The Blue Jays have had an outstanding effort from ryan Borucki out of the bullpen, and he’s been so effective that it might be wise to leave him there.
Looking back at the 2018 campaign for the Toronto Blue Jays, there weren’t many highlights from the difficult season. That said, there was one bright spot from the rotation, as Ryan Borucki emerged as a solid rotation option, posting a 3.87 ERA across 17 starts and 97.2 innings.
It appeared as though the southpaw had penciled his name into the Blue Jays’ rotation plans for the foreseeable future, but unfortunately arm issues sidelined him for almost the entire 2019 campaign. When he had continued problems staying healthy during Spring Training again this year, that all but took him out of the competition for a rotation spot for 2020’s shortened season. As a result he’s pitched out the bullpen, and the Blue Jays may have just stumbled into an incredibly valuable contributor.
After last night’s scoreless inning against the Marlins, Borucki is still sporting a 0.00 ERA on the season across five frames. It’s not just that he’s keeping runs off the board though. He looks like a different pitcher, adding at least a couple miles per hour to his fastball, and attacking hitters in a way we’ve never really seen from him before. While it’s only been five appearances, I think I’m already convinced that he should forget starting altogether and focus on becoming a dynamic bullpen weapon.
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It may be tough to convince a young pitcher like Borucki that it’s for the best, but he’s in a little different situation. So far as a professional, he’s really struggled to stay healthy, and the issues have been primarily with his elbow. There are no guarantees that he could avoid arm problems as a reliever, but it would likely be a less demanding role for him, which could help him stay on the field.
As for the argument for leaving him in the bullpen, his performance is speaking for itself thus far. That said, as the league navigates changes like the “3-batter rule”, a versatile pitcher like Borucki should be viewed with increased value. Southpaws won’t be able to remain as “lefty-only” specialists for the future in Major League Baseball, and Borucki can get outs from hitters on both sides of the plate.
Again, I realize it’s extremely early to be making comparisons or projections about his future, but I’ve always wanted to see the Blue Jays with a dominant lefty out of the bullpen, especially in a certain mold. Thinking back to how Cleveland used Andrew Miller as a “fireman”, perhaps the Blue Jays could look to do the same type of thing with their homegrown left-hander.
For now we’ll hope that Borucki can continue to stay healthy and perform out of the bullpen, and then I imagine he and the Blue Jays will evaluate his role for 2021 and beyond when baseball could return to a more normal set-up. That said, if he keeps pitching this well in his current role, it’s going to be awfully difficult to take him out of it.