The Toronto Blue Jays have been dealing with a multitude of injuries to the active roster, with numerous starting and relief pitchers spending some time on the injured list early in the season. So far this year, the Blue Jays have used 12 different pitchers to open or start games, with Steven Matz leading the charge with seven starts followed by Hyun Jin Ryu at six starts.
With his most recent poor performance, Blue Jays top prospect Nate Pearson has been sent back down to Buffalo after just one start and Charlie Montoyo has tabbed Anthony Kay as the pitcher to take his spot in the starting rotation.
Acquired in the Marcus Stroman with the New York Mets back in 2019, the southpaw would make his major league debut just over a month later, appearing in three games and pitching to a 5.79 ERA over 14.0 innings. For his career, Kay has floated between the rotation and the bullpen, pitching in 19 games (four starts), and currently sports a career 6.45 ERA with a 1.657 WHIP over 44.2 innings pitched with 23 walks and 45 strikeouts.
Kay did not make the Opening Day roster this season, as the Jays decided to keep him stretched out as a starter and the rotation was full at the time given the number of options at the back end of the rotation. So far this season, the New York native has bounced between the alternate site and the active roster and has been roughed up when taking the mound in 2021, appearing in three games and crafting a 10.24 ERA with 11 earned runs over 9.2 innings pitched with four walks and ten strikeouts.
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This is probably one of the biggest opportunities Anthony Kay will have this season to run away with a spot in the rotation due to other pitchers being on the injured list and with other pitchers on the rotation struggling to go deep into games. While his stats this season haven’t been eye-opening as the team heads into the mid-May schedule, Kay has been bounced around between rotation and bullpen, alternate site and active roster, and really hasn’t been able to get set into a rhythm when it comes to regular rest and pitching on a schedule. While he has struggled on the mound and is giving up a few too many hits, there is a possibility that starting regularly for a few games could see the left-hander string together some quality outings.
With the Blue Jays having an off-day yesterday and Kay pitching after Pearson on Sunday, he will most likely be making the Saturday start against the Philadelphia Phillies, with Matz starting Friday and Robbie Ray most likely starting the Sunday game. Following a Saturday start, Kay will then be slotted to face the Tampa Bay Rays (19-18) and then the New York Yankees (19-16) if he stays in the rotation (and if the rotation follows the four-game rest schedule). These two games would be great tests for the lefty following his start against the Phillies, as he has performed well against the Rays in his past outings (.213 opponent batting average in five appearances) but has been hit around by the Yankees (.333 opponent average in three outings).
The Blue Jays’ top prospect pitchers like Alek Manoah and Simeon Woods-Richardson are performing well early this season in the minor leagues and will be knocking on the major league door within the next year or two.
If Kay wants to find a spot in the rotation over the other internal starting options like Ross Stripling, Tom Hatch (when he returns), or Trent Thornton when Manoah and SWR start to get close to making their major league debuts, a good stretch of starts now will surely help his case to keep him in the rotation over transitioning into a bullpen pitcher in the future. If the opposite happens, the left-hander may be better suited for a role in the bullpen moving forward.