Jesse Litsch has come a long way since being a bat boy for then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A lifer pitching in the Jays organization, he has amassed a 27-27 record with a career 4.16 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in the major leagues since first appearing for the club in May of 2007. In fact, this writer happened to be present for Litsch’s first career start, in which he allowed only 4 hits, 2 walks and 1 run over 8.2 innings. It was also the first time that the stadium got to see “Jesse’s Girls”, a group of animated male Jesse Listch cheerleading fans dressed in drag. They served as a token of good luck, as Jesse finished the year going 7–9 with a 3.89 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 50 K/36 BB over 20 starts.
While never seemingly having the stuff to get past being a projected 4-5th starter, his first two years with the team served the Jays with a reliable pitcher, starting 48 games over that span of time. However, the injury bug began its manifestation in 2009 after sitting on the DL. What started as a simple right forearm strain became something much more serious; his season was shut down on June 9th after the announcement he was to undergo Tommy John surgery.
He would never completely recover from that injury.
The following year in 2010 he would only make 9 starts for the Blue Jays, going a dismal 1-5 with a 5.79 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and a paltry 16K/15BB ratio over 46.2 innings. The beginning of 2011 didn’t fare too well for him either, as he fell from the 5th spot in the rotation to all the way down to A level ball in the minor leagues. After putting in enough time throughout A-AAA, he eventually take over long relief duties back in the majors. He looked destined to be a career reliever, a humble path for even the likes of colleague Casey Janssen, who has thrived from the experience before him.
Jesse Litsch never got the chance to do so, as he was sidelined in 2012 spring training with a shoulder inflammation. The injections given to him to help speed the recovery process caused an infection that would place the pitcher on the DL for the entire season, his last with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Where does that leave the Blue Jays? It leaves the organization with 37 players on their 40-man roster (Update: Since Litsch was on the 60-day DL he did not count against the 40-man roster), enough space to add some of the players Alex Anthopoulos has talked about getting in the offseason. It leaves Jesse Litsch to test his hand at free agency, one where he is likely to sign a minor league contract with another club. It leaves the fans a sense of sadness on what could have been for the troubled pitcher if he had the opportunity to turn it around. It also leaves everyone wondering what will happen with Dustin McGowan.
Is he the next fallen Blue Jay?