Heading into Spring Training, the Blue Jays have at least one spot open in the bullpen if the club decides to run with eight relievers. Why it isn’t set in stone how the club wants to organize themselves come Opening Day, considering Spring Training has been shortened down due to the lockout, it wouldn’t be surprising if manager Charlie Montoyo decides to bring an additional reliever to the active roster and drops a bench field as additional depth.
Right now, current locks for the relief corps heading into the year are:
- Tim Mayza
- Yimi Garcia
- Trevor Richards
- Adam Cimber
- Jordan Romano
- Ross Stripling
- Andrew Vasquez (one could argue that he is not a lock)
Stripling heads to the bullpen after the recent addition of Yusei Kikuchi for the last rotation spot while the remaining relief pitchers are all coming off strong 2021 campaigns, with Garcia joining the team prior to the lockout on a two-year deal and Vasquez signing an MLB deal a couple of weeks ago. Nate Pearson could be moved to the bullpen as well this season but could also be sent down to AAA to continue starting; a wild card at the moment.
Regardless of how many relievers the club takes, only one-two spots potentially remain for those fighting for an active roster spot. A strong Spring Training will go a long way for a few different pitchers and right-hander Julian Merryweather is one player who is coming out of the gate with his foot on the gas pedal.
With a few spots up for grabs in the Blue Jays bullpen, right-hander Julian Merryweather returned to early 2021 form with a strong outing yesterday.
He has only made one appearance so far this Spring but Merryweather was dominant on the mound yesterday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching a clean inning while striking out one batter while getting a fly out and a ground ball to end the inning. He threw 11 pitches in total and was seeing his fastball sitting in the 96-97 MPH area, which is great to see to begin the year.
Last season looked to be his breakout campaign in the Blue Jays bullpen, as the right-hander was a force to begin the season. He appeared in four games and struck out seven batters through 4.1 innings, earning two saves against the New York Yankees. In mid-April, the California product hit the 60-day IL with an oblique strain and wouldn’t return until September 10th. Upon his return, he was not at the same level compared to earlier in the year, finishing the campaign with a 7.27 ERA through 8.2 innings pitched with seven earned runs and four home runs compared to five strikeouts.
The key for Merryweather to make the Opening Day roster is to not only continue pitching clean innings but also stay healthy, as the club does have enough pitching depth behind him in that he could be replaced if he cannot stay on the field.
He has the firepower and offspeed stuff to be a dependable reliever and if he can pick up where he left off last season before the oblique injury, the Blue Jays may have found an absolute stud to pitch in the middle to late innings before Romano comes in to close out the game.