OSUNA’S FU­TURE HAS JAYS ‘EX­CITED’

De­spite a dif­fi­cult sea­son, closer a big part of the team’s plans, Steve Buffery writes.

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - With files from The As­so­ci­ated Press sbuf­fery@post­media.com

CLEAR­WA­TER, FLA. Toronto Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins firmly be­lieves too many peo­ple were closed-minded about the club’s closer Roberto Osuna last sea­son, and may have pushed the panic but­ton pre­ma­turely.

In many ways, Osuna had a great year. He was added to the all-star game lineup, tied for fourth in MLB in saves with 39, and be­came the first player in fran­chise his­tory to record backto-back sea­sons with at least 35 saves — all at the age of 22.

How­ever, Osuna also led the ma­jors in blown saves with 10 and missed some time mid­sea­son with undis­closed anx­i­ety is­sues. He also left the team for a spell near the end of the sea­son to re­turn to his na­tive Mex­ico be­cause he had just be­come a fa­ther.

Atkins said too much was made of the blown saves and the anx­i­ety is­sues, and he fully ex­pects Osuna to blos­som again in 2018.

“You know, it’s in­ter­est­ing about Roberto,” Atkins said. “He had a great year, he had one of the bet­ter years of all the re­liev­ers in baseball, and I think a lot of at­ten­tion got placed on the blown saves and a lot of at­ten­tion got placed on the dis­cus­sions in and around the game he didn’t pitch in Kansas City.

“But if you look at the strike­outs, the lack of walks, the lack of hits, he’s such a re­mark­able latein­ning, elite re­liever that … man, we’re very glad he’s here. We’re very glad he’s a Toronto Blue Jay and ex­tremely ex­cited about his fu­ture.”

Atkins was hes­i­tant to get into Osuna’s anx­i­ety is­sues but said he will be bet­ter equipped to deal with them next sea­son.

“It’s an un­com­fort­able topic, es­pe­cially when you’re talk­ing to thou­sands, mil­lions of peo­ple (via the me­dia),” Atkins said, adding that Osuna had some dif­fi­culty get­ting his feel­ings across as his com­mand of English is still an on­go­ing process. “When you talk about a word like anx­i­ety, and you’re speak­ing in your sec­ond lan­guage, some­times things can be mis­in­ter­preted and mis­con­strued. But we are ab­so­lutely 100 per cent con­fi­dent that Roberto Osuna is in an in­cred­i­ble men­tal state, in­cred­i­ble phys­i­cal state and in a great over­all mind­set to con­tinue to be an elite pro­fes­sional pitcher.”

GIBBONS HAPPY FOR HIS OLD BOSS

Jays man­ager John Gibbons was happy to hear that his friend and for­mer boss Alex An­thopou­los will again be an MLB gen­eral man­ager. The At­lanta Braves an­nounced the sign­ing on Mon­day. An­thopou­los re­hired Gibbons as the Jays man­ager in 2012.

“It’s a great move for the Braves,” Gibbons told Post­media. “Per­fect guy to get them rolling. He has a great baseball mind and is very ag­gres­sive.”

The talk go­ing around the GM meet­ings in Orlando, Fla., this week is that in the event the Blue Jays fire Gibbons, he’ll have a land­ing spot in At­lanta. Gibbons, a na­tive of San An­to­nio, wouldn’t wade into that.

MAR­LINS HAVE STAN­TON ON MAR­KET

For sale: 28-year-old chis­elled slug­ger who led Ma­jor League Baseball with 59 home runs, the most in 16 years.

Price: US$295 mil­lion over a decade.

Com­pli­ca­tion: Gian­carlo Stan­ton only goes where he wants to, since the star right-fielder has a full no-trade pro­vi­sion.

Now un­der a new own­er­ship group that put for­mer New York Yan­kees star Derek Jeter in charge of baseball and busi­ness op­er­a­tions, the Mi­ami Mar­lins have con­cluded their pay­roll-par­ing regime is will­ing to ex­plore trades of Stan­ton and other high-priced play­ers.

“I think over the next few days I’ll get a feel for what the mar­ket­place is for our play­ers,” Mar­lins pres­i­dent of baseball op­er­a­tions Mike Hill said the gen­eral man­agers’ meet­ings.

Mi­ami had a US$116-mil­lion pay­roll on Aug. 31, up from US$81 mil­lion at the end of last year. Bruce Sher­man’s group bought the team on Oct. 2 from Jef­frey Lo­ria and is ex­plor­ing trades for play­ers who con­trib­uted to the team’s eighth straight los­ing sea­son. The Mar­lins have not made the play­offs since win­ning the 2003 World Se­ries, the sec­ond-long­est post-sea­son drought be­hind Seat­tle.

Stan­ton’s salary jumps from US$14.5 mil­lion this year to US$25 mil­lion next sea­son. It peaks at US$32 mil­lion an­nu­ally from 2023 to 2025.

When he spoke Oct. 25 at the World Se­ries while re­ceiv­ing an award, Stan­ton said he didn’t have “stamped-out ideas” whether he would want to stay in Mi­ami for a re­build. The Mar­lins seem to know which teams he would ac­cept a trade to.

“I do have a sense, and we’ll keep that in­ter­nal, and at the ap­pro­pri­ate time we’ll dis­cuss what­ever we need to dis­cuss,” Hill said. “We work in­ter­nally. We do what we need to do and then if we need to present him with some­thing, we’ll do so at the ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

CHRIS O’MEARA/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Too much was made of Roberto Osuna’s blown saves, gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins says.

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