Frasor a big relief to Jays

Reliever Jason Frasor passed Hall of Famer Tom Henke on the list of all-time Blue Jays appearances...

Reliever Jason Frasor passed Hall of Famer Tom Henke on the list of all-time Blue Jays appearances last Friday at the Rogers Centre. (Reuters file photo)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:39 PM ET

TORONTO - It may be tough to put Tom Henke and Jason Frasor in the same sentence.

Henke saved 217 games for the Blue Jays. Frasor has 36.

Yet, their names appeared together in the same line after Friday’s appearance:

“The outing for Frasor was the 447th of his career, passing Henke on the Jays’ all-time list of appearances.”

Frasor, who has worn only one major-league uniform, is six outings away from passing Duane Ward for the all-time Jays lead.

Unlike some relievers the Jays have had over the years he has never knocked any of his managers, never glared down teammates or had his agent phone the manager demanding more save opportunities.

“Jason has never played those games,” said pitching coach Bruce Walton. “He might have the best stuff to face the middle of the other team’s order of any guy we have. He’s very reliable and consistent.”

Walton compared Frasor to former Oakland A’s work horse Gene Nelson. Another long-time Jays official says Frasor’s “give me the ball” approach reminds him of Paul Quantrill.

Jays fans who heard Henke, from Taos, Mo., give his heartfelt speech at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction in St. Marys realize he’s the genuine article.

So too is Frasor, the Oak Forest, Ill., native who attended Southern Illinois University.

The longest serving Jay is not that far from Henke, in personality, work ethic and time zone. And nothing like Ward.

Frasor made his debut on April 16, 2004 in the fifth inning facing, Baltimore Orioles’ Javy Lopez, Jay Gibbons, David Segui and Luis Matos, with the Jays losing 6-1.

When Frasor’s favourite pitchers were accused of steroid use he pulled their autographed balls out of their case and gave them to his dog as a chew toys.

“Jason is accountable, does his job, that’s why he’s been here so long,” said bullpen coach Pat Hentgen, a close friend of Henke’s, who doesn’t see the comparison as a stretch.

Told of the comparisons to the 6-foot-5 Henke’s personality, the 5-foot-9 Frasor shakes his head. He’s heard Henke stories from Hentgen.

“I’ve heard Henke was a class act, to be compared to him is nice to hear,” Frasor said. “But I’ve never been on an all-star team, never won a Rolaids relief award and never won a World Series. I’m a fan of Tom’s, from all the stories I’ve heard.”

Like when a nervous Hentgen, about the make his debut, stepped off the bullpen mound onto cement, slipped and almost fell in September of 1991. From his bullpen perch above, Henke said “go get ‘em son,” Hentgen recalled between laughs.

Or on Family Day at Tiger Stadium when a streaker ran onto the field, Henke drawled “that guy’s got no drawers.”

Henke pitched 563 innings for the Jays, while Frasor has worked 452 innings. The best Jays arms from 2004 — Miguel Batista, Ted Lilly and Roy Halladay — are all gone.

The best hitters — Eric Hinske, Vernon Wells, Reed Johnson, Carlos Delgado, Orlando Hudson, Alexis Rios and Gregg Zaun — are all gone.

How does Frasor explain his longevity?

“There is something to be said for staying healthy, there is something to be said about not being a jack ass,” said Frasor who is enjoying his current bullpen role.

Which is?

“To be ready any time, fifth to the eighth, it’s exciting,” Frasor said. Although one night in April he did arrive in the third inning, taking over for Kyle Drabek with one out at Yankee Stadium with the Yankees leading 5-2, runners at second and third with one out. Frasor stranded both, getting Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to fly out.

“John (Farrell) explained he wanted to keep it close,” said Frasor, who has stranded 17 of 22 inherited runners. “I’ve been released a few times ... almost traded a few times ... almost and I’m sure I’ve been on waivers a few times,” said Frasor.

Still, he plugs along, taking on the heart of the order most nights.

“I’ll tell you what Jason Frasor is,” said Walton. “He is a Blue Jay.”


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