With J.P. Howell hitting the D.L. with a shoulder issue, Aaron Loup will have an opportunity to step up in a needed role, and also secure his position in the Blue Jays’ bullpen.
The Blue Jays haven’t started the 2017 season quite the way they had hoped, but fortunately it’s an awfully long season in the MLB. While a 1-5 start isn’t ideal, it’s hardly a death knell for the Blue Jays, who have an off day on Monday before their home opener against Milwaukee on Tuesday.
A bigger issue thus far would be the health of the roster, which is already missing a couple key pieces early on. Josh Donaldson came up lame on Sunday, but will hopefully return to the field in time for Tuesday’s game. More significantly, the bullpen is already missing a couple key members, as Roberto Osuna started the season on the DL, and now left-hander J.P. Howell has joined him on the list.
There is speculation that Osuna will re-join the team on Tuesday, which will be a much needed lift for the club, if for no other reason than in the confidence department. Overall, the pitching staff hasn’t really been the problem for the Blue Jays, but having their late inning arms in tow certainly helps going forward.
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In the case of Howell, the 33 year old veteran is being counted on to fill Brett Cecil‘s shoes as the late inning lefty in the bullpen. So far, things haven’t gone very well for the former Los Angeles Dodger, and now he’s found himself on the DL before the first week of the season ended. He was placed on the 10 day DL on Sunday, and the Blue Jays recalled Dominic Leone to take his place in the pen.
Without Howell, the Blue Jays are left with Aaron Loup as the lone lefty in the pen, a scary proposition to say the least. The Jays have used Ryan Tepera against lefties as well, but Loup is the only real “loogy” option, and will face a major test over the next week or two.
The truth is, Howell’s injury might be a blessing for Loup, as the 29 year old wasn’t even a guarantee to make the Blue Jays opening day roster. In fact, had he not been out of minor league options, there’s a good chance he’s pitching in Buffalo right now.
Without Howell on the big league roster, the Blue Jays will have no choice but to turn to Loup to face some important lefties, giving him the opportunity to earn back some trust from manager, John Gibbons. As recently as 2014, Loup was an important piece of the Blue Jays bullpen, finishing that season with a 3.15 ERA in 71 appearances. Since then though, he’s has struggled to remain on a big league roster.
So with Howell on the shelf for the next week, Loup will get the chance to show that he’s still a valuable arm to have in the bullpen. With the likes of Chris Davis of Baltimore, Eric Thames in Milwaukee and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi on deck over the next week, we’re about to find out.