DUNEDIN, FLA.—Joe Biagini got the start Sunday in the Blue Jays’ exhibition season home opener — a 10-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies — but don’t get used to it.
Some pegged Biagini, a stalwart reliever last season, as a candidate for the starting rotation, but manager John Gibbons said it’s unlikely the 26-year-old will be stretched out past three innings this spring.
“It’s something we’re playing with, because I think everybody’s intrigued with what he can do as a starter, but right now he’s so valuable to us in the bullpen that we’re just going to play with it a little bit,” he said.
Biagini — who focused on his changeup in 1 2/3 innings of work — struck out three but allowed two singles, a walk and a pair of unearned runs. He says he likes the rhythm of starting, but is fine with either role: “I would be happy to get that opportunity some time in my career, but if not it’s not a big issue.”
SKELETON CREW: While many of the Jays’ regulars saw action in Dunedin — including Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales — a weaker split squad took on the New York Yankees in Tampa and lost there as well, 7-2. One of the lone bright spots was backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s two-run home run in the sixth inning.
DH DEBUT: Morales — picked up by the Jays in the off-season as a free agent for $33 million over three seasons — delivered a solid first impression right off the bat with an RBI single in the first inning and solo homer in the third. “As painful as that game was, there were also a couple good things in there,” Gibbons said with a nod to Morales’ offence. “Morales, he doesn’t run great, but he’s a good all-around baseball player. I think he’s really going to help us with that left-hand bat. He’s always been a producer, that’s for sure.”
JERRY’S BACK: Play-by-play man Jerry Howarth returned to Blue Jays radio on Saturday, just three months after successful surgery following a Stage 1 prostate cancer diagnosis. Howarth, who also worked Sunday’s Jays-Phillies game, said that within a few broadcasts “it will be just like riding a bike.”
TELLEZ TALK: One day after Rowdy Tellez doubled and scored in the spring opener against the Braves, Gibbons said the 21-year-old first baseman is probably the prospect closest to making the big club: “His defence has definitely gotten better when I watch him out here (and) he can hit. There’s something different about him.”
PUPPY LOVE: Blue Jay Josh Donaldson has a new obsession: Xena the pomsky puppy, a cross between a Siberian Husky and a Pomeranian. “Xena the Princess Warrior is ready for the season to start,” Donaldson posted on social media, alongside a photo of the brown pup lounging with her left paw and chin resting on a bat branded with the words “Handcrafted for Josh Donaldson.”
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