No matter where he lands, Grilli never gives up
Reliever doesn't let trade get him down, looks to bolster Angels' bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- By now it would seem Jason Grilli would be used to saying goodbye. But he isn't.
Grilli joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Saturday morning, having been acquired the day before from the Pirates for Ernesto Frieri in an exchange of closers who had lost their jobs.
This is Grilli's 10th professional organization and, including Minor League stops along the way, Anaheim will be the 21st city he will call his baseball home in what is his 18th professional season. But he's not complaining.
Grilli is looking forward to the change.
"It's nice to be wanted," he said.
Grilli might realize that better than most.
San Francisco may have made Grilli the fourth player taken overall in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, but before he ever got to the big leagues, he was dealt to the Marlins along with another pitching prospect, Nate Bump, for Livan Hernandez.
That was the first of three times Grilli has been traded. He already had been drafted at the amateur level twice, including out of high school by the New York Yankees, whom he turned down to attend Seton Hall. Grilli was also a Rule 5 Draft pick once, released twice, had his contract purchased by one team from another, and found himself on the free-agent market twice.
Grilli, however, never shrugged his shoulders and gave up. That has been the key.
Grilli has battled to survive, which, in part, is why the Angels are willing to take a shot on him to see if he can regain that magic from his All-Star 2013. Last season, he converted 33 of 35 save opportunities, despite missing the last week of July and the month of August with a right forearm strain.
This year, things never seemed in sync. Grilli missed some time with a rib-cage strain, and he was 0-2 with a 4.87 ERA and four blown saves in 15 opportunities. A week before he was dealt, he had been replaced in the closer's role by Mark Melancon, setting the stage for the eventual trade to the Halos.
"If they thought I'm done, that's their feeling, and I understand," said Grilli, "but this club wanted me. This club is going to give me another chance."
And Grilli is eager to take advantage of that chance. He figures to get a shot in the ninth inning at some point, although Joe Smith has handled that role well since the demotion of Frieri.
That, however, isn't a concern for Grilli. All he wants is a chance to be a factor in helping the Angels reclaim a postseason spot after a four-year drought.
The word quit is not in Grilli's vocabulary.
"That's my story, not giving up," Grilli said. "What am I going to do, sit at a desk from 9 to 5? This is a great game. There are sacrifices for the family, but I grew up in this with my dad [Steve Grilli, a former big league pitcher], and my wife is great about it.
"I've always believed in me. I've always bet on me. I've proven I am not going to be spooked out of here. If I get on a horse, I'm not going to let go. If I fall off, I'm ready to get back on and ride that horse some more."
That's why Grilli has never walked away, not even in 2010 when he underwent major right knee surgery after signing with Cleveland.
"Dr. [Richard] Steadman put Humpty Dumpty back together again," said Grilli, 37.
And that's why Grilli can now look forward to being with the Halos, although he admits his time in Pittsburgh was about as good as it gets.
It was with the Bucs that Grilli became one of the key faces of a franchise which enjoyed its first winning record since 1992, and made its first postseason appearance in 22 years.
Grilli tried to be nonchalant, but he couldn't.
"It's the business side of baseball," Grilli said. "You look at my career, it's not my first trade."
Grilli stopped for a moment.
"It was pretty emotional leaving," he said. "The city really embraced the whole team. The support and love I got from them. I've been on the flip side. I've been booed out of a city or two. It made it all that much more special."
Now Grilli is looking to add a few more special moments with the Angels.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.