The Blue Jays won’t be able to roll out the same late-inning recipe from the bullpen for every game, and that could present an opportunity for Julian Merryweather.
So far so good for the Blue Jays and their expanded bullpen, as they’ve nailed down two saves to aid the club in getting off to a 2-0 start. The performance from the relievers was especially impressive on Friday when they bailed Jose Berrios out of a nightmare first outing that only saw him record one out, but they eventually came back to win the game by a score of 10-8 after being down by as many as seven runs. On Saturday Kevin Gausman fared much better and provided five innings while surrendering three earned runs. From there Trevor Richards, Tim Mayza, Yimi Garcia, and Jordan Romano nailed things down, with the last three pitching three-up, three-down frames.
As far as the late innings have gone so far, both Romano and Garcia have provided exactly what you’d hope to see. That said, they won’t be able to pitch in every game, and I can’t imagine we’ll see either of the right-handers in Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers. Pitching three days in a row likely isn’t going to happen until very late in the season, if at all, and it certainly won’t be the way the Blue Jays will start the long 162 game schedule.
With that in mind, who is going to pitch in the late innings on Sunday if the situation calls for it? The only reliever we haven’t seen so far is David Phelps, so I’m sure he’ll be in the mix somewhere. Otherwise I’m guessing it’ll be a combination of the arms we saw on Opening Day, which included Tayler Saucedo, Trent Thornton, Ross Stripling, Adam Cimber, and Julian Merryweather. Assuming that Garcia, Romano, and maybe even Mayza are off the table for Sunday’s game, I’d like to see Merryweather get the call if they see a high leverage situation.
Having a flame-throwing option as a “off day closer” would be a bit of a luxury, and I think the Blue Jays have the depth and talent in their bullpen right now that they could view things that way. Nate Pearson could be a similar weapon in much the same vein, depending on how he’s used out of the bullpen, but he’s probably more of a candidate to stay in long relief and remain stretched out in case a need comes up in the rotation.
For Merryweather, we saw the kind of potential he has during his limited appearances in 2021. For roughly a week, it even looked like he could be the closer after the Jays lost Kirby Yates for the year before the season had began. The biggest thing that’s held Merryweather back throughout his career has been a wide variety of injuries, but thankfully he’s healthy and on the active roster to begin the 2022 campaign.
I won’t necessarily blame Charlie Montoyo if he goes with a more veteran option like Cimber or Phelps tomorrow, or even if he brings Mayza back again on Sunday (he only threw six pitches in his quick inning of work), but I’d love to see Merryweather stay healthy and work his way into those kind of opportunities, especially when Romano needs a day of rest. We’ll see how the Blue Jays skipper lines up his bullpen to support Hyu Jin Ryu in an effort to sweep the Rangers to start the year, but thankfully the bullpen is starting off on a positive note.