Atkins says suspended pitcher Osuna will be closer when he returns to lineup

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays plan to use right-hander Roberto Osuna in his usual closer’s role when he becomes eligible to return to the team.

Major League Baseball has suspended Osuna through Aug. 4 for violating the league’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. The 23-year-old pitcher is facing an assault charge and is scheduled to return to court July 9.

“Roberto is our closer,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Friday. “We’re running a baseball team and our goal is to win championships. Roberto could potentially be very much a part of that.

“I think the characteristic or the word that comes to mind for me when you talk about that is empathy. And that’s not just for Roberto, that’s for everyone involved. That’s where we’re going to spend our time and energy is on being empathetic and trying to understand. We don’t have a background in investigations.”

Osuna’s lawyer has said the pitcher intends to plead not guilty to the charge. The 75-game suspension, announced last week by MLB, was retroactive to May 8.

Osuna agreed not to appeal the suspension and will participate in a confidential and comprehensive evaluation and treatment program supervised by the joint policy board of MLB and the players’ association, MLB said.

Osuna, who has been training at the Blue Jays’ complex in Dunedin, Fla., is in his fourth season with Toronto. He has nine saves in 15 appearances this year with a 2.93 earned-run average over 15 1/3 innings.

Atkins, who held a media availability before Friday night’s home game against Detroit, said Osuna will likely make some appearances at triple-A Buffalo before rejoining Toronto.

The Blue Jays GM was also asked how he might weigh the potential impact of some Toronto fans being offended by Osuna’s return.

“It’s a balance for sure,” Atkins said. “It’s something that we take very seriously and we’ll forever take very seriously.

“It has been extremely challenging for us to handle regardless of what the actual verdict is. It’s just the accusation and balancing that is extremely difficult for us.”

Osuna was an all-star in 2017, when he posted a 3-4 record with 39 saves and a 3.38 ERA.

The Blue Jays, who took a 37-43 record into their game against the Tigers, have used several relievers in the closer’s role during Osuna’s absence with middling results.

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