Jesse Crain could become Jays’ first Toronto-born closer

On Jesse Crain’s website (www.jessecrain.net), he writes that one of his favourite mottoes is “Everything happens for a reason.”

Well, the fact that the Toronto native is looking to become a closer and the Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer should provide a very good reason for him to consider pitching in Canada in 2011.

The free agent right-hander indicated his desire to become a closer in an interview with MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier in October.

Dominant in the last half of 2010, Crain posted a 1.45 ERA and held opponents to a .170 batting average in his final 45 appearances. In five full big league seasons, the durable righty has served primarily as a set-up man and has never appeared in less than 56 games. During that time, his strikeouts-to-innings pitched ratio has steadily improved. It also should be noted that Crain recorded 19 saves and struck out 64 batters in just over 50 innings with Triple-A Rochester in his final minor league season.

“I do think Jesse has the ability to close someday,” said Joe Christensen, the national baseball writer for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

David Zingler, a nationally syndicated baseball columnist who covers the Twins, agrees.

“I think Crain could succeed as a closer and it’s not just because he’s got a mid-to-high 90s fastball,” he said. “Crain has been through a lot in his big league career from serious injuries to a demotion to the minors. He’s come back from all of that stronger than ever. I believe a successful closer has to be fearless and after all the adversity Crain has dealt with, I can’t imagine he’ll be rattled easily.”

Though born in Toronto, Crain grew up in Colorado and was selected by the Twins in the second round of the 2002 big league draft. At the start of his career, he won 10 straight decisions, which remains a record for relief pitchers. In parts of seven big league seasons, Crain has registered a tidy 3.42 ERA and has pitched for Canada at both World Baseball Classics.

But would the steady hurler return to pitch in the town he was born in? The Twins have offered him arbitration and would like him to stay. Crain also indicated to Thesier that he would like to remain with the Twins. The Canuck right-hander was the recipient of the team’s “Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award” for his outstanding charitable contributions, so he has clearly immersed himself in the Minneapolis community. He would also have to uproot his wife and two young kids to move to Toronto.

That said, Joe Nathan, if healthy, will likely be the Twins closer next season. And if Nathan can’t do the job, Matt Capps is the second in line. What the Jays can offer Crain that the Twins can’t, is the closer’s role. Toronto is also a city that he’s relatively familiar with, and though Crain will likely command $5 million per season, most believe this would be a better investment than re-signing Kevin Gregg.

If “everything happens for a reason,” Crain seems to have a very good reason to pitch for Toronto in 2011.

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9 thoughts on “Jesse Crain could become Jays’ first Toronto-born closer

  1. That would be great! Forget he’s Canadian even, he’s a darn good pitcher. Does have slow starts to the season though, but he was lights out in the 2nd half!

  2. Great idea! Even if he isn’t closer, wouldn’t be bad to have him as a setup to middle-inning relief guy in the bullpen. The fact that he’s a Canadian is just a bonus.

  3. From Devon Teeple:

    Nice job Kevin,

    Crain seems to have all the necessary tools to make an impact.

    He has “served his apprenticeship” and could be an integral part to any club.

    If Nathan comes back, obviously the closers role is out of the question, but could benefit the Jays if he becomes restless.

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