Over the last week, we’ve had a lot of strange Jorge Julio sightings. We saw the journeyman reliever dropping a girlfriend off to get her nails done at a place on W. 25th St in Ohio City. Later that afternoon, we spotted him speeding through Downtown in his black Acura SUV with Florida plates, on his way to the stadium. A couple of days later, we saw him in a side room in the bowels of Progressive Field, surfing the web on a laptop as a lackey shaved away his afro. Later in the week, he was sitting in an empty weight room after a game, his arm iced and gauzed even though he hadn’t pitched in days and wasn’t injured. He glanced up and stared through us with a vacancy only Jorge Julio can pull off.
And then we noticed him pitching, giving up five runs in 1 2/3 early innings last Friday against the Rangers. As in all the outings in which we’ve seen Julio suck, he made us think of a baby that really doesn’t want to play with blocks anymore, but all his mom got him to play with are these damn blocks. Isn’t there some way he could get paid $167,000 per month to hunt turkeys on his Caracas ranch? ....
We felt the tug of nostalgia with every sighting. We knew he would soon be gone—and if we knew, Julio certainly did. Mark Shapiro was holding dugout press conferences about his growing sense of urgency to make some moves with the struggling team. And as everybody knows, before you re-stock your fridge with new groceries, you should throw out that rotten avocado in the crisper.
Could it really have been less than two months ago that Julio was ebulliently congratulating Masa Kobayashi
after their twin debuts? And, showing off new braces as he grinned widely, calling C-Notes “Papi”? Could it really be only six weeks since the relatively masterful Julio was making a flailing C.C. Sabathia look like, well, Jorge Julio.
Julio was designated for assignment after last night’s game—meaning he’s immediately removed from the roster and must either be traded, be released to free agency, or accept an assignment with a minor-league team. Since we can’t see a team trading for the guy—even a Player to be Named Later is too big a name to give up for Julio—and the Buffalo Bisons don’t employ a team barber, he’ll probably end up signing with another big-league squad, the seventh in 3 ½ years for the 29-year old. After last night’s game, Julio stomped around the clubhouse and moaned in indignant tones to fellow relievers Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, and bullpen coach Luis Isaac—basically anybody who spoke his language and hadn’t fled the scene.
By this day next week, he could be in Minnesota or Tampa Bay or Chicago, sitting in a bullpen, eating seeds and shooting the Spanish shit until a mounted phone rings and he’s told to pitch more or less crappily for an inning or two. Perhaps, as in his stint here, he’ll be booed heartily on his first and last outings for the team, and intermittently throughout. And likely, as was the case here, he won’t stay long enough to move out of a downtown hotel. With the perpetually sorry state of expansion-era relief pitching, it’s not unfathomable that he could keep this racket going for another 10 years, until he’s finally ready to go home for good. – Gus Garcia-Roberts