Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
“If I would have the choice, I would stay in the bullpen,” says Roberto Osuna in a amazing, revealing piece on the Jays youngster from John Lott at Vice Sports. “Especially next year when we won’t have probably Storen or Cecil, so I probably have the chance to be the closer. I would take the closer over starter.”
Now, I’m not so sure that Cecil (and, to a lesser extent, Storen) is so likely to be gone after this season, but more importantly: could somebody remind Osuna the difference in earnings between starters and relievers!
The question, of course, isn’t quite so simple. Osuna has already missed a year with Tommy John surgery, and the image at the top of John’s piece, as well as this one, shows him in mid-motion, with his arms in a dreaded “Inverted-W” — an indicator of an overly stressful delivery, though it is debatable how predictive it is of future injury. (Then again, with Osuna having already required Tommy John, maybe that’s all the prediction we need?)
In light of that, maybe Osuna thinks the bullpen actually is the best place for him to make his money and keep himself healthy. Indeed, he tells Lott that he thinks it would be a “big risk” to simply declare him a starter in 2017 and let him loose. (Perhaps these sorts of concerns are behind John Gibbons’ assertion earlier this spring that the club isn’t terribly inclined to push Osuna to be a 100-inning Betances-like reliever).
But the Blue Jays wouldn’t simply ask him to go straight to 200-plus innings — and perhaps that’s what he bristles about, too. He would surely be on some kind of an innings limit and, as Lott suggests, they could build him up slowly with some time at Buffalo.
Osuna says that he just wants to pitch. “I would get bored if I pitch every few days. I think I’m the guy who wants to be out there every day and help the team in the most ways that I can.”
But he also seems resigned to the fact that it’s the Blue Jays’ plan to have him eventually be in the rotation. “That’s my plan for next year, be a starter,” he said, before admitting that he only said it’s his plan “because they want me as a starter.”
Or… maybe not great for a guy who genuinely fears he’ll eventually blow his arm out again, but it’s certainly the smart move on the club’s part, as they hope to get as much out of him as they can before that happens (i.e. while he’s cheap). That is, if it happens — though he’s a pitcher, so potentially dangerous mechanics or not, he’s already a ticking time bomb. And it’s not like guys with similar mechanics and with Tommy John on their CV haven’t had long and productive careers.
In other words, it’s not something they should run from — and they certainly haven’t on Drew Hutchison, who also has an Inverted W in his motion (albeit a less pronounced one), and a Tommy John — especially since Osuna has the body type and the arsenal of pitches that you look for in a workhorse starter. Keeping him in relief might mitigate some of the risk, but it hugely mitigates the reward, too. If Osuna really does want to help the team in the most ways that he can, eventually becoming a starter, and giving them something in the neighbourhood of 200 innings, instead of 70 or 80, is a much better way to do it.
Though I suppose there’s something to be said for having him do what he prefers, too. Especially because it’s not going to be easy next season, after a second straight year in relief, to build him back up again.
Whatever, though. It’s a moot point for now anyway. So let’s just enjoy what we’ve got — and with what he showed last year on the mound in some of the highest leverage situations possible, what we’ve got is something exceptionally good. (And that’s even before we recognize how awesome it is that he also talks about he and his friends laugh at the wall-building gasbag running for president!).
Seriously, though: he should start.