But for a late-season injury, Jason Grilli might have won the 2013 National League’s Rolaid’s Relief Man of the Year Award.
That was the year Grilli was an All-Star selection and pitched a scoreless 9th inning in the All-Star game. It was also when his greatest season ended with yet another injury.
Injuries are part of the game, part of life. Grilli spent more than his share of time on baseball’s disabled list due to a bulging disc in his upper back, strained right elbow and surgically-removed bone spur associated with a hairline fracture in his elbow.
Additionally, he missed almost all of the 2002 season following Tommy John surgery to replace a ligament in his elbow … And don’t forget that 2010 spring training workout, when he tore his quad tendon and ruptured ligaments on his right kneecap.
Nonetheless, Grilli battled, rehabbed and persevered. His professional baseball playing days spanned nearly 20 years. During that time the 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hand starter-turned-reliever earned approximately $18 million, including a 2-year/$8 million deal late in his career.
Born in Michigan, Jason was raised in Radisson and starred on the mound scholastically for the Baldwinsville Bees. The son of former Syracuse Chiefs’ relief ace Steve Grilli, himself an ex-big leaguer, Jason was a 24th-round draft pick out of high school by the Yankees. He chose not to sign, attended Seton Hall for three years, was all-Big East and became a 1st-round pick (No. 4 overall) by the Giants in 1997, receiving a $1.875 million signing bonus.
His major league debut came three years later in a Marlins’ uniform. The well-traveled Grilli would go on to pitch in the majors for the White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, Rangers, Pirates, Angels, Braves and Blue Jays.
While his big-league record of 34-47 and earned run average (4.22) are modest figures, he pitched in 595 games and recorded an impressive 694 strikeouts over 684 2/3 innings.
Jason notched 79 saves. And 69 of those came during his halcyon days (2013-14-15). His career-best came, as you may have surmised, in 2013 when he was sidelined after recording 33 saves and before he had a chance to win the the Reliever of the Year Award. In 16 postseason appearances, Grilli worked 12 scoreless innings.
Of the many baseball inductees in our Syracuse sports shrine, who has appeared in the most major league games as a player? Jason Grilli!
Now retired, Jason Grilli becomes a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.