Biagini making case to stay in rotation

After second start, righty has yet to allow earned run

Biagini making case to stay in rotation

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' lack of depth beyond their five big league starters was a major cause for concern earlier this spring. Turns out the club had a suitable backup all along.

Right-hander Joe Biagini made another strong statement on Friday night by tossing five-plus scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Mariners. In two starts this season, Biagini has allowed one unearned run on six hits while striking out seven and not walking a single batter over nine frames.

The early audition has been borderline flawless, and the Blue Jays have every intention of continuing to stretch him out. In his first outing Biagini was at 52 pitches, he threw 68 on Friday and should be in the 90-pitch range his next time out. The gloves are coming off.

"That guy is nasty man," Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis said. "I think every single guy that gets on base, I ask them what they think about him, and they have the same answer. He's something.

"He's got four plus pitches. His heater is 94, and I've never faced him, but it looks like it's hitting a bowling ball. He has a great cutter, he has a curveball that can make you flinch. He has got a great changeup he has been using more as a starter. He's fantastic."

The Blue Jays still don't know how long Biagini will be needed in the rotation. Toronto currently has three starters on the disabled list: Aaron Sanchez, Francisco Liriano and J.A. Happ. Sanchez is scheduled to return on Sunday, Liriano is not expected to miss much time, and Happ appears to be a few weeks away.

That should buy Biagini at least three more starts but what happens after that is anyone's guess. He could return to the bullpen, he could continue developing as a starter in the Minors, or he could somehow find a way to stick in the rotation if any of the three injured starters suffers any kind of setback.

Biagini K's Cruz

"Who knows?" Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If Happ comes back, there's a good chance [Biagini] could end up back in the bullpen. I don't think Liriano is going to be out long. When that time comes, we'll look at it. In the future, [starting] could be his role. Next year, or whatever."

The early returns are promising even if there were some noticeable signs of fatigue late in Friday's start. The location of his fastballs elevated just a bit and his velocity, which peaked at 95.2 mph earlier in the game, dipped down to 91.5 at one point in the sixth. That should be expected for someone who, until this month, hadn't started a game since 2015.

One key to his success will be the effectiveness of his changeup. It's a pitch he started using more this season and according to Statcast™, he went with it 19 times against the Mariners. Seattle went 0-for-6 on balls put in play off that pitch, and he got another eight strikes off of it compared to five balls.

"The changeup is a pitch I've been working on a lot," Biagini said. "I was disappointed with it last year. I wanted to try to have a little bit of a different perspective on it this season. I try to make sure my arm speed is up on that pitch, and I think when I have that it looks a little bit more like a fastball."

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.