Biagini's future role TBD after uneven season

Biagini's future role TBD after uneven season

NEW YORK -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made a rare visit to the mound during the first inning of Friday's 4-0 loss to the Yankees and had a clear message for Joe Biagini: Pick up the pace.

Biagini has been trying to strike the right balance when it comes to rhythm and tempo during his first year as a starter. His final outing of the year showed both the good and bad, but the positive news is that Biagini at least has identified why he's been having trouble. Now he just needs to fix it.

The 27-year-old should be given the benefit of the doubt for at least some of his problems in a year which saw him go 3-13 with a 5.34 ERA. He began the season in the bullpen, transitioned to the rotation only to head back to the 'pen several weeks later in a cycle that repeated itself again before the end of the year.

The lack of a defined role didn't do Biagini any favors, and the fact that prior to this season he had not started since 2015 made it even more difficult. He knows there are issues with the proper direction of his body, he knows pace has been a problem and he knows his delivery needs to be more repeatable. Biagini has temporarily solved these issues before, but not regularly enough.

"I feel like the main component of being a starter is consistency, and that's something I don't have as well as I'd like right now," Biagini said. "Brett Anderson is a guy that I enjoyed watching his tempo and staying on the attack. I really like watching J.A. Happ pitch because of how controlled he is. Marcus Stroman is very body aware and makes adjustments well."

Biagini wants to take some aspects from each of those pitchers and incorporate them into his own routine, but that has been easier said than done at the big league level. There have been flashes, but the only consistency that Biagini found this season was that he consistently alternated between good starts and bad ones.

Friday's outing marked the first time Biagini went at least five innings in back-to-back starts since he rejoined the rotaton on Aug. 27. There were moments of brilliance -- as evidenced by striking out 10 batters over seven scoreless innings in a game against the Orioles earlier this month. Then there times he couldn't even make it out of the second inning.

The dilemma for the Blue Jays is that they must determine which version of Biagini will show up in 2018. Is the club confident that he can bounce back next year and win the final spot in the starting rotation? Or should he be moved back to the bullpen, where he thrived in 2016 by posting a 3.06 ERA in 60 appearances? That's something the Blue Jays aren't currently interested in talking about.

"I'm not ready to do that yet," Gibbons said when asked to assess Biagini's season. "But his last start today, I thought he did a pretty solid job."

Toronto has a starting four of Stroman, Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada signed through next season. Anderson is a pending free agent and top left-handed pitching prospect Ryan Borucki is expected to begin next year in the Minors. That leaves one spot up for grabs and Biagini might have a chance to compete for the job in Spring Training, but a lot of that will depend on who Toronto signs this winter.

There are no guarantees, only points of lessons.

"It has been a season of trial and error for me," Biagini said. "Lots of trial, lots of error. Some successes, some stints of games I feel really good about and feel like there's an opportunity and an obligation for me to take ewhat was successful in those times and take what wasn't and use it."

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.