as closer. "I definitely have confidence in him. You don't get 35 saves not being good. He's an All-Star, and he's a strong character young man. You all go through some struggles at this level at times and I'm sure he's going to bounce back."

That was the stance Osuna's teammates tried to take after the heartbreaking loss as well.

"He's going to be just fine," Blue Jays starter said. "The guy's one of the best closers in the game. He's just hit a rough patch. We all do. I went through one, I've been going through one, so it's all part of the game. He'll understand that. He's young, he's going to be in this game for a very long time.

"He's got a good head on his shoulders. These things happen. It's hard to take. No matter what, no matter how long you've been in this game, it's hard to take regardless. I'll maybe talk to him tomorrow and just make sure he's OK. I'm sure he's fine."