Blue Jays: The opportunity Matt Gage has been waiting for

Jul 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Matt Gage (91) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Matt Gage (91) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

With Tim Mayza on the IL for an extended period, the Blue Jays are going to need left-handed help in the bullpen, and it’s Matt Gage’s chance to step up and win the job.

It was a long road to the big leagues for the 29 year old, but he finally made his MLB debut earlier this season and so far he’s pitched really well at the highest level. He’s still bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues as the Blue Jays have shuffled their roster throughout the year, but Gage has been a pleasant surprise in a tough year for the bullpen over. Over 11 appearances covering 13.0 innings the southpaw was a 1.38 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP, including 12 strikeouts.

After the Blue Jays acquired both Anthony Bass and Zach Pop prior to the trade deadline their bullpen is pretty full. The current active roster includes Bass, Pop, Jordan Romano, Yimi Garcia, Adam Cimber, David Phelps, Trevor Richards, and the newly called up Trent Thornton. It came as a bit of a surprise that Thornton was added to the roster prior to Sunday’s game, but Gage was also kicking around on the taxi squad, and I’m confident he will join the team at some point this week.

Not only has he performed well enough to be on the MLB roster, he’s now at the top of the depth chart for left-handed relievers after Mayza’s injury. That’s significant for Gage going forward, even if he still has minor league options available, the primary reason he’s been sent back to Buffalo at all this year.

When we look at the Blue Jays current depth chart, there are only so many relievers that can be sent down:

Romano–   2
Garcia–       No options
Bass–          No options
Cimber–      3
Phelps–      No options
Pop–            3
Richards–   0
Thornton–  2

Garcia, Bass, and Phelps can’t be optioned unless they’re being designated for assignment, and I doubt the Jays would consider such a thing anyway. The same goes for valuable arms like Romano and Cimber, even if they both have options remaining.

The obvious place to make room for Gage would be to send Thornton back to Buffalo, and I’d be surprised if that didn’t happen ahead of their upcoming series against the Orioles that begins on Monday. In theory Baltimore should be one of their easier American League opponents, but the Orioles have been playing really well lately and have pushed their record up to 56-52, even sitting three games again of the Red Sox. They also have some left-handed hitting regulars like Cedric Mullins and Rougned Odor, and switch hitters like Adley Rutschman and Anthony Santandar, so having a southpaw in the ‘pen could be important.

It’s not just the Orioles that the Blue Jays will need another lefty for either, which means that Gage has a pretty big opportunity in front of him in a significant role. Tayler Saucedo could have been another name in the mix if not for his injury earlier this season, but he is healthy now and pitching well in Triple-A. It’s also possible that the Jays could look outside the organization for some help, even after the trade deadline. For example, Jake McGee was designated for assignment by the Brewers on Sunday, and he could be worth a look now that Mayza will be on the shelf for a while.

Next. Hernandez getting back to his hard-hitting ways. dark

All that said, I think the most likely and sensible move to make would be to give Gage the chance to stick on the big league roster for good, filling a role that the Blue Jays need someone to step into over at least the next several weeks. It’s not yet known how long Mayza will be out, but despite the fact that it was his non-throwing shoulder that was dislocated, the injury could still potentially keep him out for the remainder of the year. If there’s a silver lining to that tough news for Mayza, it might be the chance for Gage to make himself a permanent big leaguer, and I wouldn’t bet against him taking the gig and running with it.