It was a familiar sight for Toronto Blue Jays fans last season: Roberto Osuna on the mound after a victory, knocking on an imaginary door, and catcher Russell Martin opening it with a goofy grin before embracing his closer.
That post-win celebration became a staple for the Toronto battery. But don’t expect to see much of it in 2017.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be creative, we don’t have to keep it the same all the time,” Martin said in a recent interview at Toronto’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla. “Osuna’s already talking about doing other stuff so we’re going to come up with something different.
“We’ll try to keep it a surprise but we’ll be talking about it for sure over the course of spring training.”
Osuna and Martin have become increasingly close over the last couple years as the 22-year-old has established himself as a bona fide major league closer.
The knock-knock routine, which Martin credits as Osuna’s idea, is a product of that relationship.
“He was just like, ‘Hey why don’t we try this,’ and we did it and it was fun,” Martin said. “The last thing you want to do is rub the other team the wrong way but at that point, when you win a game and you’re happy that you won, you just want to celebrate.
“It was just something cool we did, or at least we thought it was cool â€” I don’t know how cool it actually is â€” but it’s fun, we like it and that’s what counts.”
Blue Jays fans seem to agree.
One blogger’s website captured GIFs of each time the duo used the knock-knock celebration: 17 over the regular season and playoffs by its count, with the last coming in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against Cleveland, a 5-1 Blue Jays win that prevented an Indians’ sweep.
Martin describes his expression upon opening the imaginary door â€” that seemingly exaggerated smile â€” as “completely genuine.”
“That’s the best part about it, we’re not faking it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s funny. It’s like I’m just happy to see him.”
Osuna’s stats would suggest he’s happy to see Martin, too.
With the steady Canadian behind the plate, Osuna has a career 2.26 earned-run average with an opponents’ batting average of .189 through 107 2/3 innings. He had a 3.05 ERA and .197 average against in 20 2/3 innings with Dioner Navarro and a 4.70 ERA with a .258 average in 15 1/3 innings with Josh Thole.
“Russ is one of the best guys in baseball. He means a lot to me on the field and off the field,” Osuna said. “He’s such a professional guy.
“I learn so much from him and I have a lot of respect for him. He’s an unbelievable human being.”
Martin, an 11-year MLB veteran who celebrated his 34th birthday last month, feels the same about Osuna, referring to the right-hander as mature despite his young age.
“You can have a 20-year-old who’s very wise and has been taught a lot of stuff and then you can have a very immature 20-year-old who hasn’t learned much at all,” Martin said. “And with Osuna he’s wiser than his years. He’s very professional in how he prepares, he wants to get better.
“When you’re working with a person like that, whether it’s a younger person or older person, it’s easy to work with.”
While catching Osuna’s first bullpen of the spring during a pitchers-and-catchers workout at Bobby Mattick Training Center last month, Martin could be heard between each pitch shouting compliments and words of encouragement.
Afterwards, he downplayed the significance of his pep talk, saying Osuna’s not the type of guy who needs it.
“He’s got a confidence about him and it’s not a fake confidence kind of thing,” Martin said. “He doesn’t need to tell himself he’s good, he knows he’s good.
“He never makes you feel like he’s above you or anything like that. That’s why everybody likes Osuna.”
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press