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Time To Defend My Controversial Jason Grilli Stance

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You don’t get too many e-mails like this in a day:

Thought you might want to know, Jason finished 1st in the International League in Complete games and shutouts. 2nd in the league in ininings pitched and strikeouts. In 3 yeares since his Tommy John surgery he has not missed a start, Since being drafted no one has given him a solid chance to see what he can do up in the bigs, After his 2 starts for the Tigers I think he showed that he is capable of being a solid 4-5 starter in the rotation. I think he’s earned at least that.

Steve Grilli
Jason’s Dad

Uh-oh. What did I do now? (Normally those around me are the ones who pose this question. But it was a slow day at work.)

I know who Jason Grilli is. He’s a pitcher for the Mud Hens. I saw him pitch at Fifth Third Field a couple times this year, and he didn’t win either game. Perhaps I took a shot at him unbeknownst to my better judgment, and Papa Grilli is coming to wreck some havoc on big bad blogger boy.

Perplexed, I searched the archives, including the Bloggers stuff that didn’t carry over. Nothing.

I search Google for “Sussman” and “Jason Grilli.” Indeed, a match came up. Obscure as hell.

It took me to Mario Impemba’s blog, Last Call. In particular, the Tigers’ Fox Sports announcer wrote a post “Fire Up The Grilli.” Impemba was impressed with Jason’s debut Tiger appearance, a win against the Mariners. He allowed one run over seven innings.

Sitting at the bottom of Impemba’s post was a lone comment, with my Yahoo! e-mail attached to it:

I saw Grilli pitch for Toledo last year and this year. I haven’t been that impressed with him, but hey, if he gets it done at the top level, it doesn’t matter what his AAA marks were!

Ahh, spur-of-the-moment Sussman. That’s what I did now. I spoke ill of Steve Grilli’s son.

Steve, a former Detroit Tiger himself (gulp), quickly informed me that Jason actually had a good year in Toledo. I looked it up. Can’t argue with that:

A 12-9 record. 4.08 ERA. Three complete games, 2 shutouts, and 120 strikeouts in 167 1/3 innings. Plus everything Dad said.

That’s a good year. Not eye-popping great, but respectable.

I saw him pitch two games this year. One game was a memorable game against Indianapolis. The Hens won an extra-inning affair in dramatic walk-off fashion, but Grilli had a no-decision. He went eight innings and allowed three runs, but struck out eight batters. What stuck out is that he had a 3-1 lead going into the sixth inning and served up a 2-run homer to tie the game — a pitch which dulled a sparkling performance into an OK one.

The other game I saw him pitch was against Buffalo. He got shelled early and often. He never had a good lead, and his final line was: 5 1/3 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 3 K. He was credited with the loss in a 9-6 affair.

So if you saw two games like that, your thoughts of a pitcher would border on the “meh” variety.

But my cross-section of exposure to the righthander was not indicative of the year.

Grilli pitched the third and decisive game of the IL Governors’ Cup championship to complete the sweep of Indy.

He also tossed seven shutout innings and fanned 10 against Norfolk in the Governors’ Cup semis, only to have the bullpen blow that particular game later.

I e-mailed his dad this afternoon to clarify my controversial Jason Grilli stance.

Do I think he deserves a chance at the bottom of the Tigers rotation? I don’t see why not, but I don’t think it will happen.

On the depth chart, Grilli is projected as a reliever. The starting five on the Tigers’ Web site is Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers, Mike Maroth, Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander. The first four make sense, but Verlander is a very young guy. He’ll be 23 when the season starts, and he didn’t have any good games last year (0-2, 7.15 ERA).

I guess that fifth spot is up for grabs. Verlander, Grilli, Roman Colon and Joel Zumaya will probably compete for it.

So hopefully that appeases the Tiger Gods for now, whether Jason is wearing the Gothic ‘D’ or the Muddy ‘T’ in ’06.

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  • http://sterfish.blogspot.com Sterfish

    Very interesting post. It’s amazing how people will find the smallest thing that you post. I once had the creator of an as-yet-unaired new comedy series e-mail me because I said something an offhand negative remark about the show based on the network fall/midseason press release.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    It’s a good lesson for anyone who comments anywhere. You never know who’s reading.

  • cdg

    The tigers will never make the post season with Todd Jones closing games, he has below average fastball and won’t throw anything else, please give the job to Rodney and let Jones mop up or set up, because he is painful to watch.