The Blue Jays have found a few reliable bullpen arms in the second half of the season, but they could really use one more solid reliever down the stretch.
After spending most of the season looking for any effective options to contribute in the bullpen, Charlie Montoyo has finally found a formula that has been mostly consistent of late. Jordan Romano has emerged as a pretty solid closer, and Tim Mayza has been an unexpected surprise as the most frequently used set-up man, and an effective one at that. Otherwise when the game is close Montoyo has turned to Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards, two July trade additions that have helped in a big way.
Beyond those four the Blue Jays have struggled to find consistency from their relief corps, and it’s an area that they undoubtedly would like to shore up ahead of the playoffs if they should qualify. A foursome of Romano, Mayza, Cimber, and Richards is solid, but ideally they would be able to find more depth, and even better would be a true weapon.
On the plus side, the Blue Jays have that kind of talent in their bullpen, and they’ll likely use as many opportunities as they can over the next two weeks to figure out a pecking order. As far as electric arms that could have potential to contribute in the late innings, Nate Pearson and Julian Merryweather provide exactly that kind of profile. The potential of both flamethrowers is obvious every time they take the mound, but neither of them have harnessed it since returning from their respective injuries.
Both pitched on Monday evening with Merryweather allowing a walk to one of the two batters he faced before finishing off the fifth inning for Robbie Ray. He wasn’t bad and it wasn’t a very long outing to make much of a judgement, but fastball command is Merryweather’s primary issue at the moment, and it wasn’t great in the series opener against the Rays. As for Pearson, he gave up an earned run on two hits over 0.2 of an inning, and while he looked good at times he’s still not quite where you’d like him to be.
As big of a disappointment as Brad Hand turned out to be to try and reinforce the bullpen, the Jays haven’t had much better luck with Joakim Soria so far. The veteran right-hander is on leave on the family emergency medical list at the moment, but he hasn’t provided a whole lot of help for Montoyo’s bullpen when he’s been active. As a Blue Jay he’s posted an ERA of 7.88 with a WHIP of 1.50 over 10 appearances covering just 8.0 innings, and it’s hard to trust him with an important situation at the moment.
There are a few other arms available, but I doubt that youngsters like Tayler Saucedo or Anthony Castro are going to pinch any important innings over the regular season’s final 12 games. Ross Stripling is still an option to raise the floor of the bullpen, but for now he’s likely needed to cover for the absence of Hyun Jin Ryu in the rotation, who hit the IL with neck stiffness on Monday. Hopefully Ryu can recover and find his old form in time to make an effective start before the regular season, because if he can that might allow the Jays to move Steven Matz to a bullpen role for the playoffs, should they get there.
What’s clear is that the solution is going to have to come from within at this late stage, and unfortunately the Jays are still searching for an answer beyond the four trusted relievers. The Blue Jays can’t afford to shorten the bench that much just yet, so hopefully another reliable option emerges to help them make the playoffs, and hopefully make some noise once they get there.