Did the man in white make his way to Seattle this week? It sure seems that way after the Blue Jays (63-60) connected on eight homers which accounted for 14 of their 23 runs against the Mariners in their 2-1 series win. After a bullpen blow-up on Monday, the Jays pumped out 13 runs on Tuesday and then enjoyed a dominant performance by Brandon Morrow against his former club on Wednesday.
A Closer Look
The Uncertainty of Pitching: The old adage of “you can never have enough pitching” exists for a reason. Toronto has endured their share of developmental hurdles when it comes to hurlers, including injuries and simple cases of stalled development. Now, as Alex Anthopoulos continues to stockpile young arms via signing draft picks, another Jays pitcher is seeing his big league opportunity go south.
Brad Mills is an excellent on-paper prospect, with three good pitches and solid numbers (9-7, 3.99) at AAA Las Vegas - where he was just named PCL Pitcher of the Week. Mills also happens to be a 26-year old soon-to-be out of options with car-wreck major league numbers (2-3, 8.01) and coming off two consecutive starts of 3.0 IP and 6 earned runs allowed.
While the idea of minor league success and big league struggles shouldn’t surprise anyone, it may shed light on the difficulties associated with developing young, major league-ready arms. Think about it: what sure things do the Jays have on their starting staff beyond Ricky Romero? Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil remain inconsistent. Henderson Alvarez is raw (which isn’t bad for a 21-year old, but is hardly ideal for a big league pitcher) and then there’s Mills. Sure, you could also reel off a laundry list of promising guys waiting in the wings for an opportunity (Deck McGuire, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchinson, Chad Jenkins, Rey Gonzalez, Kyle Drabek, Scott Richmond, Joel Carreno, Chad Beck, Asher Wojciechowski, Nestor Molina and so on), but you still don’t know what will happen until they get to the Show.
Rauch Appendectomy Shakes Up Bullpen: You know the Blue Jays’ late inning situation is a mess when the club loses erstwhile closer Jon Rauch to an emergency appendectomy. Worse yet is that losing Rauch barely caused a ripple among the masses. Toronto eventually hopes to boast an essential, irreplaceable part for the ninth inning role, but that isn’t the case right now. Frank Francisco shifts back to being the full-time closer by default, but the domino effect is interesting.
Trever Miller is out after being designated for assignment less than a month into his second Jays stint. The two available relief slots now open doors for called-up lefties Wil Ledezma and Rommie Lewis, plus additional responsibility for Luis Perez (who is fresh off four excellent innings of work as the winning pitcher of Tuesday’s game). Also affected by the shake-up is Casey Janssen, who secures the set-up man job while also suggesting a shot at the closer role heading into next season.
McGowan Keeps Inching Back: If McGowan’s attempted climb back to the majors ended today, it would still make for a great story. He has, after all, endured shoulder surgery, knee surgery and surgery on a torn rotator cuff since 2008 and hasn’t pitched in a big league game since July 8 of that year. There isn’t exactly a long list of pitchers who have experienced success in pro ball after nearly three years of absence.
Of course, the climb most definitely isn’t about to end now. Not after a comeback that has seen him hold opposing hitters scoreless in consecutive four-inning outings at AA New Hampshire, scattering five hits in total ( management will be extremely cautious with the 29-year old) but it could be a while before his pitch count grows. You’ll likely hear folks weigh in on where McGowan fits within the organization’s plan – whether he is best suited as a starter, reliever or even closer (which would take advantage of his electric stuff while offering some predictability over when he will be thrust into work). Taking part in such speculation (you know, like I just did) is to get ahead of the process. Instead, why not enjoy what is simply a great story about dedication and perseverance?
The Other Guys: It‘s amazing how quickly – and cheaply – the future seems to be coming together for Seattle. The heart of the M’s order now includes Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson. All of the future stars are 26 or younger and have made a splash in Seattle. They also boast a common thread in coming over in savvy deals made by GM Jack Zduriencik. Ackley was the no-brainer No. 2 pick in a 2009 draft that has yet to produce many major leaguers beyond he and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (No. 1). Carp cost the M’s then-closer J.J. Putz (whom fans have forgotten about with the ascension of Brandon League) in what was Zduriencik’s first deal in the position.
Wells and Robinson were more recent acquisitions, with Wells coming over from Detroit at the deadline for marginal starter Doug Fister while Robinson was pilfered from the Dodgers for a few low-level prospects. Add in Michael Pineda, who was signed by Seattle as a 15-year old, and the club has an imposing, young foundation – with or without Felix Hernandez.
The Jays and A’s square off once again for a four-game set in Oakland. Ricky Romero takes the ball against Trevor Cahill in tonight’s opener.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher