The Blue Jays bullpen has taken quite the hit this week. First it was Ryan Tepera and John Axford being shutdown on account of elbow pain. Then newcomer Bud Norris was scratched after he experienced some discomfort playing catch prior to yesterday’s game against the Phillies.
In the space of a few days, Toronto lost nearly half of what their Opening Day bullpen was expected to be. Throw David Phelps into the mix, who’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and that’s four of Toronto’s top relievers out with injury before the season has even begun.
Last year, when Toronto’s starting rotation struggled (especially early on), the bullpen was called upon far too often in an effort to pick up the slack. It was a burden they carried admirably into mid-May before such a taxing workload began to take away from their effectiveness. Although Toronto’s rotation is looking both strong and healthy so far this spring, do the Blue Jays risk heading into the regular season with a bullpen that includes 4-5 pitchers who probably would have started the year in the minors if not for this rash of injuries?
Had these injuries happened a few weeks ago, Toronto could have signed one of the few remaining decent free agent relievers (e.g. Adam Warren). But with just one week until their first game of the season, it’s now slim pickings with respect to free agent relievers.
These injuries only magnify the loss of Travis Bergen in the Rule-5 draft last December. After his stellar 2018, he was a no-brainer to be protected and added to Toronto’s 40-man roster. Alas, the Blue Jays, for whatever reason chose not to add him to the 40-man, and he was quickly scooped up by San Francisco. So far this spring, Bergen has pitched 9.2 innings, struck out 11, and surrendered zero runs.
Before the start of the week, the Blue Jays bullpen appeared to be one of their greatest strengths. Unfortunately, after losing three of their top relievers, one has to wonder if Toronto has the depth to adequately replace such key late-inning power pitchers.