Blue Jays News: New pitches, Schneider on the hot seat, Canadian baseball doc

Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis (44) warms up during
Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis (44) warms up during / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is officially back and the Toronto Blue Jays are eager to branch off of a successful 2023 season with an even further postseason push in 2024.

The Jays have had a relatively quiet offseason, but there are still some fresh new faces on-hand and there's plenty of news nuggets surrounding the team. We know that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alek Manoah have shown up to camp in incredible shape, but there are some other adjustments pitchers are making that have been shared with the public.

Let's recap some of the latest rumblings and news we're hearing.

Pitchers working on new pitches

Spring training is always the best time for pitchers to show off new additions to their arsenals. Sure, working on the offerings during the offseason is a good time to refine them, but getting some in-game action in with the new pitches is exactly what these players need to determine whether they're going to work or not.

Multiple Blue Jays pitchers are testing out new pitches. According to Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez, who hopped on the Blair & Barker show to discuss the club's pitching staff, Bowden Francis is working on adding a splitter to his repertoire. The right-hander has his eyes on a starting rotation gig long-term, so adding tools to his list of offerings is a smart move.

Last year, Francis primarily used a four-seam fastball, curveball and slider trio. Each pitch allowed a batting average under .200 and were each as strong as the next. Starting pitchers should typically have at least three pitches in their repertoire, so Francis adding a fourth is only going to increase his value, regardless of his role. Fortunately for Francis, Kevin Gausman, owner of the league's best splitter, is currently his teammate, so the lessons he could be learning should be invaluable.

Elsewhere on the staff, Alek Manoah is reportedly working on adding a cutter. Cutters are usually used by right-handed pitchers against left-handed batters, as they "cut" in towards the hitters. Manoah used a slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup quartet last season but saw a lot of his numbers inflated by rough starts. His changeup was one of his worst pitches last year, but it was also one he used frequently against lefties. If he can swap out the change for a strong cutter, the results may improve.

John Schneider on the hot seat

In a recent piece ran by The Athletic (subscription required), John Schneider was named as the top manager on the hot seat heading into 2024. Ex-MLB general manager Jim Bowden believes that expectations for the Blue Jays are at an all-time high this year and that the pressure is going to be on Schneider to (finally) deliver on all of that promise.

Schneider's 135-101 record since taking over as manager of the Blue Jays is a fine one. He's comfortably above .500 and has led the club to the postseason in both 2022 and 2023, although each resulted in a first-round exit. With rebounds from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alek Manoah and someone like George Springer, it's entirely possible that we ditch the whole "hot seat" conversation early on.

Bowden points out that come June, it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone like Don Mattingly managing the club if they don't come out of the gate firing on all cylinders this year.

Netflix to release Montreal Expos documentary

In a bit of Canadian news rather than Blue Jays-specific news, Netflix will be releasing a French-language documentary about the downfall of the Montreal Expos. This will be the first release since Netflix and Attraction, a production company out of Montreal, joined forces. As of right now, the documentary does not have an official title.

The Expos were around from 1969-2004 and have been sorely missed since the day they were removed from the league. With all of this talk about potential expansion, it's a good thing that this documentary is coming out now. Hopefully its release will spark some talks to bring the Expos back rather than exploring somewhere like Nashville or Charlotte.

Netflix will continue to bring sports films to its platform after experiencing significant success with series on NASCAR and Formula 1 as well as behind-the-scenes looks at NFL players in the show "Quarterback". Earlier this offseason, it was also announced that the Boston Red Sox would be receiving their own pair of shows, one centering around their 2024 season and one on their World Series-winning 2004 campaign.