Blue Jays' Stilson Finds Comfort In Bullpen

TORONTO—Righthander John Stilson started last season as a starter and finished it as a reliever, and the Blue Jays think the bullpen is his comfort zone.

"He's a guy that has a lot of energy," minor league pitching coordinator Dane Johnson said. "We think he's more comfortable probably in the relieving role at this point."

The 22-year-old could turn out to be a steal for the Blue Jays, who took him in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M, where he was both a reliever and a starter. Before the draft, Stilson sustained a shoulder injury. At first it was thought he would need surgery for a torn labrum, but he bounced back after rest and rehabilitation.

"We knew what we were getting when we drafted him," Johnson said. "We were cautious moving forward with what his pitches were, where he was going to be at, how many pitches he was going to throw in the starting rotation, so forth. He's responded well."

The Blue Jays held him out of action until the 2012 season, and he performed well, going 3-0, 2.82 in 13 starts at high Class A Dunedin and 2-4, 5.04 after moving up to Double-A New Hampshire. He made nine starts for the Fisher Cats before going on the disabled list with shoulder tightness, and when he returned it was as a reliever.

"He's got a really stuff, a good fastball—93, 95, 96 miles an hour topping out." Johnson said. "Good curveball, decent slider, too. And because he was a starter in college and then with us he's got a really terrific changeup that he can use. Now you're talking about four pitches."

Johnson said Stilson is still learning which pitches to use as he cuts down his repertoire for the bullpen.

"He's very deceptive in what he does," Johnson said. "When he's chucking the ball and throwing strikes in places where he wants to, he's a very tough competitor, can be very tough on hitters. He's got strikeout ability."


• Tim Raines, a seven-time all-star who stole 808 bases in his 23-year career major league career, joined the organization as the outfield/baserunning coordinator.

• Former Blue Jays major league hitting coach Mike Barnett, who more recently was the major league hitting coach with the Astros, has returned to the organization as a minor league hitting coordinator.