Blue Jays ditch Francisco Cordero as fill-in closer, turn to Casey Janssen

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Sergio Santos is still a few weeks from returning from a shoulder injury, but Francisco Cordero’s time filling in for him as the Blue Jays’ closer is over now.

Cordero’s latest ugly outing last night involved blowing his third save in five tries, leaving him with a 9.53 ERA, and the Blue Jays have stripped him of closing duties in favor of Casey Janssen.

And it sounds like Cordero has essentially been demoted to mop-up man, with Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reporting that the Blue Jays will use Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver, and Luis Perez as Janssen’s setup men.

Cordero saved 37 games with a 2.45 ERA for the Reds last season, but his velocity was down and his strikeout rate plummeted to a career-low 5.4 per nine innings. He couldn’t find a closing job as a free agent, settling for a one-year, $4.5 million setup man deal from the Blue Jays.

Janssen has just nine career saves, including no more than two in any of the past four years, but if the first six weeks of this season has taught us anything it’s that being a “proven closer” doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.