Tagged: Esmil Rogers

Mid-Season Review – Part Two: The Bullpen

While not the official midway point through the season, the allstar break certainly serves as the unofficial midway point in the long, 162-game season that is major league baseball.  I thought it would be fitting to take advantage of the allstar break to prepare a report card of sorts and break down the different aspects of the Blue Jays organization.  This is part two of the series: The Bullpen.

Coming into Spring Training, it was hard to find any holes in the Blue Jays roster.  But if you were forced to point to something, it probably would’ve been the bullpen.  Casey Janssen showed great consistency since taking over the closer role in 2012, but he isn’t a prototypical closer and he was coming off shoulder surgery.  Sergio Santos was thought to challenge Janssen for the closer spot, leaving Darren Oliver and Steve Delabar as solid late inning options.  Aaron Loup was thought to make the club, but had almost zero expectations since he was entering his first full season.  Brett Cecil was a question mark to even make the 25-man roster.  Esmil Rogers was to be a mulitple inning, mid-relief guy.  Dustin McGowan, please.  He would probably just get hurt again.  Juan Perez, Neil Wagner….who are they?

One of the lone bright spots at the break is the Jays’ bullpen.  The group has posted the best bullpen ERA in the AL over the first half (2.90), the most wins in the AL (21), all while pitching the most innings of any ‘pen in the MLB (334.2).  Let’s look at each member of the group who has contributed to the surprise success.

Juan Perez (19.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1-1 record, 0.76 WHIP, 21 K’s) – Perez came out of nowhere this season.  A 34-year-old career minor leaguer and with the Jays in search of a fresh arm to eat some innings due to the rotations early season struggles, Perez earned a call up when he pitched to a 0.86 ERA over 21 innings in triple-A.  It was thought Perez would be a sort-term inning eater and head back to Buffalo when the rotation turned things around and got healthy.  After posting a 0.00 ERA in 19.2 innings with the big club, Perez doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon – especially since sending him to the minors would expose him to waivers.  With a very affordable $380,000 contract, he would surely be claimed by any contending club looking to add bullpen depth.  The emergence of Perez (along with Loup and Cecil) give the Jays flexibility to trade veteran Darren Oliver to a contender before the July 31st deadline.  With his hurky-jerky motion, he sure is fun to watch.

Dustin McGowan (11.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 0-0 record, 0.86 WHIP, 15 K’s) – McGowan is finely healthy (touch wood) in part due to the Jamie Evans throwing program which has strengthened his ever-ailing shoulder.  It’s only 11.2 innings, but McGowan’s stuff looks as good as it ever has and his maturity and determination really shine through when he is on the mound.  If he can stay healthy – and that’s still a big if – the patience the Jays have shown with his injury-riddled start to his career might just pay off.  And if he does stay healthy, a lot more pitchers might start subscribing to the Jamie Evans velocity program.

Steve Delabar (42.0 IP, 1.71 ERA, 5-1 record, 1.26 WHIP, 58 K’s) – Delabar, a feel-good story of a teacher turned MLB allstar and arguably the man that made Jamie Evans’ velocity program famous, has been everything the Jays were hoping when they acquired him from the Mariners last season for OF Eric Thames.  He still walks too many hitters (23 so far) but doesn’t allow the long ball (1 so far) and has the strikeout ability to make up it.  More than any other reliever in the Blue Jays bullpen, when they need a big strikeout, he is the guy to go to.

Brett Cecil (46.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, 3-0 record, 0.97 WHIP, 55 K’s) – After winning 15 games as a rookie starter in a tough AL East, the next couple season weren’t too kind to Cecil.  He struggled mightily as a starter, experienced an alarming drop in velocity, and looked like he was destined for a permanent home in the minors.  Yet, Cecil – despite his struggles – still managed to get lefty batters out at a very high rate.  So it’s no surprise the Jays gave him a shot to grab a spot in the bullpen since he is out of minor league options (you’ll remember I wrote about this months ago and actually discussed it with Alex Anthopoulos).  Am I surprised with Cecil’s success this season?  Not at all.  I’ve always thought he was more suited for the ‘pen – he was a closer in college.  Am I surprised by Cecil’s command and much improved velocity?  Absolutely.  Thank you Jamie Evans (are we noticing a trend here?)

Aaron Loup (46.1 IP, 1.94 ERA, 4-3 record, 0.97 WHIP, 33 K’s) – Where did this guy come from?  Last year, Loup was a surprise call up from double-A and he has never looked back.  This year, Loup experienced his first major league camp Spring Training invite.  It’s unbelievable.  Loup has shown the ability to pitch multiple innings, strand inherited runners, dig in for a strikeout, or get a double-play grounder.  The angle he creates with his 3/4 arm slot is nasty, but it’s his ability to throw consistent strikes with his delivery that impresses most.  Loup has only walked 6 batters.  When looking to induce contact, Loup is an option right up there with Janssen.

Sergio Santos (4.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0-1 record, 0.92 WHIP, 6 K’s) – After missing nearly all of last season to shoulder surgery, Santos couldn’t get through 5 innings this year before requiring elbow surgery.  The hard-throwing righty is now been prescribed the Jamie Evans training program and hopes it helps cure his oft-injured arm.  The Jays are hoping Santos can regain the form that saw him strikeout 92 in just 63.1 innings for the White Sox in 2011.  2014 will be very interesting for Santos – the Jays hold club options on him for 2015, ’16, and ’17.  He’ll need to stay healthy and pitch well if he hopes to cash in on the contract structure the Jays inherited from the White Sox.  Santos is scheduled to come back to the ‘pen late July.  So the question is, who does he replace?  With how well everyone in the bullpen is throwing, don’t be surprised if Santos has an “extended” rehab assignment.

Thad Weber (13.0 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0-1 record, 1.23 WHIP, 8 K’s) – Weber was used as a fresh arm to call up when the bullpen was gassed earlier this year.  Although he pitched well, his stuff isn’t as good as the guys currently in the ‘pen and doesn’t look to have a role with the Jays beyond triple-A depth.  Yet, with a 2.37 ERA in 49.1 innings for Buffalo, he certainly provides quality depth.

Casey Janssen (29.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2-0 record, 0.89 WHIP 26 K’s) – With so much doubt heading into the season about Janssen’s ability to maintain his role as the team’s closer, he has certainly stuck it to his critics.  He may not throw hard, but he has pinpoint control (only 7 walks) and gets the job done – 18 of 19 in save opportunities.  While Delabar and Santos might have more traditional closer-like arms, Janssen’s ability to attack and carve up the strike zone is unmatched by any member of the bullpen.  It should be noted that the only save he blew, the Jays went on to win in extras, so the Jays have not lost a game that he has attempted to save all season.  Janssen is also on the Jamie Evans throwing program after having a slower than expected recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.  He has been pitching through what he describes as “discomfort” most of the year, but he appears to have turned a corner in the past couple weeks.  He is the leader of the ‘pen and an example to the young pitchers on the team of how location is more important than velocity.

Neil Wagner (18.1 IP, 2.95 ERA, 2-3 record, 1.15 WHIP, 15 K’s) – Wagner is a 28-year-old rookie.  He’s always had the power arm, but lacked control prior to this season.  He has a lower-grade version of McGowan’s stuff without having the previous arm issues.  As well as he’s pitched, he has minor league options and could be the odd man out of the ‘pen when Melky Cabrera comes off the DL later this week.  Definitely a plus-depth arm to stash away in triple-A.  Oh…and after going 13 for 13 in save opportunities for Buffalo, you know he’s ready to handle sticky situations.

