Every player on every roster in the major or minor leagues has a different story. Joe Biagini's is a gradual one, overcoming injury set-backs, but filled with improvement at every level.
In 2015, the pitcher has been a quiet standout in the Richmond rotation, posting a 1.97 ERA through his fst six starts. The righty has gone five and a third innings in five of those six starts. Biagini leads the starting rotation in innings pitched as of press time, helping to preserve a bullpen that has been used early and often in 2015.
Biagini was born in Menlo Park, CA and grew up there, sandwiched an hour between San Jose and San Francisco. Needless to say, the 24 year old grew up a Giants fan, cheering on Barry Bonds and watching the likes of crafty lefty Kirk Rueter and powerhouse Jason Schmidt throw for the hometown team. However, despite Biagini's affinity for pitching, his favorite player growing up was a position player- Rich Aurila.
"He played the game hardnosed," Biagini said. "He was consistent and seemed like a good guy- I really liked his batting stance."
Other players he was fond of included Robb Nen and J.T. Snow, a Special Assistant in Player Development for the San Francisco Giants.
"That core group was the heart of my Giants fandom," said Biagini.
Little did a young Joe Biagini know that someday, he would suit up with the intentions of making it to play for San Francisco.
"I want to make the big leagues like everyone else," Biagini said. "That's why we are all here- now I'm starting to finally believe that I'm not here on accident."
To hear Biagini talk about his career, it sounds more like a comedy of errors than a pitcher that's steadily climbed his way up the organizational ladder.
In high school, Biagini was primarily a position player, and occasionally pitched. As a junior and senior, he typically played third base, a position frequented by Aurila, and sometimes played first. Despite not showing as an immense talent in high school, baseball was in Biagini's blood. Rob, Joe's father, played in the San Francisco organization for two seasons, posting a 7-10 record with a 4.78 ERA at what was then, class A Fresno.
"[Your dad playing baseball] is a great family experience to have," Biagini said. "Not only to be fans of the local team, but to have the chance to play for them, too," he continued. "He definitely helped me a lot growing up."
Despite playing through an arm injury in high school, Biagini got the opportunity to pitch, and play for San Mateo College, where his father went before heading to the University of Miami. After pitching one season, Biagini needed Tommy John surgery, but even with that set back, got the opportunity to throw for colleges to continue his career. The University of California at Davis (UC Davis) was intrigued by the hurler, and offered him a spot to pitch.
Biagini met Giants scout Keith Snyder on the day of the last game he pitched for UC Davis- his birthday. By Biagini's account, the radar gun at the stadium wasn't working very well, but Snyder took notice of Biagini throwing the ball hard during his performance, despite it not being a banner one for the 6'4 righty.
"He [Snyder] came up to me and said that I looked like I was throwing pretty hard and that I looked pretty good," Biagini said. "He said the Giants were keeping an eye on me."
Biagini said that meeting flipped his perspective on his last outing of the season. Despite the setbacks he encountered, he got noticed. After a successful showing with Brewster of the Cape Cod League, he was drafted in the 26th round by the Giants in 2011.
Richmond pitching coach Steve Kline is familiar with Biagini. The former St. Louis Cardinal coached him in 2012 when the hurler made his class A debut at Augusta. In what Biagini called a 'disaster,' he pitched to a 7.41 ERA through nine starts for the Green Jackets, striking out 36 batters but walking 29.
"He's developed and come along," said Kline. "Bia[gini] used to over think everything and focus way too much on mechanics- he felt that if his mechanics were right everything was fine- sometimes it's just more about throwing the ball over the plate and getting outs."
Biagini worked extensively with Giants Pitching Coordinator Bert Bradley, who assisted him with both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
After a solid repeat of Augusta in 2013, he advanced to San Jose where he posted his best year yet- pitching to a 10-9 record with a 4.01 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League. Now, moving up a rung on the ladder, he's currently having his best season yet, in what most consider to be the most difficult jump from A to AA.
"The weather is different, the people are nicer," said Biagini of the transition. "The talent improves at every level and the strike zone has seemed to get a little smaller."
Despite the differences and increase in difficulty level, Biagini has excelled. In the game of baseball, despite Biagini's suggestions one doesn't reach this level based on divine intervention, coincidence, or luck. This pitcher has shown good, consistent command of his pitches and, while none of them blow batters away, his ball location and ability to pitch to contact is instrumental to his success.
"The most important thing is mental toughness," said Biagini. "I challenge myself to improve in that aspect and prove to myself that I'm there."
As Biagini progresses, all indicators point to that every sixth day on his turn in the rotation, Richmond will have a solid chance to go out and win a ball game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.