As he is about to make his first start for the Toronto Blue Jays, JFtC looks at the journey Mike Bolsinger has taken to get to Toronto
The Toronto Blue Jays are in a tough spot. Injuries and under performance has brought them to the point where they finally called upon Mike Bolsinger to join the rotation. Given how things have played out, it is a move that Jays From the Couch has been calling for for quite a while. But, for some reason, it is a move that led to a rather bumpy journey for the 29 yr old righty from Chicago.
When the Toronto Blue Jays picked him up last season from the Los Angeles Dodgers for the mere cost of Jesse Chavez, it was thought that Bolsinger would provide pitching depth should one of their starting five succumb to the injury bug. If not, he would provide some valuable depth in AAA Buffalo. Well, the 2016 Blue Jays rotation did not require any substitutes as they saw a rather unique run of health.
But, here we are in 2017 and the Blue Jays’ rotation has been anything but healthy. J.A. Happ has been on the DL for a while with elbow inflammation and soreness and it is not clear when he’ll be returning. Aaron Sanchez has been out with a blister and then a split finger nail from trying to deal with said blister. 40% of the rotation has been on the shelf. That is a rather scary portion when you consider the replacements the Blue Jays have had to turn to.
Casey Lawrence came up and showed that he wasn’t quite ready to take on a rotation spot as evidenced by his 8.78 ERA. Poor outings can be brushed off by nerves, etc, but Lawrence got progressively worse as his four outings led to 1, 2, 4, 6 earned runs respectively. Another of the depth options was Mat Latos, whose 6.60 ERA wasn’t much better. In his three outings, he had mixed results, but it easily could have been worse. His outing against the Angels resulted in 4 earned runs, while his start against the Yankees was a 7 run batting practice session. Sandwiched in there was a start against the Cardinals that appeared effective on the surface, but was more a matter of avoiding trouble than effectiveness.
The whole time, we were wondering where Mike Bolsinger was. Why wasn’t the club giving the ball over to him? Could he be worse than what we were witnessing from the above hurlers?
Bolsinger was on the edge of the pitching staff conversation all spring. He really needed to blow the doors off the place to insert himself into a more solid position. It doesn’t help that he is a former starter, who made the transition to possible long man, spot starter. When we talked to him this offseason, Mike told us that he had many conversations with his former club, the Dodgers, about possibly altering his role with the club in an effort to be of more use. The idea was that he could give multiple innings out of the ‘pen, even on back to back days. It was a conversation that he also threw out there for his current team. Perhaps, an attempt at making himself more appealing made his role a bit more questionable.
As a result, he seemed to be fighting for a spot on the Blue Jays roster the whole spring. And, as mentioned, he would really have to pitch out of his mind to grab one of the open spots, which at the time looked to be the middle relief/ long man role. That didn’t happen. He found himself sporting a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings. He gave up 9 runs on 18 hits and 9 walks. That said, he was flashing signs of effectiveness with 16 strike outs. It wasn’t a great showing, obviously, but surely the small sample size caveat has to apply, right?
It would appear that that might be the case as his 2017 fate came down to the very last minute. He was given a chance to show what he could do when the Blue Jays faced the Pirates in Montreal at the very end of the spring. With is future in limbo, Bolsinger would be asked to pitch on April 1. What many forget is that the nature of life for those on the bubble of a roster means that you don’t know where you will be tomorrow. Your life – your possessions, your family, etc – is put on hold awaiting a decision. It can be a stressful time; one that those outside of the game may not necessarily appreciate. It would certainly be a reason for someone not being at the top of their game.
That is not to say that Bolsinger let stress get to him, because there is no way to know that for sure, but it might help explain his 0.1 IP and 3 ER, all but sealing his fate with the club…sort of. They would expose Bolsinger to waivers and risk losing him as he was out of options. He cleared and was sent to Buffalo which, as nice as it is, is a poor substitute for pitching in Toronto.
While we were witnessing the revolving door of ineffectiveness, Bolsinger was putting in his time for the Bisons. In 4 games (2 starts), he collected a 1-1 record to go with a healthy 1.46 ERA. His 12.1 innings were not perfect, by any means. He gave up almost a hit per inning, but limited free passes (3) and bailed himself out of trouble with 18 strike outs. If the above 13 innings were enough to bury his chances this spring, perhaps his 12 innings in Buffalo can be enough to save him.
Or, perhaps, the combination of his effectiveness and the lack of other viable options meant that he would finally get his chance. Jays From the Couch had heard rumblings that he was being asked to stretch out and throw a simulated game of 90 pitches in preparation for his call. It was later confirmed. Then, word finally came that he would be called upon to start Tuesday.
SOURCE: Mike Bolsinger will head to Toronto. Available Tuesday. #BlueJays will have to make corresponding roster move
— Jays From the Couch (@JaysFromCouch) May 7, 2017
After a tumultuous couple of months for Mike Bolsinger, he is about to get his chance to return to the big leagues where he has had some success in the past. In 109 innings in 2015, he pitched to a 6-6 record with a 3.62 ERA. He dealt with some injury in 2016, that allowed him just a handful of starts that were not as effective.
Basically, the book on Bolsinger is that he will give up his share of hits (roughly one per inning), but will also provide a healthy dose of strike outs (more than 20%). In all honesty, his start against Cleveland could go in many different directions. He could be serviceable – he just needs ot keep his team in the game, really – which is something the Blue Jays desperately need as they try and climb out of their 10 game hole in the AL East. It will be a tough task for him as he will have to limit the Cleveland offense. To make things more difficult for him, he will be up against Carlos Carrasco, who very well could quiet the Blue Jays hitters.
Tuesday’s start will pretty much represent the journey of Mike Bolsinger perfectly. It won’t be an easy task for him. But, nothing has ever come easy for him. He’s had to grind and work for everything. Staying up with the Toronto Blue Jays will be no different.
*Featured Image Credit: Rob Lockhart UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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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.