Darren Oliver (29.0 IP, 3.10 ERA, 3-1 record, 1.21 WHIP, 23 K’s) – It’s not often a reliever throws less than a hit per inning, limits walks, has a winning record, and a 3.10 ERA yet finds himself pitching in a lesser role than the previous season.  However, with the emergence of Cecil and Loup above Oliver on the depth chart, that’s exactly what happened.  With Perez nipping at Oliver’s heals for innings also, it really wouldn’t surprise me to see Oliver be traded prior to the July 31st deadline.  There isn’t a contending team out there that wouldn’t want him on the roster.  And while it’s doubtful the Jays would get much in return for the 20-year veteran who aims to retire after this season, it would open up room in a crowded bullpen and also allow Oliver to pursue a World Series title – something he hasn’t been able to capture in his 20 years of MLB service.

Esmil Rogers – he is started the year as a reliever, moved to the rotation as a stop gap due to injuries, and now hasn’t looked back.  See Part One in the Mid-Season Review series for notes on Rogers.

Brad Lincoln (21.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 0-1 record, 1.48 WHIP, 19 K’s) – While Lincoln’s numbers are plenty good enough for many MLB bullpens, they just aren’t good enough for this one.  The return piece in the deal that saw the Jays give up on former number 1 draft pick, Travis Snider, hasn’t lived up to his own 1st round status.  Although he has pitched modestly well, albeit inconsistently with the Jays, with the rise of other arms in the system, he continues to slide down the depth chart.

Mickey Storey, Edgar Gonzalez, Justin Germano, Jeremy Jeffress, and Dave Bush – None of these guys threw more than 8 innings, had an ERA under 7.30, a WHIP under 1.75, or won a game.  All were inning eaters during the early season melt down in the rotation when the Jays were forced to go to the ‘pen after only 2 or 3 innings routinely.  None were a factor in the bullpen’s success and none look to be a factor in the foreseeable future.

So…can the Jays bullpen keep up its torrid pace in the second half?  Probably not.  Can they maintain their status as the top group in the AL (and arguably the MLB)? Most definitely.

@IHRTBJs

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Mid-Season Review – Part One: The Starting Rotation

While not the official midway point through the season, the allstar break certainly serves as the unofficial midway point in the long, 162-game season that is major league baseball.  I thought it would be fitting to take advantage of the allstar break to prepare a report card of sorts and break down the different aspects of the Blue Jays organization.  This is part one of the series: The Starting Rotation.

Going into Spring Training, the rotation was much discussed as one of the strongest in baseball – on paper.  Leading the pack was last year’s NL Cy Young award winner, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  Dickey only seemed to get better in his first three seasons in the show as a knuckler and there was no reason to doubt the trend wouldn’t continue.  To follow Dickey, the Jays had Brandon Morrow – a hard throwing righty soaring with potential.  In 2012 he ended the season with a sub-3.00 ERA and was thought to be a dark horse for the AL Cy Young in 2013 if he was able to stay healthy and throw at least 200 innings.  Then we have the ever-consistent, Mark Buehrle.  With a decade of at least 10 wins and 200 innings, the Jays knew what they were getting.  The number 4 on the squad – likely a number 1 or 2 in most rotations – Josh Johnson.  And in a contract year.  Many felt Johnson might just end 2013 with the best numbers in this rotation – even with all the depth.  At number 5 to round things out, the Jays were going to turn to its opening day starter the previous two seasons – Ricky Romero.  Sure, the lefty struggled mightily for 3/4 of the 2012 season, but prior to that he had gotten better every year, pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA in 2011, and had great success in the AL East.  J.A. Happ was the insurance policy.  Happ?  An insurance policy?  He could be a number 4 on most teams!  The rotation was a lock to carry the load and limit the innings of a perceived weak bullpen.

