* It's not often a major league all-star is sent to the minors the following season, but that's exactly what happened to Steve Delabar this year. The reliever is taking everything in stride, though, and approaching his time in the minors with a positive attitude. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
BUFFALO, NY – Last July, Steve Delabar was an American League All-Star.
Now, he's in triple-A for just the second time in his career, serving in the Buffalo Bisons bullpen after a less-than-ideal start to the season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
So, what’s the difference?
“Last year I was getting everybody out,” the 31-year-old right-hander said. “I had the [shoulder inflammation] there later in the year, but this year it started out a little bit rough. I don’t know if there were lingering effects from that or from the injury or anything, but I don’t think so.
“I just didn’t have the same results. And just until now, or recently even, things have been on track and been like they were last year, back in the beginning.”
After posting a 4.91 ERA over 30 games and 25 2/3 innings to start the year with Toronto, Delabar was unsurprised when Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told him he would have to pack up his things and head down the highway to Buffalo.
“As bad as I was going, something had to happen,” the righty said. “So sending me here to work on some things was not beyond my whole thought process and I kind of welcomed it and said, ‘You know what? I do need to work on some things.’”
The message he received from Gibbons was, “You need to get back to getting regular work; just get you back on track to where you need to be and where you can help the team,” Delabar said.
Things are now going according to plan.
“Everything’s working well,” the Bisons reliever said. “We’re back on track to where I was and now it’s just [about] getting outs and getting back to where I need to be.”
It’s actually impressive Delabar is where he is in baseball right now, with a career timeline like no other. Selected in the 29th round in 2003 out of Volunteer State Community College by the San Diego Padres, the hurler found himself playing independent baseball in his fifth professional season.
With the Brockton Rox in the Canadian-American Association, Delabar fractured his elbow and needed a metal plate and nine screws to fix it, temporarily taking him from the game. Working his way back while substitute teaching and coaching a local high school team at home in Louisville, he earned a spot in affiliated baseball again with the Seattle Mariners.
Three seasons ago, Delabar rocketed through the Mariners' system and reached the big leagues for the first time in his now-10-year career. He also had his first experiences in both double-A and triple-A that year.
“The biggest, craziest thing is the whole year that I came back,” Delabar said. “I jumped and jumped and then I got to the big leagues, where I had never been, and I had never been to the two levels before the big leagues either. [It] was crazy.
“I basically was riding the wave and going with it. Along the way, I thought, 'this is cool, this is pretty cool,' [and] 'this is awesome.' So that year had to be the craziest out of the whole thing. This part, this is necessary for me to come down here and work on some things and get right.”
With the Bisons and Buffalo pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Delabar is getting right in the International League. Through 15 games and 20 innings, the right-hander has a 3.60 ERA. He has embraced his role and his time away from the big leagues, putting Toronto out of his mind and focusing solely on the task at hand each day.
“I’m a reliever, that’s what we do,” Delabar said. “It wasn’t like I had a completely spotless year last year. I had some games where I gave up three or four runs. You turn the page and say, alright, today I’ve got to do my routine and get back. The results are going to change every day.
“It could be luck or whatever it is, but you do what you have to do every day to get back on track. I’ve even had some outings here where I’ve given up a few runs, but that doesn’t do anything for me today, because that happened yesterday. I come in with a clean slate and then get it right.”
Delabar also has a clean slate, or rather an empty place, in Toronto now after travelling across the border with his wife and daughter following a Sunday afternoon game in Buffalo on the Bisons' last homestand to pack up their belongings.
“I had a place there,” he said. “I just went up there…and cleaned it out because one of the other players who got moved up, he’s taking that place now. I’m temporarily in a hotel here…it’s part of the life.”
While Delabar has accepted the ups and downs of the baseball lifestyle, he has run into some difficulties throughout this season.
“All the travel,” he said. “Well, it’s real easy for me. They said, ‘Hey, you’re going down,’ and I said, ‘Okay,’ I pack up all my stuff, I go. But it’s not that easy because I have my family with me, my wife [Jamie] and my daughter, and my wife’s pregnant, due in October. So there’s a lot.
“It’s a ripple effect on the family. My daughter, she doesn’t care. As long as she’s with us, she doesn’t care. She’s 20 months old…and for me, it’s easy. I go to another clubhouse, no big deal. But for them, we’ve got to find a place to stay, where are we going to eat, I don’t know this area – it’s a lot harder on them than it is on me.
“That’s the harder part, accommodating them and making sure everything is right with them, because I’m second to them. I’m just trying to do what I can to make them happy.”
The Delabars had a chance to head home to Kentucky briefly before the right-hander reported to the Bisons this year, but since then there hasn’t been much stability about their living situation.
“When we left Cincinnati, we went home for a couple days because I live two hours south of there,” Delabar said. “Then from there we came to Buffalo. Then we got settled in, we actually found a place to stay right away and then stayed there, and then moved out of there and went to another place, and for the all-star break we went home and then came back and stayed in another place. So it’s been a shuffleboard.”
What makes it better, of course, is the shot at the big leagues with a club in contention for the playoffs for the first time in years, not to mention a Bisons squad that has won 13 of its last 16 games.
“It makes it a lot more fun,” Delabar said. “We’ve got a great group of guys here…great teammates, good team, good vibe, and we’re able to keep positive. We just keep that going and we’ve been able to turn it around here and have a good time.”
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis