From the Farm to the Big Leagues: Jeremy Accardo
July 26, 2007
NORMAL, Ill. - Former Illinois State baseball player Jeremy Accardo has taken a journey to reach the big leagues. The current closer for the Toronto Blue Jays has emerged from uncharted territory as an undrafted free agent to an established major leaguer. This week's "Down on the Farm" checks in with the Mesa, Ariz., native that starred as a shortstop and as a relief pitcher at ISU from 2001-03.
After beginning 2007 spring training battling for a spot in the bullpen, Accardo has blossomed in the closing role after the Blue Jays lost regular-closer B.J. Ryan to season-ending Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Since taking over in May, Accardo has converted 16 of 19 save opportunities while striking out 41 batters by using a combination of a 95 mph fastball and a nasty, 87 mph split finger fastball. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound right hander boasts a 2.61 earned run average (ERA), and has recorded five saves in his last six chances.
While Accardo has shown his ability to punch out batters when it matters most in the big leagues, he was known more for his bat and his leather when in a Redbird uniform. Accardo was an all-Missouri Valley Conference first team selection as a shortstop in 2003, hitting .333 as a key bat in the everyday lineup. Accardo also finished as the Redbirds' career saves leader in only two years on the mound (12), showing his ability to close out games.
It wasn't until he reached the majors with the San Francisco Giants that Accardo would learn his signature pitch. Accardo began his career when he signed a deal in 2003 and worked his way through the minors until his debut on May 4, 2005. He began to work with former major league pitcher and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti during his sophomore campaign in San Francisco, and was taught the split finger fastball. Accardo was solid in the bullpen during his one and a half seasons as a Giant, striking out 56 batters in 70 innings of work.
Accardo was acquired by the Blue Jays in a deal that sent third baseman Shea Hillenbrand to San Francisco in July 2006. He saw spot action in the `pen the rest of the 2006 season, throwing 28.2 innings while holding a 5.97 ERA. But it wasn't until Ryan went down that Accardo was able to show how his repertoire of pitches could equal victories.
Stay tuned to GoRedbirds.com, as next week's "Down on the Farm" takes a look at former Redbird pitcher Dan Frega, who currently is a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season Class A), a team in the Cleveland Indians organization.