Fast forward to present: The 6 starters above have a total of just 18 wins in the first 94 games.  The team has just 45 total wins (meaning 27 wins have come from pitchers outside the ‘group of 6’) and the team ERA ranks 10th of 15 in the AL at 4.22.  Take away the bullpen ERA, you ask?  The Jays starters has pitched to a whopping 5.07 ERA – 29th of 30 teams in the MLB.  Only the lowly Twins are worse.  So what the hell happened?  What went so horribly wrong?  Well, injuries for one thing.  The Jays have already used 13 different starters this year.  No team in the MLB has that sort of starting depth.  But also the guys that haven’t hit the DL haven’t pitched up to par.  Let’s take a look at each of the 13 starters for the team and evaluate.

R.A. Dickey (128.2 IP, 8-10 record, 4.69 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 93 K’s) – Dickey struggled out of the gate and has been inconsistent all year long.  He’s early struggles were blamed on a minor injury he was pitching through.  He had tightness in his back and neck which caused a drop in velocity and therefore a loss of control.  For instance, last season Dickey issued 54 walks.  This year he has already issued 47.  Because he lacked velocity, he was forced to abandon his vintage 78 – 82 mph knuckler and focus on a 68 – 71 mph variety (just a tad harder than Tim Wakefield threw).  The slower knuckler and lack of control mean two things – 1) when Dickey gets behind in the count, he turns to a low-80s fastball that pretty much looks like batting practice if a batter is ready for it, and 2) while a slower knuckler is harder to control because it has more break (which leads to hitters counts where hitters look for bp fastballs), when it does flatten out it’s much easier to crush.  Dickey gave up 24 homers last year.  This year? 20 already.  With the back and neck issues behind him, Dickey has been pitching better, albeit still inconsistent, of late.  In his last 10 starts, he has allowed 36 earned runs of which 31 came in 5 starts.  It seems like he has been awesome or awful with no middle ground.  I find it hard to believe that the 616.2 innings Dickey threw in the prior 3 seasons were a fluke.  With the minor injuries behind him and his velocity back, I look for him to have a solid second half and dominate with the best of them.

Mark Buehrle (116.0 IP, 5-6 record, 4.89 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 77 K’s) – Buehrle was absolutely awful in April and it has severely skewed his overall numbers.  Over his last 10 games, he has pitched to a respectable 3.63 ERA – this includes a 8 earned runs outing in his final start before the break.  Buehrle’s trouble this year has been avoiding the longball.  He’s actually on pace to give up close to his average in homers per season and HR/9, but this season it seems like he’s either giving up 3 per game or none at all.  Look for Buehrle’s home run numbers to even out a bit in the second half and for him to continue his decade long streak of at least 10 wins and 200 innings.

Esmil Rogers (71.2 IP, 3-4 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 49 K’s) – While Rogers started the season in the bullpen and only came into the rotation due to injuries (his performance in the ‘pen certainly didn’t warrant a look as a starter), he looks very comfortable in the rotation with a new-found sinker.  His secondary stuff is probably below average, but he has the ability to throw his curveball for strikes which has been keeping hitters off balance.  When his sinker is on, he has looked nearly untouchable.  Where he can get into trouble is when he opens his front shoulder early in his delivery which causes his throwing arm to drag – which causes his sinker to flatten out.  If he can learn to more consistently repeat his delivery, he should have no problem maintain a rotation spot when both Happ and Morrow return from the DL.  His sinker is that good.

J.A. Happ (33.0 IP, 2-2 record, 4.91 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 26 K’s) – Happ’s season has included a lengthy DL stint thanks to a frightening ball to the head and a sprained knee during his fall to the ground.  Prior to the injuries, Happ pitched 7 games and gave the Jays pretty much what you would expect.  When Happ attacks hitters and keeps his pitch count down, he is tough to beat.  His issue is when he gets behind and tries to nibble the corners of the plate too much.  When behind he either ends up throwing down the middle (which leads to hits) or pitching around certain batters (which leads to walks).  A 1.55 WHIP is too high for a starter hoping to have success and higher than his career 1.40 mark, but it was only 7 games and a small sample size.  I like Happ as a number 4 or 5 guy in a rotation and I’m happy that liner off his head didn’t result in a more serious injury.  Happ is scheduled to be back early August and, at the moment, looks to replace Todd Redmond in the rotation.

