It is safe to say the 2022 season has not been kind to Japanese product Yusei Kikuchi. Signed to a three-year deal this past offseason, Kikuchi has struggled on the mound this season, especially with his fastball command while opposing hitters are feeding off his pitches. Through 20 starts, Kikuchi amassed a 5.25 ERA through 82.1 innings and earned 49 walks compared to 91 strikeouts.
The left-hander was recently moved to the bullpen, with newcomer Mitch White taking his spot in the rotation, yet the former Mariners starter is still struggling to find the strike zone in the relief corps. Through one inning of work against New York on August 18th, he allowed one hit and one walk while striking out two, throwing 17 pitches with ten of those being strikes. Last night was rough against Boston, as Kikuchi walked three batters, hit another, and allowed an earned run while throwing 28 pitches total with ten being strikes.
Overall, the Blue Jays are in a tough spot with Kikuchi, as it is unlikely the club will DFA him with roughly $20 million on the books for the next two seasons and while the Jays want to use him in the bullpen, he is still struggling to find the strike zone. He did offer to go down to AAA to continue starting on regular rest, acknowledging the struggles on the mound, but manager John Schneider and the Jays wanted him to continue throwing in the bullpen.
With the continued struggles, it might not be such a bad idea to get him out of the limelight of the MLB, especially since he is only being used in blowout game scenarios out of the pen. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen (maybe another neck strain IL stint) but right now, the left-hander is looking a bit lost and doesn’t seem to be turning a corner as the season wears on.