The Toronto Blue Jays are expected to sign left-handed pitcher T.J. House, according to a report late Monday from Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in Minnesota.
House, 27, showed promise with Cleveland back in 2014 as a member of their starting rotation where he pitched 102.0 innings over 18 starts and one relief appearance with a 3.35 ERA.
Showing strong control with a ground ball rate of 60.9% that season, House appeared to have long-term potential as a rotation piece with Cleveland before shoulder inflammation cost him much of his 2015 season.
He returned this past season after making several adjustments, including glasses to correct astigmatism in one eye, and posted some respectable numbers with Cleveland’s triple-A affiliate in Columbus. Over 72.1 innings (12 starts, 21 relief appearances), House recorded a 3.98 ERA but struggled to a walk rate of 5.4 per nine innings.
House did post stronger numbers as a reliever over that small sample size, but left-handed hitters had a great deal of success off of him. That was reversed back in 2014, however, where he handled lefties very well.
If the organization thinks that House is up to the task, he could fit well as a minor league starter that provides depth from triple-A Buffalo while re-establishing himself in a rotation. Thankfully for Toronto, few executives in Major League Baseball understand House and his arm better than Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.
Toronto’s current starting depth in the upper-minors remains an area of need. Both Mike Bolsinger and Joe Biagini have potential to supply that, but in an ideal world, both may open the season on the MLB roster coming out of the bullpen.
Cleveland drafted House in 2008 out of high school and he’d been with the organization ever since. Another ‘Cleveland connection’ will draw familiar moans from some fans, but frankly, the decision from Shapiro and Atkins to reunite with House is a sign of encouragement in a well-known asset.
With his shoulder issues now hopefully in the past, House appears to have regained his 90-92 MPH fastball velocity that had dipped in 2015. He also relies on a slider that he’s thrown on nearly one-quarter of his pitches at the MLB level, which was his strongest pitch in 2014.
More details to come on this first report as they are made available.