Matt Shoemaker solid in Toronto Blue Jays’ first win of the 2019 season, providing a glimmer of excitement about his spot in the rotation
The Blue Jays earned their first win of the 2019 season on Friday by a final score of 6-0 over the visiting Detroit Tigers. In doing so they looked strong as a team with pitching, defence and timely hitting all on display. Everything a baseball team needs to win games.
In his first start as a Jay, Matt Shoemaker set the tone for the game. His final line – 7 ip, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB 7 K. Shoemaker worked quickly all night, throwing 59 of his 87 total pitches for strikes. Maybe he could have gone a bit further but in his first start of the season there was no reason to push him, especially with his recent history of injuries.
The game took 2 hours and 28 minutes to play, a game MLB commissioner Manfred with all of his “pace of play” initiatives would love.
Now, let’s not get way ahead of ourselves. It’s way too early to be awarding Shoemaker the 2019 AL Cy Young award, or even comeback player of the year. It was game 2 of 162. It was his first of (hopefully) several starts this season. As mentioned above, he has dealt with forearm injuries over the last two seasons. And with all due respect to the Detroit Tigers, they aren’t expected to be very good this year. Kind of like the Jays.
But so far so good.
When the Jays signed Shoemaker as a free agent on December 28, 2018, some people (including me) questioned what the front office was doing. Adding the 32 year old seemed contrary to the “let the kids play” philosophy that the team seemed to be promoting. Of course, the flip side of that is that it can damage a player’s development to rush him to MLB before he is truly ready to go up against the best of the best. Looking, for example at someone like Sean Reid-Foley, he has talent. When he is on his game, he has the stuff to string together a lot of strikeouts. But he also struggles with control at times. There was room for improvement in his first shot with the Jays in 2018 and he didn’t do himself any favours in spring training in 2019. Reid-Foley will begin 2019 at AAA which may benefit him and the organization in the long run. Hopefully he will improve on his command of the strike zone and earn a call up later on with improved results.
So maybe having some veteran arms for the rotation isn’t such a bad thing.
Shoemaker was a good MLB starting pitcher in 2014-2016 before the forearm injuries that sidelined him for much of 2017-2018. He was 16-4 with a 3.04 era in 2014 and finished 2nd in AL rookie of the year voting. Not to suggest that he is likely to return to that kind of dominance on the mound but he has the potential to be an asset. Also, though his contract is for one year, he is actually under team control (and arbitration eligible) in 2020 which could make him very attractive to contending teams looking for pitching at or near the trade deadline.
He probably won’t pitch 7 scoreless innings each time out. More than anything, he needs to stay healthy. Assuming he does, let’s see how he pitches against teams expected to contend – the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and so forth. But early indications are that this may have been a shrewd, under the radar signing by the Jays front office.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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