Blue Jays bullpen produces encouraging first half surprises

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Luke Maile
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Luke Maile /

The Toronto Blue Jays first half was disappointing, to say the least as the Jays ended up 41-47 sequestered to the basement of the American League East, however, there were a couple encouraging signs that emerged from the bullpen.

With much of the attention focused on the first-half performances of Justin Smoak, Roberto Osuna, and starter Marcus Stroman there were a couple equally impressive efforts that have flown under the proverbial radar in the pen.

The emergence of Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone proved essential as relievers Jason Grilli and J.P. Howell proved unreliable for manager John Gibbons. Grilli was eventually designated and shipped to the Rangers while Howell has been on the disabled list since allowing 8 earned runs in 8.2 innings of work.

The 27-year old Barnes had only 13.2 innings of major league experience under his belt prior to this season, however, Barnes has been nothing short of sensational out of the pen. Barnes owns a 2.31 earned run average with a 0.897 WHIP in 32 appearances. The right-hander has struck out 45 in 39 innings of works while surrendering only 10 runs.

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Not bad for a guy drafted in the 35th round, 1056th overall in the 2010 amateur draft by the Jays.

Dominic Leone is another feel good story out of the bullpen sporting a tidy 2.95 earned run average with a 1.160 WHIP in 34 games this season. Leone has fanned 42 while allowing 13 runs in 39.2 innings of work.

Leone had previous major league time with both the Diamondbacks and Mariners prior to the Blue Jays selecting the 25-year old off waivers from Arizona during the offseason. The Mariners selected Leone in the 16th round, 491st overall of the 2012 draft then shipped him with a package of players to Arizona in exchange for Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno.

Next: Blue Jays: Ranking and Dissecting the First Half

Honourable first half mention also goes to Ryan Tepera who was dominant for most of the season until the injury to Joe Smith. Tepera then saw his appearances increase out of necessity as the reliever logged 45 innings, more than any other arm in the pen.

All three hurlers will need to be as equally effective moving forward if the Blue Jays are going to climb out of the AL East cellar in the second half.