Blue Jays may have the tools to use a Bullpen Day

Jul 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher David Phelps (35) pitches during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher David Phelps (35) pitches during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays are hoping Mitch White can effectively fill their fifth starter’s role this week, but if he can’t they may have the tools to use a bullpen day for the handful of turns left in the season for that rotation spot.

Don’t get me wrong, the ideal scenario would see White or anyone else coming through and being able to give John Schneider and the Jays a solid five innings or more every time out. However, White has struggled recently, and unfortunately the Blue Jays don’t really have a rotation replacement readily available. That’s the reason I’m going to throw a bullpen game scenario out there today. For what it’s worth, I’m not really a fan of using it unless it’s necessary, but the Blue Jays might be there at this late stage of the 2022 campaign.

In a perfect world the Blue Jays would be able to carry all of their useful relievers, but right now they actually have some pretty decent depth in that area of the roster. I’m honestly a little surprised that it’s come to that after their mid-season struggles, but giving credit where it’s due, the bullpen has even been a strength recently.

With that in mind, for my plan to work the Blue Jays would have to send Zach Pop back to Triple-A, when in reality I’d rather build him into the game plan. Instead, I’d start the game just as the Jays did against the Rangers on Sunday, even if it was one of the only recent outings for Trevor Richards when he wasn’t very effective. Given the way he’s pitched in the second half, I’m handing him the ball in the first inning.

From there you’re likely going to play the match-ups that make the most sense, but I’ll still make a general roadmap here, and after Richards I’m turning to the wildly inconsistent Yusei Kikuchi and hoping that I can get a couple innings out of him. When he has command of his fastball, which admittedly isn’t all that often, Kikuchi can still be an effective weapon out of the bullpen. The reason I’m slotting him in so early though is because he has a tendency to have days where things can go sideways in a hurry. Using him early allows for the Blue Jays to have plenty of innings left to score some makeup runs, should the need arise.

Assuming you can get one inning from Richards and two from Kikuchi, from there the next man up for me would be David Phelps. The veteran right-hander has been particularly good at putting out fires in the middle of an inning with inherited runners, so having him follow Kikuchi makes sense to me. If Kikuchi wasn’t able to get through two innings, Phelps has also proven to be more than capable of a multi-inning outing.

After Phelps is when I get to the point where a bunch of you will likely scoff at me, but I’d have Nate Pearson waiting in the wings. I know, I know, he’s perpetually injured and we haven’t even seen him at the big league level this year. However, he’s back healthy and pitching in Triple-A these days, and even hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun again. I’m not ready to count on him as a high-leverage reliever as the Blue Jays head into the playoffs, but a mid-inning arm during a bullpen day? I’d sign up for that. And if Pearson can’t make it back to the big leagues in 2022, this role goes to Zach Pop.

I’m hoping at this point that we’re through at least five innings, and maybe even six if each pitcher can have an effective outing. A lot could shift depending on the score, and whether the high leverage relievers are going to be needed, but this seems like a good spot to bring in someone like Adam Cimber as a different look from Pearson, and then maybe follow up with Julian Merryweather, breaking up the two similar hard-throwing righties. Granted, depending on how the opposing team’s lineup is shaping up at that point in the game, the reverse could be the better play.

Realistically, if the Blue Jays can get to the 7th inning, then from there they should be able to finish the game with some combination of Cimber, Tim Mayza, Anthony Bass, Yimi Garcia, and Jordan Romano. That group could really start to factor in whenever Schneider and the coaching staff decide it makes sense, but the deeper into the game before they have to go there the better.

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As I said earlier, I’m not the biggest fan of the concept, but it might be worth exploring for the Blue Jays as they navigate the last 22 games of the regular season. Realistically they may only need to worry about that spot in the rotation four more times, and with the recent success and depth in the bullpen, it might be a safer idea than hoping White or someone else can give you something close to a quality start. At this late stage of the season, it’s worth considering on a more permanent basis if you ask me.