Blue Jays release reliever Billy Koch

Updated: March 17, 2005, 5:16 PM ET
Associated Press

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Toronto Blue Jays released veteran closer Billy Koch on Thursday.

Koch, the Blue Jays' first-round selection and fourth pick overall in the 1996 amateur draft, signed a one-year, $900,000 deal to return to Toronto on Jan. 10.

However, he struggled this spring and was 0-0 with a 15.00 ERA in three appearances.

"We just looked at the camp in general and right now with the competition he is the last guy in line," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Riccardi said. "It's just a competition thing right now. Between the Pete Walkers, the (Scott) Downs, the (Brandon) Leagues, the (Justin) Millers and the (Ryan) Glynns, they have all thrown really well.

"Right now they were ahead of Billy and as we go forward we have to get these guys as much time to get ready for the season. We wouldn't have been able to give Billy enough time."

Koch, 30, spent his first three seasons with Toronto before being traded to Oakland after the 2001 season.

He was 1-1 with eight saves and a 5.40 ERA in 24 games with the Chicago White Sox last year, then was dealt to Florida for a minor league prospect and cash on June 17. He went 1-2 with a 3.51 ERA in 23 games with the Marlins.

Koch is 29-25 with a 3.89 ERA and 163 career saves.

"I'm disappointed obviously," he said. "This is the place I wanted to play but they wanted to go a different route. I guess a couple of guys are throwing the ball better than me, it's a business, and you deal with it.

"There are no hard feelings but I think it's pretty hard to judge someone on four outings especially for a guy who has notoriously bad springs. I think progressively each outing I have been getting better."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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