Yes, that’s right! It’s the return of our ever popular Blue Jays from Away Mailbag! We’ve sifted through the brilliant questions that our readers and Twitterites have been sending our way and we’ll pass along the ones that we think we can answer the best!
You know, it’s funny. I was talking about this exact thing with Buffalo News reporter Amy Moritz (@amymoritz) the last time I was down there (about two weeks ago). We wondered what the point was of calling him up to be in the bullpen for a couple of weeks before sending him back down.
I’ll let Shaun expand on this a little bit but, for me, I think that it’s not going hinder his development at all, in fact, I think it can be good for him. Stroman is the type of pitcher who needs to learn the importance of pitch location first hand. He can only be told to keep his pitches down so much before it must get tiresome. Being able to go against big league hitters in controlled situations coming out of the bullpen rather than open-ended ones in the rotation could very well be the best thing for him to really learn, experientially, what he needs to do to be able to consistently get hitters out in The Show.
I don’t think the decision to put Marcus Stroman in the bullpen for all of 5 games (6.1 innings) hurt him at all. It allowed everyone involved the opportunity to test waters. The Blue Jays were able to see him perform in real game settings against real MLB hitters. He was hit. Often. If anything, it provided more impactful evidence of what he needs to work on. His goal is to pitch in the big leagues. He did. He was not as successful as he’d hoped. It might serve as a learning tool for him. “What went wrong? What do I need to adjust?” This type of lessons may hit home better if he lived it, rather than someone telling him in AAA.
Stroman has no shortage of confidence. I often worry about bringing up pitchers before they are ‘ready’ (whatever ready looks like). I worry whether they will get shelled and then become demoralized. That is more of a hindrance to any career than stepping in to the bullpen for a little bit. It should not be an issue for #StroShow.
There are several examples of high potential pitchers starting in the bullpen before starting. Notably, Tampa Bay did it with David Price. It’s a good way to gain experience against big league hitters while minimizing potential damage. I can see the Blue Jays doing the same. But, I think what is more likely is that he’ll get stretched out in AAA and then be called up if and when Liam Hendriks or J.A. Happ falter miserably (or someone is injured). They are playing to protect the division lead now, so the game plan doesn’t allow for messing around with starters who aren’t performing like they’ve done in the past. That’s what I’d do.
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Kenny from Halifax writes:
“Not a question but could you direct my thoughts and support toward Ricky Romero somehow? He’s having a rough go again after some glimpses of bright light in the spring. He seemed like a real positive leader and good influence as a teammate when he was firing on all cylinders for the Jays. As a Cardinals fan I took Rick Ankiel‘s spiral to heart and I’m saddened in the same way for RR. Ankiel accomplished and proved a lot by transitioning to a position player…I bet it was a nice way for him to find confidence on & off the field again.
Well, I suppose that does kinda lead to a question…what’s RR’s history as a batter & position player? He is obviously a gifted athlete, has he or would he ever consider attempting a similar shift of focus?”
Kenny brings up a very sensitive subject for me. I, too, am saddened by the apparent disappearance of the AL BEast, Ricky Romero. This question actually spawned a post about what the Blue Jays are doing with Romero. I wrote it earlier this week.
But to answer the question, I went to BaseballReference.com to check out Romero’s hitting stats. Yikes. Over 5 years in MLB, Romero has combined a whopping 21 at bats. Obviously, playing in the American League does not provide for many opportunities to hit. In those 21 at bats, Romero has 2 whole hits for a .095 average. I went back to check his performance in the minor leagues in the hopes that he had more success. Well, he compiled more at bats (104) over his career (9 years), but has not picked up a single hit! So, his ability to hit may be in serious doubt.
For comparison, I checked out Rick Ankiel’s minor league performance: In 10 seasons and 349 at bats, he totalled 260 hits, 50 doubles, 4 triples, 72 HR and 225 RBI and a .267 average. Granted, Ankiel’s sample size is much larger than Romero’s but there is obviously a distinct difference between the two. IF the Blue Jays were to consider a position switch, they would basically have to teach Romero how to hit. He has always been a pitcher as far back as high school. If those hitting lessons even take, it would take a large amount of at bats to really gain any kind of stroke. We’re talking a year or two, maybe. Frankly, it would be more trouble than it is worth.
This made me even more sad. It means that it is pitching or bust for Ricky Romero. While Ankiel was able to salvage a bit more playing time, it looks like Romero is going to have to figure things out in order to regain his success and confidence. That’s not a good prognosis, I know.
We got a couple of great questions from . . .
