Blue Jays end Grapefruit League play amidst bullpen uncertainty

Jonathan Chan
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Multiple injuries have left the bullpen hierarchy in doubt

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The Toronto Blue Jays completed their Grapefruit League schedule with more questions than answers surrounding their bullpen.

A massive 18-6 loss to the Tigers on Sunday punctuated a tough week for the Toronto pitching staff.

Presumed set-up man Ryan Tepera is suffering from elbow inflammation, an injury that landed him on the disabled list last season. Fortunately, he can resume throwing Tuesday, but the team has given no timetable for his return.

Veteran John Axford suffered a stress reaction in his elbow and was subsequently released on Saturday.

UPDATE: Axford will undergo rehab and be re-signed by the Jays.

New high-leverage reliever Bud Norris was scratched from Friday’s game with forearm fatigue. Norris said he felt fine but was one of the many pitchers that the Tigers assaulted on Sunday, allowing three runs on three hits in his one inning of work.

The Blue Jays put a band-aid on their ailing bullpen Sunday afternoon, inking veteran reliever Daniel Hudson to a one-year, major-league deal. Hudson was solid, but unspectacular last season, posting a 4.11 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 46 innings with the Dodgers.

As Toronto enters their two-game exhibition at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, the bullpen consists of Ken Giles, Joe Biagini, Tim Mayza, Norris, and Hudson. Sam Gaviglio will likely remain as a long-reliever, while youngsters Thomas Pannone and Trent Thornton may need to stay with the big club in the interim, despite the club’s desire for them to start.

The combined 2018 ERA of the six “confirmed” bullpen arms was 4.75, a mark good enough for 26th place in the majors.

Veteran Javy Guerra, recent-acquisition Jason Adam, and Justin Shafer are also candidates for the muddied Blue Jays bullpen.

For a team that relies heavily on its bullpen (594 1/3 innings in 2018, 11th in the majors), the uncertainty at the back end just three days prior to Opening Day is concerning.