MLB vet Jason Grilli keeps on keeping on

Jason Grilli represents the endurance of the pursuit of happiness in baseball. He was originally drafted in 1997 and 20 professional seasons later, he is still going strong as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Grilli is another one of baseball’s late bloomers. When he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle of the 2011 season and then signed a two-year deal after the 2012 season to become the closer for the Bucs, he became everything – their Don, Captain Closer, and most of all, an All-Star.

“I got the opportunity and ran with it,” said Grilli in his best 1990’s rock star voice. “You got to be put in successful situations and I worked to get healthy [from 2010-2011] and put myself in line to warrant those opportunities, but more so being in the right place and the right time. [Pirates manager Clint Hurdle] and I have a history and he knows what I’m capable of and saw value in me and it seems fitting. So when I finally got that opportunity that I always wanted and relished, I’m just taking it and running with it.”

That opportunity was being the one guy who is called on to secure the victory in the game’s final moments. Grilli was always the same guy and the same pitcher but he looked incredibly different on the mound as a Pirate compared to his previous stints with the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers, where fans only saw him when their team was getting destroyed.

That middle reliever role that Grilli donned for most of his pre-Pirates career is the baseball version of a janitor; the guy who sweeps the stage after every show. Once a starting pitcher gets the cane early after bombing it on the mound, it was clear the show was over and that’s when Grilli would come in.“

You get the luxury of pitching a little differently when you don’t have to come in and clean up a mess and pitch in the middle of an inning,” Grilli said. “That’s the harder part of the game in my opinion cause I’ve done that. That’s the hardest, most thankless role.”

In 2010, Grilli spent the entire season recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle that had him searching for a career in the marketing industry in case baseball was finally over for him after nearly a decade. He went from that to being one of the key pitchers on the Italian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic thinking that was his last run at 36 years of age.

Now we’re approaching the 2017 WBC and it wouldn’t be outrageous to think Grilli has enough left in the tank for another run.


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Sports Kave senior writer

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