Reliever Jeremy Accardo hit the 30-save mark for the Blue Jays last season as he helped the club overcome a season-ending injury to regular closer B.J. Ryan. Originally a non-drafted free agent, Accardo once saved 28 contests in San Francisco's Minor League system but '07 proved to be his big league breakout year in his first full season with Toronto. He recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: Tell us about your season.
Accardo: The season was very good for me. Unfortunately, my opportunity to pitch in the closer's role came only as the result of an injury to B.J., which is never good. It's good to be able to get this stuff under my belt, however, and to learn from it so I can come back more experienced this spring.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How did you see your role in the 'pen prior to Ryan's injury?
Accardo: At the time of the injury to B.J., I was floating around the bullpen, just chewing up innings. I put together a good streak and just ran with it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How would you describe the mood of the bullpen when the news came that Ryan would be out for the season?
Accardo: Obviously everyone was a little down when B.J. went down with the injury. He's one of the best closers in the game. We didn't know who was going to be setting up or who was going to be closing games. It took a couple of weeks to figure it out.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You haven't been with the Toronto organization for very long. How important was the '07 season for you?
Accardo: I think it was very important for me to make a good impression. It was tough to keep my focus with the trade and trying to prove my worth to the team, but I think I handled it well. It was a big year for me. I wanted to show these guys that I could pitch at this level.
MLBPLAYERS.com: In facing the type of hitters you did face this season, what do you think you learned the most?
Accardo: I've learned a lot of lessons here and there from several players. The biggest thing for me was to get ahead in the count and stay down and away. Then the pressure is on the batter and you can pitch away.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is the late-inning role one that you have come to relish?
Accardo: I love being in that late-inning situation. I'm just taking what I learn here and whatever else happens, happens. A lot of things can happen from now until next season, but I can definitely envision myself in an eighth inning role.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have not been in pro baseball very long. Do you feel like your accomplishments in 2007 sort of opened some eyes around the game?
Accardo: Not being drafted kind of makes this whole season a little bit sweeter. I didn't pitch in college so I'm still kind of new to it. I'm pretty much learning as I go.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Why didn't you pitch in college?
Accardo: I was a shortstop in college, up until my junior year. I knew from then that my best opportunity to make it to the big leagues would be through pitching. I played shortstop as long as I could and, to be truthful, I miss it. But I would rather be here pitching than anywhere else playing shortstop.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you ready to field the shortstop position now if called upon in a pinch?
Accardo: It's kind of funny because Shaun Marcum and I played against each other in college -- both as shortstops.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.