The Blue Jays’ bullpen battles just got a little murkier as the Blue Jays signed reliever Tyler Clippard to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training.
Clippard, 33, is a veteran of parts of 11 major league seasons with the Yankees, Nationals, A’s, Mets, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Astros. A 2003 draftee in the ninth round by the New York Yankees, Clippard has a career 3.11 ERA and 1.12 WHIP and has struck out 9.9 batters per innings over his career.
In 2017, Clippard was traded twice: once from the Yankees to the White Sox and then again to the Astros for a player to be named later or cash. Clippard pitched his best with the White Sox in a small sample size and didn’t pitch at all with the Astros in the playoffs after posting a 6.43 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and seven walks over 14 innings with Houston.
Clippard told Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet that the data that the Astros had given to him suggested that he was tipping pitches and, after going to the MLBPA free agent camp to work on the those adjustments (following success in his last few weeks of the season), says that he feels like a new pitcher.
If the results of those adjustments allow Clippard to be close to as good as he has been throughout his career, particularly in his years with Washington, he stands to earn a spot in the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Behind Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup and Seung-hwan Oh, there’s room for two or three pitchers. Clippard has always pitched to negative splits — lefties have compiled a .597 OPS against him while righties have posted a .660 OPS — meaning that he could be called upon to pitch to lefties, allowing the Blue Jays to carry just Loup as the lone lefty in the pen.
Craig Breslow (7.36 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, 4 K, 1 BB, 3 2/3 IP) is fighting it out with Matt Dermody (11.25 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 3 K, 1 BB, 4 IP) and Tim Mayza (2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 2 K, 1 BB, 4 IP) for a bullpen spot as a lefty while Chad Girodo has also put in a very good showing without giving up a run and only one hit in four innings (0.00 ERA, 0.25 WHIP, 4 K, 0 BB, 4 IP).
Also in the running for a spot are minor league free agents Al Alburquerque (2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6 K, 1 BB, 3 2/3 IP), Rhiner Cruz (0.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 0 K, 2 BB, 3 2/3 IP), and John Axford (0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 IP).
If Clippard does earn his spot, I would think that the Jays might give a shot to Alburquerque who, while his control has always been an issue, he has a longer track record of being able to rack up very high strikeout numbers. Also a favourite might be Breslow’s whose major league track record is longer than any of the other contenders.
Who do you think will get the last couple of jobs in the bullpen?
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