BOSTON – The Toronto Blue Jays don't have enough pitching. That was the case yesterday, when manager Charlie Montoyo was forced to sail nine innings without an appetizer and only five relievers available.
This is the case today, as the Blue Jays play their thirteenth of 16 consecutive games without a day off. And it will be the case tomorrow, when the club opens a series of three games in the Bronx against the best New York Yankees.
Really, it has been the case for weeks, and it will continue to be the case for a while until the current confluence of the club's unfortunate launching circumstances will resolve itself. And, meanwhile, it's forcing the Blue Jays to make some awkward moves just to get past the here and now.
This is why Sean Reid-Foley, who should have started with the triple A Buffalo Bisons Sunday, was scratched from that trip and summoned to the majors to provide emergency covers. And that's why Jordan Romano, who turned his head with his 90's stuff and an aggressive approach, was optioned for triple A to make room.
"It is an immediate need today and tomorrow. And if it does not address it and something happens today, then it becomes a real problem tomorrow," said Blue Jays assistant GM Joe Sheehan, who is with the team of Boston. "You can't just get into a game situation where you're pushing kids over what they are healthy and able to do. That's where it can potentially snow. It becomes a two month need instead of two days."
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The Blue Jays certainly have this problem, since the club's bullpen has been beyond taxes on this continuous program. Entering the Sunday series finale against the Red Sox, six of the club's nine lifters had thrown 38 or more shots in the last three days. Three of them had made four appearances in the last seven. Closer Ken Giles had just returned from an attack of inflammation in his elbow, which forced him to spend 10 days on the wounded list. You can only push your arms so far.
Reid-Foley arrived on Sunday to help give that group a break after working at 5.87 ERA on 14 appearances (13 starts) with Buffalo this season. He will temporarily assume an important role, before the club determines how to progress with him after this week's series in New York.
Meanwhile, the option is a difficult achievement for Romano, who has prospered since being converted into a reliever in early May. He was dominant while serving as the closest of Buffalo, and hit 11 of the 19 batters he faced with the Blue Jays after earning his first big-league call earlier this month.
"Yes, it sucks. He was really good so far," said Sheehan. "In reality, it is about maintaining depth and making sure we are not short innings today and tomorrow – making sure that it does not continue to happen and that a series of other cascading moves are needed as a result of this."
Choosing the Roman option was not easy. After the call was made to summon Reid-Foley, the Blue Jays judges discussed the corresponding travel options for more than one hour after Saturday's game, and continued the debate Sunday morning.
An alternative was to try to excuse Nick Kingham or Derek Law through waivers, but the Blue Jays weren't sure that neither of the two players would be claimed, especially Kingham, who had a market for when Toronto bought him from Pittsburgh Pirates on June 13th. Sam Gaviglio was another, but the Blue Jays were worried they might need his length outside the bullpen during the upcoming club series in the Bronx.
Giles, Joe Biagini, Daniel Hudson and David Phelps are not going anywhere. And as the only one left in the bullpen, Tim Mayza's place is safe. That left Romano as the odd man.
"He is a professional. He is a great guy. He has a rather limited time here, but he is really a good guy. This is not a kind of accusation about how he is talking. We still think he is really good," said Sheehan. "He launched very well. He understood and understood. And he will come back. We are still very excited for him."
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to pursue external options to complete the pitching staff. The club discussed with Cody Allen after the Los Angeles Angels released the right-hand bend on Tuesday. But now it is expected that Allen will join the Minnesota Twins, which can offer him a rather attractive opportunity that the Blue Jays cannot – launch for a top-level team.
Trevor Rosenthal, the former boyfriend of St. Louis Cardinals, is also available after he was released Sunday morning by the Washington Nationals. He fought in an extraordinary way this season, allowing 16 runs on 12 appearances, 15 on foot while he eliminated only five. But it still throws 98-m.p.h. after losing all of 2018 to recover from Tommy John's intervention, the Blue Jays discussed it during the low season before signing a $ 7 million year deal with Washington. If Rosenthal does not find much market as a free agent, the Blue Jays could try to get it in a lesser bind deal.
"We are actively watching. We have actively watched all of our moves, whether it is a small trade for Edwin Jackson, a waiver request, a FDFA," said Sheehan. "We have been quite active so far this year. And we will continue to be quite active in that market. If something comes up, we will continue to evaluate it and we will continue to try to add and increase the capacity of all the staff."
The problem that the Blue Jays face internally is one of the circumstances. Reid-Foley pulled out of Buffalo's rotation in an extremely inconsistent manner, posting an encouraging 10 K / 9 and a non-encouraging 6,7 BB / 9. Some within the organization believe they hit a blockade road as an appetizer and could benefit from a temporary change of role. The idea now is to give him immediate relief work at a higher league level, to launch with intent and maximize his stuff for shorter exits, before resuming as a starter in the coming weeks, potentially with the Blue Jays if the club still has its current rotating holiday when it needs a fifth starter at the beginning of July.
Meanwhile, Ryan Borucki, Clay Buchholz and Edwin Jackson are all on the injured list and not close to returning. Matt Shoemaker ended the season with a torn ACL. Thomas Pannone is currently in the process of lying down after spending most of the year in the Toronto bullpen. And TJ Zeuch, the first choice of Toronto in the 2016 draft, has just reached triple-A, where he should have started the season before a lat injury during spring training cost him two months.
Jacob Waguespack has launched two rehabilitation exits while returning from a minor shoulder problem, and will move directly to the front line to take a look at the rotation of the major league when he is ready to go. Julian Merryweather will be a big consideration once he is up to speed. The right-hand right is programmed to present its first release in over 21 months on Monday after undergoing the intervention of Tommy John in March 2018.
And that's all for the current internal options. The club has a trio of pitching prospects that is double-A high in Patrick Murphy, Hector Perez and Yennsy Diaz. But the Blue Jays are giving priority to their development, rather than rushing them to the majors to satisfy an immediate need. A stop at triple A is the next most likely step for all three.
Nate Pearson, the best perspective of the club's pitching, should soon be back in that group too. On Saturday he was placed on the injured list of the minor league with a fashionable problem that the club does not believe to be serious. The Blue Jays were extremely cautious with Pearson's inning this season after losing almost all of 2018 with a broken arm. The 22-year-old has alternated between five and two innings throughout the season, and the club is taking advantage of the unfortunate chance of this injury as an opportunity to rest further.
Injuries, underperformance, a grueling major-league program – it's all combined to extend Toronto's organizational pitch to its limits. And with more weapons that could be shipped before the July 31 commercial deadline, the need for coverage of the innings in the majors is set to increase. While some of these circumstances resolve in the coming weeks, things should start to look better for the Blue Jays. But for now, the club is trying to overcome today.