Bullpen helps Jays past Pirates

Blue Jays pitcher Francisco Cordero throws against the Pirates during the fourth inning of their...

Blue Jays pitcher Francisco Cordero throws against the Pirates during the fourth inning of their Grapefruit League game in Bradenton, Fla., yesterday. Cordero tossed a perfect inning. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

BRADENTON - It might be the early days of spring training but the adrenaline junkies in the Blue Jay bullpen still needed to get their fix on Sunday.

These are guys who thrive on late-inning pressure, of which there is none on a March Sunday in the sleepy little town of Bradenton but that doesn’t seem to matter.

It certainly didn’t as far as 36-year-old Francisco Cordero was concerned.

“I was thinking about it since (Saturday),” said Cordero, the owner of more than 300 career saves. “What am I going to do tomorrow? How is it going to be? I hope it’s a good inning, quick inning, get out of there and call family and say: ‘I pitched my first spring training inning with the Blue Jays. It was fun. It was quick.’

“And it was today. I know it’s early, but you want build something from the beginning and take that to the regular season and maybe play for a World Series, you never know.”

Cordero worked a three-up, three-down inning, punctuated with a strikeout.

Even 41-year-old Darren Oliver, whose pulse never seems to get above idle, was into it.

“It was good to get out there, man,” Oliver said. “It’d been so long. It was good to get out there and finally get some game action in, game speed.”

It didn’t matter at all to the veteran lefty that he gave up three singles and a pair of runs.

“I don’t take too much into it like that,” he said. “I was just trying to get out there and get some action in and get the first one out of the way.”

Oliver, Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen and closer Sergio Santos all appeared in this game and revelled in the chance to get out on a mound in an actual game situation.

“If you don’t feel something, you probably should stop playing,” said Janssen, who faced four batters, allowing a double. “It’s always fun to compete.

“Just get out there, get the heart rate up again and compete. And to throw up a zero is always nice.”

Closer Santos fussed and fumed as he warmed up in the bullpen through a four-run Blue Jay uprising in the sixth, ready and pawing at the dirt with his cleats like a young bull.

“I’m not the most patient person in the world, sitting out there waiting,” he said. “This was good, though, just to get up on the mound in a competitive situation.”

Santos gave up two long fly ball outs and then fanned his last batter.

“My main thing,” he said, “is to get a good feel for everything. Not necessarily the boxscore but just kind of how I’m feeling, how the pitches are coming out, if I’m getting better day by day. Once we get closer to the season, I’ll critique myself a little bit harder, knowing that I’ve got to be ready for the start of the season.”

The Blue Jays have what appears to be the makings of a first-rate bullpen, one where roles are defined but also one where roles can be interchanged when necessary.

Cordero perhaps summed up the philosophy of the bullpen best. He’s been the main man in most bullpens he’s been a part of, but this year is more than satisfied to be the master of the eighth inning.

“I am a closer,” he said. “I just got to close the eighth inning.

“I got to do a good job in the eighth inning so Sergio can do his job in the ninth. I think everyone in this group is a closer because you’ve got to get the seventh inning, the eighth inning and then the ninth inning.”

Three times in his career, Cordero has had more than 40 saves. But he describes it differently.

“I say we have 47 saves because it’s all together,” he said. “It’s one team working. If the position players didn’t score any runs, then I wouldn’t get the save. The starting pitcher’s got to do his job to pass it on to the bullpen. So everyone puts a little bit to get the save, the win. It’s a combination job.”

Apparently, there is no I in save.

Game Recap

Blue Jays 8, Pirates 5

Travis Snider had two hits, 3 RBI, 1 SB and an outfield assist.

Brett Lawrie went 1-for-3 with an RBI

Francisco Cordero and Sergio Santos each tossed a perfect inning.


Photos