Spring Training is underway for the Toronto Blue Jays and their bullpen situation is taking shape through performances and injuries
Going into Spring Training, the Toronto Blue Jays had a couple of bullpen spots open and a rather large field form which to fill them. If you set aside the LF situation, which really isn’t that open a competition, the bullpen is really the only place where there is a full on competition going on. Management has done a good job of providing depth options. And, while many of those will likely see time in Toronto over the course of the season, there can only be a couple who break camp with the team.
The decision around who to take will likely be impacted by player options, or other such scenarios. But, when a team is trying to compete right out of the gate, they very well could value straight up performance over these other factors. With that said, let’s take a look at the early fallout from Spring Training and the ripple effects it could have on the final decisions.
Rule 5 pick, Glenn Sparkman is thought to have an inside track due to the rules around his selection by the Blue Jays. If he does not make the team, he has to be offered back to the Royals. In other years, that would weigh heavily on the decision. This year may be different, when you consider that Sparkman would be essentially a free flyer. If he ends up to be another Joe Biagini, which is not the norm, then they would have gotten him for nothing. If he doesn’t, they would have risked nothing on the chance that he does. So, it is as close to a ‘no lose’ situation as you can get.
Sparkman has made things a bit more interesting now that he has broken a bone in his pitching hand during a fielding drill. Depending on the type and location of the break, his recovery time could vary, but you can expect that he’ll be out for at least a few weeks, maybe even more. If we go with a month, that would put him right around Opening Day. That very well could open the door for others to compete for the final spots. That is especially bad news for Sparkman since his 2 innings of work have yielded 5 hits and 4 runs.
Someone like Mat Latos could sneak in and solidify his position on the depth charts. The late signing of Latos added an interesting layer to the bullpen situation. A former successful starter, Latos is entering another Spring Training hoping to regain his form. While his days as a starter might be behind him, he certainly presents a potentially effective relief option, capable of providing multiple innings.
Thus far, Latos has looked pretty good. Obviously, 4 innings pitched is not going to be enough to really assess his future with the club, but should he continue to perform, he could be looking at a spot on the big league club. Despite giving up a home run in his first outing on February 26, Latos looked pretty good. His first inning saw him go 2 innings, giving up 3 hits, a walk, the HR and 2 strike outs. It wasn’t great, but it was serviceable for his first time out.
He followed that up on March 3 by going another 2 innings, but this time, the results were much better. He threw just 10 pitches, according to the Spring Training stats page from MLB. Those 10 pitches resulted in 0 hits, 0 walks and 2 strikeouts. Now, in total, Latos has thrown 31 pitches (25 strikes) over 4 innings, so he has a lot of work to do to prove himself, but, again, if he can maintain this effectiveness, we shoudl expect him to make the team.
If that is the case, it will have an impact on what happens to guys like Mike Bolsinger, who gave up 2 H, 2 BB and 2 K in his 2 outings over 2 games. Aaron Loup has given up a run, 2 walks and 3 Ks in his 2 innings of work. Chris Smith has pitched 2 innings and done nothing but strike out 2 batters; no runs, no hits, nada. In fact, he might be one of the only reliever candidates to have had much effect.
All things considered, there is a long way to go before the Blue Jays have to make decisions about the final spots in their bullpen. Heck, the World Baseball Classic will provide a bit more time. So, we can’t read too much into the early ripples in the bullpen pond. There will be many more innings to sort through. That said, early on, there are some candidates that are making the decision rather interesting. Whether it is for good outings, or bad ones, or because of injury, the bullpen very well could end up sorting itself out. If you’re a fan of competition for roster spots, this very well could be a Spring Training you’ll enjoy. It ain’t over. There will be many more ripples to come.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.