Antolin reaches Majors after nearly giving up

Blue Jays call up reliever after strong Triple-A debut

Antolin reaches Majors after nearly giving up

ARLINGTON -- Earlier this year, Blue Jays right-hander Dustin Antolin was seriously considering retirement. Now, he's in the big leagues for the first time in his career.

Antolin was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo prior to Sunday afternoon's game against the Rangers. The surprise opportunity presented itself when left-hander Brett Cecil was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left triceps strain.

The 26-year-old Antolin had been waiting a long time for this moment. He was taken in the 11th round of the 2008 Draft, had never pitched above Double-A before this year and was a Minor League free agent last offseason. He almost gave up, but is now grateful he never did.

"I was thinking about hanging it up," Antolin said. "I talked to my girlfriend and said 'I think I'm done.' I didn't have a job this whole offseason until two weeks before Spring Training. My girl is my backbone, and she said, 'Give it one more shot.' So I said whatever happens, happens. I'm going to work my tail off. Before you know it, I'm getting a callup."

Antolin earned the promotion after he posted a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings at Triple-A. He had three saves and struck out 25 compared to 11 walks in 12 appearances. The strong numbers came after he was stuck at Double-A New Hampshire each of the previous three years.

The native of Hawaii might not be a familiar name to Blue Jays fans, but they'll have an opportunity to get to know him in the coming days. In his words, he throws a "four-seam fastball, power slider and split. Simple game. Go right after the hitters. Well-located pitches is what I try to do all the time."

Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava said the decision to promote Antolin was based on the strong recommendations he received from the coaching staff in Buffalo. Toronto's front office also came away impressed when he pitched an inning during an exhibition game against the Red Sox in Montreal this spring.

There's no way to know how long Antolin will stick around, but he finally has an opportunity.

"There were some tears," Antolin said of the promotion. "My dad grinded with me every step of the way, him transferring money sometimes to keep me going, and he doesn't make that much himself. He stuck by me the whole time. When I get into a game, it's going to be for me and him. It's a relief to know I can now say I'm playing baseball with the best players on the face of the earth."

And as for his girlfriend, Chanel, who told him to stick with it?

"She's always right," Antolin said. "Every time I don't listen to her is when I get in trouble."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.