After another disastrous outing from Yusei Kikuchi on Tuesday night against the A’s, the Blue Jays can’t afford to let the southpaw continue in the rotation.
Like many Blue Jays fans, I found myself saying something very similar no more than two weeks ago after his July 25th start against the Brewers when he pitched just 2.0 innings. That night Kikuchi continued his month-long struggles, and it got to the point that he lost pretty much all control of his fastball. Without being able to throw his primary offering for anything close to a strike, the Brewers waited until he threw his slider in the zone and teed off on the veteran.
Because of a shortness of options, the Blue Jays gave Kikuchi one more opportunity on June 30th, and he managed to save his job for the time being with a six-inning effort against the Rays where he allowed just one run on four hits and a walk. It was the turning point that the Blue Jays were hoping for, and things were looking up for the Japanese-born pitcher as took the mound again on Tuesday night.
And then he may have hit a new low, and that’s saying something.
Once again Kikuchi completely lost control of his fastball, to the point where it genuinely seemed like he had no idea where it was going as it came out of his hand. He looked helpless as he hit Ramon Laureano and Christian Bethancourt on back to back plate appearances, and Charlie Montoyo had no choice but to turn to the bullpen early once again.
I think it’s fair to say that we’re now at the point where the Blue Jays can’t rely on the veteran at all, and something needs to be done one way or another. The most likely option is to see him placed on the Injured List with some sort of “injury”, which will hopefully buy him some time to work on his mechanics and get his confidence back. After signing a three-year, 36 million dollar pact over this past offseason, the Blue Jays aren’t going to simply cut him, at least not yet.
The only role I can see Kikuchi playing right now for the big league roster would be mop-up duty, where he would come in when the game was out of hand either way, That said, the Blue Jays and their taxed bullpen can’t afford to carry a pitcher for just that purpose right now, and if they did, they’d actually need that arm to eat some innings. I’m not sure Kikuchi is even capable of doing that in a low pressure situation right now, or at least I wouldn’t be ready to rely on him for the job.
I’m sure the Blue Jays will start with some sort of excuse to get the southpaw on the IL, and hopefully will get a chance to give him a mental break if nothing else. There is plenty of talent in that left arm of his, but right now Kikuchi is completely lost on the mound. It doesn’t help that they’re running short of rotation options at the moment, but one way or another, they can’t afford to let Yusei Kikuchi make another start until he’s in a much, much better place.