Opening Day roster spot or not, Ricky Tiedemann is right on the cusp of stardom

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

What a roller coaster ride it has been for Blue Jays super-prospect Ricky Tiedemann this spring training. If your stomach is turning and your legs feel weak, well, strap yourself in a little tighter, because the ride is just beginning.

It started when Tiedemann strolled into camp having added some 19 pounds of muscle to his already substantial frame in the offseason – a 6-foot-4, 240 pound “Hercules,” called him; a left-handed Roger Clemens, others dreamed.

Then came the injury, leg inflammation which delayed Tiedemann’s spring training debut. Not again, was the refrain heard across a nation. Thus far in his career, Tiedemann’s only kryptonite has been durability.

Just last year, Tiedemann dramatically climbed all the way from Rookie ball to Triple-A while striking out nearly two batters per inning, before moving on to the Arizona Fall League and winning the award as its best pitcher. And yet, thanks to lingering shoulder and biceps issues, he only managed 44 minor league innings the entire season, and another 18 in the AFL.

To show up to 2024 spring training looking like a Greek god and then immediately get injured caused the more negatively inclined to begin to put the pieces together – the massive hype, the durability issues; was this another Nate Pearson? Fortunately, the inflammation was nothing serious, and Tiedemann returned to the mound in early March, eventually putting in three eagerly awaited Spring Training starts.

In the first two of these starts, Tiedemann was … okay. Yes, he sat in the high-90s with his fastball, and effortlessly snapped off sharp sliders and Bugs Bunny changeups, but at the same time, he displayed the type of inconsistency that might be expected in a 21-year-old, ultimately allowing three runs on five hits over 3.2 innings.

In most cases, moments of brilliance sandwiched around inconsistency would be nothing to write home about for an up-and-coming prospect, and certainly not a point of concern. But such is the hype around Tiedemann that his performances felt less than satisfying.

Take his spring training home debut, where the line to get into TD Ballpark stretched around the block a full two hours before gametime, a cavalcade of Blue Jays backers stationed in anticipation of a masterpiece. By the time Tiedemann took to the mound for his warmup pitches in the top of the first, near every seat was filled, or maybe half filled, since most fans were only using the edge.

What they saw, however, was not a masterpiece, nor a disaster, but rather, a guy trying to make the jump from minor league prospect to big league performer. The electric stuff was obvious, regularly eliciting ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the crowd, but under the surface, something indefinable yet unmistakable was missing. It was the wrong pitch at the wrong time, the dreaded ‘trying to do too much,’ a young pitcher losing focus for just a split second. The end result – two earned runs on three hits and a walk over 2.1 innings. Okay.

But if something was missing in Tiedemann’s first two starts, it appeared in full force in his final spring appearance. For three innings, Tiedemann destroyed a major league caliber Pirates lineup, allowing no runs on zero hits and striking out five, including blowing away Andrew McCutchen with a 98mph fastball, and making Rowdy Tellez look ridiculous on a video game slider.

While he would run out of steam in the fourth after 50 pitches, allowing a solo home run and a walk to the first two batters before being pulled from the game, the start showed Tiedemann at full supernova, not just getting big league hitters out, but dominating them.

In fact, his performance was so good, that afterwards, manager John Schneider proclaimed Tiedemann was firmly “in the mix” to begin the season in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, should Kevin Gausman need to miss time.

Whether this actually ends up taking place, or Tiedemann does not appear with the Jays until later in the season, the fact is that it won’t be long now. Yes, there will almost certainly be ups and downs, a long road leading somewhere between a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and a lump of coal in a stocking. But what Tiedemann has shown is that it’s in there.

Buckle up, the Ricky Tiedemann era is upon us.

Can Tiedemann move from blue chip prospect to Major League difference maker in 2024? Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFIeldDeep.