Roberto Osuna

From BR Bullpen

Roberto Osuna Quintero

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 198 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Roberto Osuna is the nephew of former major leaguer Antonio Osuna. Roberto made his minor league debut at age 15 with the 2011 Mexico City Red Devils. Used on a limited basis, he was 0-1 with a 5.49 ERA, 25 hits, 11 walks and 12 strikeouts in 19 2/3 IP over 13 games for the Red Devils through July 27. Timed in the mid-90s, he was rated as the fourth-best international prospect by Baseball America in the summer of 2011. In late July, Osuna said that he would be signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, who had missed out on 2010's top Mexican amateur prospect, Luis Heredia. A deal was not finalized until late September, when Toronto and Osuna agreed on a contract worth $1.5 million; only Heredia had gotten a bigger deal as a Mexican amateur. He only got $375,000 of his signing bonus, as the Red Devils got the remainder.

In 2015, Osuna made the Blue Jays' opening day roster out of spring training, even though he had yet to pitch above Class A ball (not counting his brief time in the Mexican League as a 16-year-old), and despite a career minor league ERA of 4.55. His minor league apprenticeship had been slowed by injuries, and now that he was finally healthy, he had displayed the sort of stuff that had motivated the Blue Jays' interest in signing him in the first place. He was not the only pitcher to make the jump from Class A ball to the majors that spring, as Miguel Castro had also impressed enough in Florida to do so as well. He was only 19 when he made his major league debut by pitching two-thirds of an inning in relief against the New York Yankees on April 8th; the first batter he faced was Alex Rodriguez, who he struck out. He was the youngest pitcher in Blue Jays history. He picked up his first career win on May 18th, getting credit for a 10-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on a rare Monday afternoon game at the Rogers Centre on the occasion of Victoria Day, a public holiday in Canada. His first save came on June 22nd, in an 8-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, after he ended the 8th inning by striking out Steven Souza and Nick Franklin with the bases loaded, then pitched the 9th inning as well. Because the Jays struggled to find a reliable closer that year, he was given the job shortly after he recorded his first save, and did very well. He was at his best in early August, when the Jays rose from a .500 record to the top of the AL East, recording 14 saves in his first 15 opportunities. He had a rare bad performance on September 19th when he allowed 3 runs to the Boston Red Sox in the 9th inning, including a two-run homer by Jackie Bradley, as the Red Sox scored 5 runs in the 9th inning to beat Toronto, 7-6. He finished the year at 1-6, 2.58 in 68 games, with 20 saves. He was excellent in the Division Series against the Texas Rangers, giving up no hits and no runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out 6 and picking up a save. In the ALCS, however, the Kansas City Royals got to him for 2 runs in 2 2/3 innings and he was charged with the loss that eliminated the Jays in Game 6.

Osuna was back as the Jays' closer in 2016 and picked up 36 saves over the course of the season. He went 4-3, 2.68 in 72 games, striking out 82 batters in 74 innings. The Jays returned to the postseason, this time as a wild card, and he gave them an inning and a third of hitless relief in their extra-inning win over the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card Game. He then picked up a win and a save in his two appearances when the Jays eliminated the Rangers for the second straight year in the ALDS. He continued to pitch well in the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, with no runs allowed in four innings, but did not get a chance to pick up a save. In 2017, he was again doing well in his role as closer, having picked up 19 saves by June 23rd, along with a pair of wins, but that day, he was unavailable for a game against the Royals with an unspecified illness, and the Jays blew a three-run lead in the 9th. It was revealed the next day that was suffering from anxiety attacks. As he declared: "I'm not myself right now. I don't know how to explain it. I'm just a little bit lost right now." He was working with a psychologist to overcome the problem while trying to avoid going on the disabled list. In spite of the problems, he was lights out on the mound, converting 21 straight save opportunities before the All-Star break. He was added to the All-Star team as an injury replacement. He finished the year with a record of 3-4, 3.38 and 39 saves in 66 appearances. He led the AL with 58 games finished and struck out 83 batters in 64 innings.

On April 10, 2018, in saving a 2-1 win over the Orioles, he became the youngest pitcher ever to record 100 saves. At 23, he was a full year younger than Francisco Rodriguez, the previous holder of the record. In the early hours of May 8th, he was arrested in Toronto and charged with assaulting a woman, who was later revealed to be the mother of his three-year-old child. He was immediately placed on administrative leave and on the restricted list while an inquiry was conducted. The original seven-day period was extended a number of times by Major League Baseball, then on June 22nd, MLB handed its sentence: a 75-game suspension, retroactive to the day of the incident. Before the suspension had run its course, on July 30th, Osuna was traded to the Houston Astros in return for three pitchers: Ken Giles, David Paulino and Héctor Pérez. The trade was not met with unanimous enthusiasm in Houston, though, as Justin Verlander expressed his concern about adding such a controversial figure to the clubhouse, especially after he and teammate Lance McCullers had both expressed their disgust about the behavior of a minor leaguer from the organization Danry Vasquez, who was caught on video beating up his girlfriend and was released by the team earlier in the season. Osuna was reinstated on August 5th, although he still faced criminal charges in early September - he was planning to plead not guilty - and the Astros were widely accused of having sold their souls for the sake of a pitcher whose only quality was that he threw hard, principles be damned.

Osuna made his first appearance for the Astros on August 6th against the San Francisco Giants. He needed just five pitches to record three outs, then received credit for the win when Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run homer for a 3-1 win. On September 25th, which ironically was the day the Astros clinched the AL West title with a win over Osuna's former team, the Blue Jays, it was announced that his lawyers had reached a deal with prosecutors that eliminated the need for a trial as he agreed to a one-year peace bond, the equivalent of a restraining order. The favorable outcome for Osuna was due in part to the victim not wanting to travel back to Canada to pursue the case further. He went 2-2, 1.99 in 23 games for Houston, picking up 12 saves to finish with 21. He had one save in four postseason outings, but also gave up 5 runs in 6 innings. In 2019, he went 4-3, 2.63 in 66 games for Houston, and recorded an American League-leading 38 saves, with a K/W ratio of 73/12 in 65 innings. He should have been a big star, but was still considered a pariah in most circles, receiving little press coverage and being left out of any in-season or postseason honors. In the postseason, he gave up a key home run in Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees on October 19th - a 9th-inning two-run homer by D.J. LeMahieu that tied the score at 4-all, but the Astros came back with a two-run homer of their own, this one by Jose Altuve against Aroldis Chapman, to win the game and advance to the World Series. He saved one game in the Fall Classic which the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals, but made only two appearances and gave up 1 run in 2 1/3 innings. He then pitched only 4 times in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with a 2.08 ERA and 1 save, and did not play in the postseason as soreness in his elbow kept him from the mound.

After Osuna's contract expired and he became a free agent following the 2020 season, no MLB team made him a serious contract offer, as no one was ready to take the public relations hit that would have come with signing him. He was forced to go to the Mexican League, suiting up with the Diablos Rojos del Mexico in 2021. He was 3-0, 1.09 with 12 saves in 24 outings, then pitched a whopping 28 games for the Charros de Jalisco in the 2021-22 Mexican Pacific League winter ball season. He was again dominant, with a record of 5-2, 1.26 and 11 saves, then appeared in the 2022 Caribbean Series, where he picked up a couple more saves for Jalisco. He returned to Mexico at the start of 2022 and 2-0, 1.35 in 12 games with 6 saves when the Chiba Lotte Marines came calling and signed him for the remainder of the Nippon Pro Baseball season. After a few warm-up outings in the Japanese minor leagues, he went 4-1, 0.91 with 10 saves in 29 games for Chiba.

Source: Baseball Mexico blog

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Dave Bidini: "Osuna's arrest and why sport fails its fans", The Globe and Mail, May 11, 2018, p. A15. [1]
  • Scott Boeck: "Astros acquire closer Roberto Osuna, who's suspended for domestic violence violation", USA Today, July 30, 2018. [2]
  • Cathal Kelly: "The pitcher's plight: Jays' Osuna wages internal battle", The Globe and Mail, June 26, 2017, pp. S1, S3. [3]
  • Cathal Kelly: "Osuna saga ends, and so do the Blue Jays' winning ways", The Globe and Mail, September 26, 218, pp. B13-B14. [4]
  • Robert Macleod: "Blue Jays rookie reliever Roberto Osuna thriving on the game’s biggest stage", The Globe and Mail, August 20, 2015.[5]
  • Josh Peter: "As Astros welcome Roberto Osuna, they wave goodbye to their integrity", USA Today, August 5, 2018. [6]
  • Jesse Yomtov: "Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna charged with assaulting woman; MLB places him on leave", USA Today Sports, May 8, 2018. [7]

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