Brandon Morrow (54.1 IP, 2-3 record, 5.63 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 42 K’s) – Morrow’s season has been a complete bust thus far and once again the high-potential righty finds himself on the DL.  After posting a career-best 2.96 ERA in 21 starts last season, Morrow – for some crazy reason – decided to change what he was doing and develop a cutter.  He started using it in Spring Training and made only 10 starts before hitting the DL with right forearm soreness.  This is one of the biggest “if it ain’t broke, then go out and change everything” moments that becomes a complete head scratcher for fans and scouts alike.  Morrow also almost completely abandoned his curveball, which was such a huge change-of-pace pitch for him a year ago and perfectly complimented his hard fastball and slider.  Fans can only hope that Morrow can finish his forgettable season strong – he’s due back mid-August from the DL barring any further setbacks.  Hopefully when Morrow returns, he’s read this paragraph, dropped the cutter, and focuses on the deadly fastball, slider, curveball combination that made him so great last season (when healthy).

Chad Jenkins (15.0 IP, 1-0 record, 3.60 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 6 K’s) – Jenkins did the job filling in the rotation for 3 starts after only throwing 5 innings in double-A prior to his call-up.  The sinker specialist is always going to give up hits, but he’s also likely to get double-play ground balls when he’s going well.  I know his 3 starts were just a very small sample size and I understand that he has struggled since his demotion to triple-A and the fact that he projects to be a longman/spot starter with his stuff, but for a rotation seeking to fill holes having cycled through its vast handful of pitchers already this year, it’s makes a fan wonder why Jenkins was ever sent down after only 3 starts in the first place.

Josh Johnson (66.1 IP, 1-5 record, 5.16 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 67 K’s) – Arguably the biggest disappointment on the entire Jays roster this season, Johnson hasn’t lived up to the “ace contract-year” hype.  Call me crazy, but I’d be looking to extend Johnson on a one-year deal with a club option right now.  He’s too good of pitcher with too good of stuff to continue going this poorly.  His value is arguably at a career low in a free-agent year.  Johnson could be well served to sign a one year deal and try and improve his market value for 2015/16.  If the Jays really believe they have a window to compete through the 2015 season, they should be trying to buy low on Johnson now.  He has almost no trade value as a 2-month rental pitcher with the way he’s pitched this season.  For a guy who has thrown more strikeouts than had hits allowed in his career and boasts a career 3.29 ERA, the Jays should try and lock this down.  What’s one more year with a club option?  If he still stinks next season, the Jays can dump him for nothing at next year’s deadline – because they aren’t going to get anything for him this year and I think he’ll shine in the second half.

Ramon Ortiz (25.1 IP, 1-2 record, 6.04 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 8 K’s) – Everyone loves a feel-good story and for 2 starts this season, the Jays had one with 40-year-old comeback pitcher, Ortiz.  Then reality set in.  There is a reason he has bounced between the MLB and triple-A for the last 5 seasons – he just isn’t that great anymore.  After 2 solid starts for the injury-ridden rotation, fans were calling it a great comeback.  Then fans were quickly reminded that pitchers rarely, if ever, get better beyond their late 30s.  Ortiz will always have a soft spot in my heart, though.  When he shredded his elbow and winced in pain on the mound before throwing his glove in the dirt in disgust and beginning to cry, it was the first time in my life I witnessed a player recognize that, due to injury, he had just thrown his last major-league pitch.  I’ll never forget that moment and the emotion I saw in his face.  He is a warrior.  Unfortunately, he’s not much of a pitcher at the MLB level anymore.

