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Veteran Jason Grilli Has Become a Media Magnet but Doesn't Like the Attention

As an insightful, respected leader, Grilli is a clubhouse favourite for reporters. He'd prefer less attention, but he's brought it upon himself with his postseason play.
Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports​

When Jason Grilli became a Blue Jay on May 31, he also became an overnight leader in the bullpen and a media magnet. The 39-year-old reliever has 14 big-league years on his résumé, an effusive personality and a perspective on the game that reporters find helpful.

But although he has also been a blessing upon the Blue Jays' bullpen, he seems to have grown a tad tired of the spotlight.

On Monday night, after the Jays lost their third straight to Cleveland in the American League Championship Series, Grilli grew impatient as reporters gathered around for his take on the team's dire circumstances.


READ MORE: Here's Why the Blue Jays Can Pull off the Unthinkable ALCS Comeback

And after the Jays staved off elimination with a spirited 5-1 win on Tuesday, the media mob converged again. After all, Grilli had played an important role as part of the bullpen brigade that retired the last nine batters in order following a terrific start by Aaron Sanchez.

A reporter who had noticed Grilli sitting for a long time at his locker after Monday's defeat asked what he was thinking about.

Grilli gave the guy a stare.

"What was I thinking? I don't want to go home," he said. "No one does.

"I like to decompress from the game. That's why I'm sitting here and answering more questions. I'm trying to decompress, but I got a microphone up my rear end and cameras in my face again, but this time it's on a happier note."

Happier indeed. The win gave the Blue Jays a longshot chance to beat Cleveland and Grllli the opportunity to continue pitching in his fourth postseason.

Grilli will keep getting attention if he continues pitching like this. Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In 16 playoff games going back to 2006, he has not allowed a run over 12 innings.

Grilli lightened up when asked about Sanchez, the 24-year-old right-hander who allowed Cleveland just a run and two hits. Sanchez baffled batters over six innings with a fastball-curveball mix as he passed the 200-inning mark, a milestone his bosses once feared might wreck his powerful right arm in his first full season as a starter.

"This kid's going to have a hell of a career," Grilli said. "He's just getting started. It's pretty impressive when you see young guys come into the big situations. I keep telling him. 'Don't take being in the postseason for granted because guys like me value it very much.'"


Josh Donaldson was inarguably the hero of the day for the Jays, in light of his pregame pep talk in the clubhouse, a dramatic home run and a brilliant defensive play that saved a run.

But while the offence has struggled for most of the series, Toronto's pitching staff has excelled. Cleveland's relief corps, led by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, has garnered the most attention. But as a bullpen collective, the Jays have outpitched their opponents in the playoffs.

Toronto's bullpen leads all postseason teams with a composite ERA of 0.76. In the ALCS, they have allowed no runs in 8.2 innings.

Their Cleveland counterparts have allowed five runs in 17.1 innings. (That innings total was bloated by the 8.1 innings logged in Game 3 after Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer had to leave the game with a bleeding pinky finger, the result of a cut suffered while repairing one of his drones last week.)

Brett Cecil, Grilli and Roberto Osuna breezed through the final three innings Tuesday. Afterward, Cecil said he said he felt the win had shifted the series momentum in Toronto's favour. The Jays, however, still have the unenviable challenge of defeating Cleveland in three straight games to advance to the World Series.

Donaldson was full of emotion in Game 4, including when he took Corey Kluber deep.Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

"One step at a time," Grilli said. "We've won four in a row many times this year." (Six times, in fact.)

"And why not us? Everybody's going to count us out. We're the ones that aren't."

Manager John Gibbons said Cecil, Grilli and Osuna will be available for Game 5 in the Rogers Centre on Wednesday. He also expects another deep start from Marco Estrada, who worked eight innings in Game 1.


If the bullpen can help the Jays pull out another win, reporters will surely descend upon Grilli again. But he sounded like he hopes to retreat into the shadows and decompress without interruption.

"I like when we don't get attention," he said of himself and his fellow relievers, "because we don't have to talk about it."

Sanchez in Relief?

Gibbons said before the series that Sanchez would make only one start against Cleveland. The club's deep thinkers remain cautious about overworking a pitcher who could be their ace for the next few years.

After Tuesday's game, Sanchez was asked whether he might be available out of the bullpen if the series continues beyond Game 5.

Sanchez's gem helped the Blue Jays live to see another day. Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

"I'm sure when I come in tomorrow there will be more conversations about that," said Sanchez, who threw 95 pitches on Tuesday. "But I can tell you right now I'm ready to go. Whatever it takes to win, I'm up for it."

Little Fatty Can Move

As the speedy Ezequiel Carrera eased into third base with a standup triple in the fifth inning Tuesday, he grinned and patted his stomach. Afterward, a reporter asked him what that was about.

"It's just a joke in the team," he said through a translator. "They call me Little Fatty. But they know I can run."

It was the second triple in two games for Little Fatty, who also drove in a run with a bloop single in the fourth.

Carrera had two hits, scored two runs and stole a base when the Jays swept the Rangers in Game 3 of the ALDS.

You can read all our Blue Jays postseason coverage here.