Blue Jays hope Benoit can transform bullpen

Reliever fans 2, walks 2 in scoreless Toronto debut

Blue Jays hope Benoit can transform bullpen

TORONTO -- The transformation of Toronto's bullpen continued late Tuesday night, when the Blue Jays officially dealt right-hander Drew Storen and cash considerations to the Mariners for reliever Joaquin Benoit.

Benoit joined his new ballclub the following morning after he boarded a 7 a.m. flight from Pittsburgh. He tossed a scoreless ninth inning during Toronto's 8-4 loss to the Padres, and he struck out two but also issued a pair of walks.

Toronto's bullpen has been a weakness throughout the season, but the arrival of setup man Jason Grilli in early June has helped settle things down. The hope is that Benoit will have a similar impact after a disappointing first half with the Mariners.

"It's always exciting when you know you're close to the playoffs," Benoit said. "Two months to the end of the season, and I believe we can do big things."

Prior to this year, Benoit had been one of the more reliable setup men in baseball. He posted six consecutive strong seasons from 2010-15 with the Rays, Tigers and Padres, but things never really worked out in Seattle.

Benoit began the year as the Mariners' primary setup man, but he lost the job early in the season. The main reason was a lack of command, which has led to 5.6 walks per nine innings. That's well above last year's rate of 3.2 per nine, but the Dominican Republic native feels he knows why things went down the way they did. Those control issues were evident vs. San Diego, as he tossed just 13 of his 25 pitches for strikes despite the scoreless ninth inning.

"At first I was diagnosed with soreness in my shoulder and had inflammation, so I wasn't able to control myself or control my arm," said Benoit, who has a 4.97 ERA in 27 games. "Now I feel way better and feel like I can contribute more to the team, and I guess the move was right on time."

The trade is a no-lose situation for the Blue Jays. Storen was designated for assignment on Sunday, and the club had to either trade him or place the veteran reliever on waivers and lose him for nothing. If Benoit works out, the Blue Jays have another reliable option in the bullpen. If he doesn't, the club is not any worse off than it was before.

The Blue Jays entered play on Wednesday ranked last in the American League with 21 losses out of the bullpen, and their 4.12 relievers' ERA is 10th.

"We think he's going to be valuable to us," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We'll use him to get to Grilli in the seventh and see how he pitches. He's a good veteran. He's been around."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for 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.