Todd Redmond (16.2 IP, 1-1 record, 4.32 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 14 K’s) – Redmond has pitched well in his 2 starts for the Jays (he also made 3 relief appearances).  His sub-1.00 WHIP is very impressive and his ability to reach back for a big strikeout when needed has helped him out of some jams.  But before anyone gets too excited, I’ll remind everyone that there is a reason Redmond was pitching in triple-A.  There is a reason that his triple-A ERA is above 5.00 this season.  There is a reason he has been a career minor leaguer.  Redmond just isn’t that great.  Although he has impressed in this very small sample size, the reality is that late-bloomers are rare and I highly doubt Redmond is one of them.  Hopefully he can continue to hold his own until Happ makes his return in early August.  If not, perhaps we give Jenkins or Chien-Ming Wang another go.

Chien-Ming Wang (24.0 IP, 1-1 record, 7.13 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 11 K’s) – Wang, a fantastic low-risk signing by the Jays, pitched extremely well in his first 3 starts and extremely poorly in his last 2 before being demoted to triple-A.  The former Yankee allstar and multiple 19-game winner has had arm issues that derailed his career.  Through his first 3 games with the Jays, Wang pitched into the 7th inning each game to the tune of a 2.61 ERA.  Then in his next 2 starts he couldn’t get through the 2nd inning and allowed 13 earned runs in 3.1 innings – sending his ERA to 7.13.  Yet, I think the Jays were too quick to demote Wang.  Granted that Redmond has pitched well in his two starts, but I still feel Wang gives the team a better chance to win.  The 2 blowouts were vs. the Red Sox and the Tigers – 2 teams that have offences capable of sending any starter to the showers early.  Since his demotion, Wang is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings.  I really like him as a back-of-the-rotation or depth pitcher.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see him back with the team at some point this season if there are further injuries to the rotation.

Aaron Laffey (2.2 IP, 0-0 record, 6.75 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 0 K’s) – Last season, Laffey stepped into the injury-plaqued rotation and did a decent job.  This season the Jays picked him up off waivers hoping for more of the same.  After one start where Laffey issued 5 walks and couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning, the Jays demoted and subsequently released him.  Laffey hasn’t pitched another game in the majors since.  Why he wouldn’t accept his minor-league assignment with the Jays organization is a bit of a head scratcher.

Sean Nolin (1.1 IP, 0-1 record, 40.50 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 0 K’s) – I really hate when a club calls up a young kid, he has a bad first start in his major-league debut when he’s full of nerves, and then he is immediately sent back to the minors.  That’s exactly what happened to Nolin and it’s a shame.  Although he got hit around in his debut, he showed good stuff and continued to throw strikes.  I would have liked to see him get at least 3 starts before sending him back down.  Especially with so many rotation holes due to injuries.  For what it’s worth, Nolin has gone 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in double-A this year – I think the kid is ready for the next step.

Ricky Romero (4.1 IP, 0-2 record, 12.46 ERA, 2.77 WHIP, 4 K’s) – Oh how the mighty have fallen…. Romero continues to work in triple-A after being called up too early by the Jays hoping he was ready to get back to the show.  After being the opening day starter the previous two seasons and slated to be the number 5 going into 2013, Romero was cut towards the end of Spring Training and was told to re-work his mechanics with the goal of gaining better command of the strike zone.  Fast forward and Romero a 2-3 record, a 5.56 ERA, and nearly a 1:1 BB/K ratio in triple-A.  With an un-tradeable contract and limited signs of finding his former self, Romero’s fall from grace is absolutely mind blogging.  The Jays are stuck with him so they might as well be patient and hope (and pray) that he can work through his control issues.  Oh… and he has since abandoned the new mechanics in favour of the old ones since the new ones did nothing for him.  I wish the best for Romero, but I’m not holding my breath.

So what does the rotation need to do to turn things around?  They need to get and stay healthy and pitch to potential.  That’s all.  Easier said then done?  Yes.  Possible for the second half? Very.

Hope you enjoyed part one in the mid-season series.  Stay tuned for more….

