Neil Wagner. Bo Schultz. Danny Barnes. Justin Shafer. Joel Payamps. Ever heard of these former Blue Jays?
These men make up what is known as the respectable “middle relief” profession. Relief pitchers who provide multiple innings of stability but also aren’t accustomed to shutting down offenses late in games.
An example of a middle reliever on this year’s Blue Jays team would be David Phelps. A pitcher capable of getting hitters out and bridging the gap between the starter and high leverage relievers like Yimi Garcia and Jordan Romano. These players are safety measures to use if needed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This is the classification in which Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Bryan Baker finds himself. Baker, a former Blue Jay, found himself in the middle of a benches-clearing incident last night. He was caught making hand gestures towards Toronto’s dugout, specifically Teoscar Hernández.
How does an MLB player of such noble occupation find it within his limits to ignite such a conflict? Who actually is Bryan Baker? What prompted him to make these gestures? Let’s break it down and attempt to come to a conclusion.
Who is Bryan Baker?
Baker was a draft choice of the Colorado Rockies during the 11th round of the 2016 draft. He was then shipped to the Blue Jays in 2018 as the PTBNL in the Seunghwan Oh trade. After that trade, he shot up the minor league ladder, dominating AAA last season in Buffalo before making his Major League debut and throwing an inning with the Blue Jays in 2021.
During the offseason, he was placed on waivers and scooped up by Baltimore. He’s spent the entire 2022 season in the Oriole’s pen, throwing 57.1 innings and amassing a 4.24 ERA. These run-of-the-mill stats provide the evidence needed to classify Baker as a middle reliever. Why on Earth would a pitcher of such little reputation pick a fight with a two-time Silver Slugger?
The trouble seemed to begin on Monday night when Teoscar Hernández homered off of Baker to break the tie game.
The tension began there, then continued to build after Hernández was forced into a double play by the right-hander last night. Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling caught up with the Blue Jays’ right fielder after the game, “When I hit the ground ball, he’s staring at me and saying, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ Like I don’t know what happened. And then he strikes out Chapman and he turned into our dugout and started talking and pointing at me, saying that I was talking too much. But I wasn’t talking, I wasn’t saying anything. And then he started walking and I just reacted.”
A conflict between Bryan Baker and the Blue Jays caused the dugouts to clear in last night’s game. Just who is Bryan Baker, and why beef with the Jays?
Baker appeared to be carrying his past failures into his current outing, which isn’t always a bad strategy. However, in an inning in which you still surrender a run in a close ball game, the potential to trash talk should go out the window. Baker has opened the door for the heavy-hitting Blue Jays to prey on his insecurities, and make a point by winning the series and dampening the Orioles’ playoff hopes.
The game was still close at this point and would be until the bottom of the eighth, where the Orioles would stretch the lead to 9-5. The Jays would chip and claw one run in the ninth, but still drop the third game 9-6.
With this newfound tension and energy, the Blue Jays come into Wednesday with a chance to win the four-game set against their rekindled rival. Alek Manoah takes the bump in what is sure to be one of the more emotion-filled starts of his young career. Aside from the reawakened bats and the clutch pitching, the theatrics are making the Blue Jays must-watch baseball.