For the second straight day, the Toronto Blue Jays lost some players along with the ball game. This time, it appears to be more serious. Brett Cecil suffered a torn calf muscle, manager John Gibbons announced following the game, leaving the Blue Jays without one of their most important arms.
Brett Cecil suffered the injury while working a rundown between first and second base, and is likely done for the remainder of the postseason, however long that may last. This puts the Blue Jays in a difficult situation, though, as replacing Cecil will not be as black-and-white as replacing one of their right-handed arms.
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Cecil represents arguably the most valuable bullet in John Gibbons’ arsenal, as he’s equally dominant against right and left-handed hitters. Pitching to a 2.48 ERA with 11.6 K/9 in 2015, he looked to be carrying that success into his first postseason. Now, that’s likely over.
It’s safe to work under the assumption that Cecil will not be returning, so a great deal of Toronto’s potential roster decision will come down to how confident they are in Aaron Loup. As the lone lefty in the current ‘pen, he’s now likely to appear in most future games. Yes, we’re working with the assumption that there will be more than one. It feels better than way.
In terms of right-handed options, Ryan Tepera and Bo Schultz would likely be first in line for consideration. Over 33.0 IP this season, the 27-year old Tepera posted a WHIP of 0.88 with a 3.27 ERA. Looking to Schultz, he posted a 3.56 ERA over 43.0 innings. Between the two, though, would anything be added to the bullpen that isn’t already there?
This brings us back to Mark Buehrle, just when you thought the playoff roster argument was dead. Let’s start by recognizing that having him in the bullpen is not ideal by any means, because his limited velocity and mound approach lend themselves to balls in play. That’s rarely the goal as a reliever.
Buehrle’s numbers against left-banded batters in 2015 don’t help his case either, as he’s surrendered a .290 average and actually pitched stronger against right-handers. The length he would offer could be valuable if Estrada or Dickey stumble out of the gates, allowing for a quick hook, but is that enough to earn the spot?
Frankly, after there wasn’t an option knocking down the door for the 7th spot, there won’t be one knocking down the door for the 8th. The trust factor that Gibbons has in Buehrle would tilt my bet towards him being activated, but the biggest impact of this injury will be the heightened importance of Loup. Against this Texas lineup, he’s just become a reliever of top-3 importance.