The Blue Jays made their latest waiver claim, picking up right-handed pitcher Matt West from the Texas Rangers and designated another righty, Cory Burns, for assignment.
Matt West is a 26-year-old righty from Houston, Texas who made his major league debut for the Rangers in 2014. A second-round draft pick in 2007, Burns was an infielder (playing mostly third base) for the first four years of his pro career but saw a sag in his numbers as he rose up the ladder after an excellent .301/.397/.388 start in Rookie Ball in 2007. Despite showing flashes of power (13 home runs in Class-A Hickory in 2010), contact became an issue as he struck out 23.7% in 2008, 24.5% in 2009 and 27.4% in 2010.
In 2011, he made the switch to pitching despite not having been on the mound for five years (since high school). After becoming a pitcher in 2011, he had immediate success in short-season Spokane, logging a 3.12 ERA and 0.9 WHIP in 26 innings, walking only one batter. He had trouble in High-A Myrtle Beach in 2012 due to an injury that required Tommy John surgery. Pitching in the Arizona Fall league in 2013, he made 10 appearances with 9 2/3 innings and struggled with his control but saw his velocity return, averaging 93.91 mph on his fastball.
In 2014, he came to major league spring training and got into two games, allowing one run with a walk and no strikeouts in two innings. There were concerns about his fastball velocity which was down to about 90 mph in spring training but the velo returned and in his major league cup of coffee for three appearances in July, West was averaging 95.75 mph, throwing 75% fastballs to go with a change and a curve, about evenly split the other 25% of the time.
West’s Double-A and Triple-A numbers from 2014 show him to be back to the dangerous pitcher he was in his first, injury-free season. With 10 strikeouts and just two walks in Double-A Frisco through 13 1/3 innings, West had just a 0.68 ERA and 0.675 WHIP. Promoted to Triple-A Round Rock in the tough Pacific Coast League, West logged a 4.15 ERA with a 1.57 WHIP (thanks to a .400 BABIP) but he had a 3.86 WHIP to go with 16 walks and 54 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.
To make room for West, they designated Cory Burns for assignment. Burns was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on September 28 by the Jays but he was claimed by Tampa from the Rangers in June. Burns hasn’t pitched in the majors but has 11 1/3 innings in 2013 with the Rangers (3.18 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 5.43 FIP, 7 BB, 5 K) and another 18 innings with the San Diego Padres in 2012 (5.50 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 3.65 FIP, 10 BB, 18 K).
West appears to be a major league ready arm with a lively, hard fastball that could add a lot to the Blue Jays bullpen in 2015 if he can pitch in the majors like he did in the minors last year.
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