@IHRTBJs

 

All Good Things….

Well, it’s over.  The 11-game win streak came to an end last night.  And now the Blue Jays are back in the AL East race.

We probably should have saw it coming last night – the Jays are awful at Tropicana Field and Esmil Rogers had an ERA below 2.00 in 4 starts.  Something had to give.

Let’s see if we can still win the series….

@IHRTBJs

Good news for Morrow

It appears Blue Jays fans have even more to cheer about than the current 8 game winning streak. Starter Brandon Morrow received good news following an MRI on his sore right forearm. There does not appear to be any structural damage and it appears as though he is simply dealing with inflammation.

While Morrow will still be sidelined for a while and there is no timetable for his return, the positive is that this doesn’t appear to be an injury that will require surgery.

The Jays haven’t said when Morrow will resume throwing sessions, but he’ll likely be out until late July/early August in my opinion. I imagine the Jays will shut him down for two weeks, then have him do an every-other-day bullpen session program for a week, then pitch two weeks of minor league rehab starts to build up pitch count before returning to the big club.

Hopefully Morrow can come back and be the dominate pitcher he can be during the second half of the season. He is 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts this year.

In the meantime, let’s hope Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang continue to hold down the fort in the rotation. We really couldn’t ask for more out of these two.

@IHRTBJs

Morrow suffers setback

Blue Jays starting pitcher, Brandon Morrow, has suffered a setback following his first rehab start.  Morrow is trying to make his way back to the big league club since hitting the DL on May 29th due to right forearm soreness.

Last Monday evening, Morrow threw two unimpressive innings during a single-A rehab start and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk.  He also experienced the same forearm soreness that had originally shut him down and has been keeping him sidelined.

The Blue Jays were hoping that Morrow would make two, possibly three rehab starts and be back with the team sometime late next week.  But with this recent setback, I fear Morrow could be on the shelf for quite some time.

You have to worry about the structural integrity of the elbow when you hear about upper forearm soreness.  Let’s hope the best for Morrow and also hope Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang continue to get it done during his absence from the rotation.  The good news is that, at least for the moment, the rotation doesn’t appear to be missing Morrow one bit.  I have a hard time believing that will remain the case if Morrow is out for months and months.

In the meantime, let’s get our brooms out and hope for our second straight sweep tonight when Mark Buehrle faces off against the Rockies.

@IHRTBJs

 

What a difference a week makes

The Blue Jays were 9 games under .500 when they embarked on the most recent road trip.  They have since won 5 straight and now sit only 5.5 games out of the second wildcard spot.  What a difference a week makes.

Anchored by solid starting pitching and an offence that continues to hit homers, the Jays finally look like the team everybody thought they would be after all the offseason moves.  Now home vs. the Rockies, where I suspect the Jays should take 2 of 3.  Then the real test: 3 vs. the Orioles, 3 vs. the Rays, and 4 vs. the Red Sox.  A disappointing couple weeks could put an end to any playoff hopes.  A successful couple weeks would mean the Jays are back in the thick of a postseason race prior to the allstar game.

With Jose Reyes scheduled to come back later this month (he went 2-2 with a single, triple, 2 walks and 2 stolen bases in his rehab debut this weekend), the offence should only get better.  Also, Brandon Morrow should be back by the end of June.  When healthy, we all know what he is capable of doing.

