Unconventional Blue Jays right-hander Ben Rowen is looking to force his way in to the Blue Jays bullpen picture with his ground-ball potential
The Toronto Blue Jays 2016 bullpen competition is bringing out all breeds of relievers.
Sitting at a similar level on the depth chart to Pat Venditte, Major League Baseball’s only ambidextrous pitcher, is submarine man Ben Rowen.
The Blue Jays claimed Rowen in August off waivers from the Chicago Cubs, where he’d landed after spending time with Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Texas since entering the league as a 22nd round pick in 2010.
Now 27-years-old, the right-hander has done nothing but produce.
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Between double-A Bowie and triple-A Norfolk, Iowa, and Buffalo in 2015, Rowen totalled 64.2 innings pitched with a 1.95 ERA. This aligns well with his career minor league numbers of a 1.76 ERA over six seasons.
With the straight sink he can produce from the submarine slot, he also finds success against both right and left-handed bats.
“It’s a tribute to the way my ball moves,” he tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. “There’s really no arm-side run so it doesn’t stay on a lefty’s bat path. It really is just a straight sinker going down, so it’s an advantage either way going lefty or righty.”
This also gives Rowen his greatest asset: his ability to create ground balls.
With just seven home runs allowed in six seasons (an excellent 0.2 HR/9), his keeping the ball on the ground could fit Toronto’s infield defence extremely well in a low-leverage role.
Despite the numbers, though, Rowen may still be multiple steps away from a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen given the names in front of him.
Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen will take up two of the five righty spots, while the loser of Aaron Sanchez and Jesse Chavez in the rotation battle will send a third. This leaves Rowen in the middle of a crowded tier.
While he may be passed over for more electric or high-velocity arms, his ability to work more than one inning could be in his favour. Especially with the fit of his pitching style in the Rogers Centre, a healthy Rowen performing to his career averages is well worth a look.
That look may not come until mid-summer, but if it does, don’t be surprised when Rowen quietly stacks up some quality numbers.