@JaysFromAway Sure! How about this: Which players do you expect to see the biggest improvement in 2nd half?
For the major league team, I think that Colby Rasmus has the most chance of progressing to the mean once returns after his injury. For the minor league teams, I have a few candidates in mind. I think Andy Burns will see some progress because I don’t think that he’s simply as bad as he’s been so far. In Lansing, I would love to see big improvements from Alberto Tirado and see him start to put things together. Mitch Nay has gone cold lately and I think he’s going to heat up quite a lot. I also think we’ll see some bigger things from Emilio Guerrero in Dunedin.
Minors: I expect Aaron Sanchez is going to provide a huge improvement in the second half of the season. I fully expect he is going to put his early struggles behind him. His 1-3, 3.54 start in New Hampshire (AA) cannot last. He’s given up as many walks (34) as hits so far. His strikeout totals (41) are nice, though. Although for a #1 pitcher, you would expect the difference between walks and strikeouts to be larger. You can bet Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski will be spending a lot of time working with Sanchez to reverse his fortunes.
Majors: It is hard to pick a member of the big league club that is in need of improvement. They are firing on all cylinders right now. I’d like to see Dioner Navarro improve his ability to throw out base stealers. Right now, just 5 CS and 15% is not good enough. But, the player I think who will have the most success as we progress through the second half of the season is Dustin McGowan. As much as he, and I, want him to be a starter, it doesn’t look like it is in the cards. The Blue Jays made a good decision in moving him to the bullpen. The rigors of starting appeared to be too much for him. He was suffering through diabetes induced fatigue. It was hard for him to manage his blood sugar levels. The move to the bullpen will allow him shorter stints at a time. This way, he can maximize his outings. This move will prove to be good for McGowan, and the Blue Jays.
Charlie Caskey posted on his own site that Osuna hasn’t been seen throwing in a couple of weeks and has just been doing drills. Neither of us are sure if that’s something that’s scheduled or not. I actually think that Osuna is going to pitch for Dunedin when he starts pitching in real games. That way, the Jays can keep a close eye on him with their trainers and minor league pitching coordinators in Dunedin. I think he’s mature enough on the mound to handle pitching in that environment rather than go a couple of thousand kilometres north to Lansing.
As of March 24th, he threw his first bullpen session. On May 6th, he tweeted a picture of him pitching with the caption “Getting Ready”. Given that he went 3-5, 5.53 during his last stint with the Lansing Lugnuts and he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, I could see him starting there again. More than anything, they’ll want him to pitch effectively and ensure he is fully recovered. There is no need to rush him.
Daniel Norris had a sexy line in tonight’s game. 5.1 IP, 0 R, 8 K
@JaysFromAway as much as playoffs are important, have to see a promotion there soon no?
Brendan’s question came after I posted an update on Daniel Norris’s last start and I promised that I would answer in the next mailbag, so here’s the answer!
I think that Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey and maybe a couple of other Dunedin Blue Jays (including Dwight Smith and Taylor Cole) are going to be promoted at the Florida State League All-Star Break (which comes in a couple of weeks). The Florida State League is a split-season league meaning that a team can make the playoffs after winning their division in either the first or second half of the season. The D-Jays have a 38-15 record right now and are in a really good position to clinch a playoff spot soon. Could promotions come after they clinch? Sure, but I have a feeling that the Jays would like players voted to the All-Star Game (June 14 in Bradenton) to actually play in the game. A side note: Pompey had the game-winning hit in the Midwest League All-Star Game last year.
Norris and Pompey have been particularly dominant in Florida at a young age (both are 21). Smith is also 21 and has been very good but has slowed down after a very hot start which means that I’m not entirely sure that he’ll be promoted just yet. Cole, thanks to his dominance and age (24) will probably go to Double-A where his big strikeout numbers (11.1 K/9) and miniscule walk numbers (1.9 BB/9) will probably be tempered a little bit.
The one thing that I think might slow down the promotions of some of the Dunedin Blue Jays is the fact that there aren’t any real obvious replacements to come up from Lansing. None of the pitchers are really dominating at the level and Tom Robson‘s trip to the DL and Jairo Labourt‘s struggles with control (and subsequent trip back to extended spring training) have thinned out the ranks enough to force the Jays into signing minor league free agent Brad Allen. The outfielders have the same issue with D.J. Davis not nearly ready to move up a level and Derrick Loveless still in his first season of full-season ball despite the strong numbers he’s put up.
Thanks for sending your questions! Keep them coming for more editions of the Blue Jays from Away Mailbag!
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