So the question becomes this: who gets sent down?  With everyone playing at a high level, it’s a good problem to have.  Currently the Jays are carrying 8 men in the bullpen.  I imagine that there will be a move at some point to drop this back down to the traditional 7.  Perhaps when Reyes returns?  But who goes?  My guess is either Juan Perez or Dustin McGowan.  I think Perez does more for the team, but the Jays have a soft spot for McGowan and probably don’t want to risk losing him on waivers if they send him down after being so patient with him during 3 shoulder surgeries.  Unfortunately, Perez might be the odd man out.  It sounds awful to be sending down a guy that is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings, allowed only 5 hits, recorded 10 K’s, has held opponents to a .152 average, and produced a 0.80 WHIP.  But Perez is a lefty.  And the Jays already have three other lefties in the ‘pen (talk about luxury) in Aaron Loup, Darren Oliver, and Brett Cecil.  But Perez is also out of options and would have to clear waivers.  At $380,000, how could somebody not claim him?  Neil Wagner has options and could be sent down, but the Jays have been keen on using him in clutch situations.  It’s pretty hard to send down a guy who throws 96-98 mph and consistent strikes.

To me, if the Jays are going to really make a run and go for it, McGowan is the odd man out.  I know…I know…  We all want to see him do well.  He continues to fight through adversity and never gives up.  But he also has a contract which pays him $1.5 million this season and another $1.5 million next year.  There is a club option for $4 million in 2015 with a $500,000 buyout.  If anyone has a shot at clearing waivers, it’s a guy who has had three shoulder surgeries and is making that kind of money.  And if he cleared waivers, you have to think he would accept a minor league assignment in triple-A since the Jays organization has been so good to him all these years.

It also makes sense from this standpoint: when Morrow comes back, Esmil Rogers probably gets pumped out of the rotation and back to the ‘pen.  Replacing one righty with another makes sense.  And I’d rather have Rogers than McGowan at this point.

Tough decisions for sure.  It will be interesting to see how GM Alex Anthopoulos handles the next couple weeks.  There are a lot of “good problems” right now with respects to the Jays roster.

@IHRTBJs

Recent Road Trip, Upcoming Series, and Breaking Down the Injury Bug

For a team that needs to play over .600 to have a shot at the playoffs, going 3-4 on its most recent road trip just isn’t going to cut it.  It’s tough, though, when the rotation is in tatters.  But injuries or not, the Blue Jays need to win games.

Tomorrow the Jays return home for 3 vs. the Rangers.  We have to go 2-1 which means we either need to beat Yu Darvish on Saturday (Mark Buehrle might just do it) or we need Esmil Rogers to step up big time in tomorrow’s series opener.  While R.A. Dickey has been far from a lock so far this season, coming off a classic performance yesterday, I feel that the Jays should have a definite advantage when Dickey toes the rubber to close out the series on Sunday.

To win 90 games which would give the Jays roughly an 80% shot at the postseason, they have to go 65-38 the rest of the way (.631 baseball).  Yikes.

Although a friend of mine reminded me that the A’s were under .500 at the allstar break last season and went on to win the AL West.  Not an easy task.  So it’s possible for the Jays to make a run.

I also saw an interesting stat in Sportsnet magazine.  Every team has injuries, so it’s hard for fans, coaches, and players to use injuries as an excuse for the Blue Jays situation.  But here is the stat: at May 10th (when the article was published), the Blue Jays had 10 players on the DL.  To put that into some perspective, the Red Sox had 4, the Orioles 6, the Rays 3, and the Yankees a whopping 11.  So the Jays can’t complain, right?  The Yankees have just as many injuries, are still performing, and well into a divisional race.

WRONG!  Of the Yankees on the DL, only 36% are pitchers.  In fact, no team in the MLB has a higher percentage of pitchers on the DL if you take the DL’ed pitchers divided by the total players DL’ed on a team.  The Jays are at 90%!  Also, no team has more than 7 pitches on the DL other than the Jays (9 pitchers on the DL).  Of the 11 Yankees on the DL, only 4 are pitchers (which is 2nd most in the AL East after Toronto).

We all know pitching is the key to success.  And right now, the Jays pitching staff is hurting.  Getting Josh Johnson back healthy is huge.  Having Dickey pitch healthy is huge.  Now we just need Brandon Morrow and J.A Happ to come back and we’ll be set to make a run.  With the rotation healing, I’m not counting out a Blue Jays run just yet.

@IHRTBJs