The Blue Jays seem to rotate members of their pitching staff like no one else in the league. This habit is helped by the fact that Alex Anthopoulos makes offseason waiver claims like they're going out of style, leading to a number of fringe relievers on the 40-man roster at all times of the year. Whenever a player is reported to have been sent down from the major league squad, it becomes a guessing game on which pitcher will be brought up to fill his place. With yesterday's demotions of Ryan Tepera, Phil Coke, and Scott Copeland, it would have been easier to guess the lottery numbers correctly than predict the three players that would be coming up to take the spots of the hurlers sent down to Buffalo.
While many fans know the potential options off by heart, there's more than a few people who can't tell Colt Hynes and Ryan Tepera apart. For help in that regard, below is a beginner's guide to the bullpen carousel that the Blue Jays are operating.
On the 40-man roster
Starting with pitchers currently on the active roster for the Blue Jays, Bo Schultz came to the team via waivers (shock and awe!) and pitched well to start the season in Triple-A Buffalo. He came up at the end of May and has appeared in just five games pitching to an ERA of 1.74 thanks in part to a .167 BABIP. The righty throws hard....and...hmmm....he throws hard. He'll probably remain in his role with the Jays bullpen until the inevitable implosion gets him sent down to Buffalo to ride the carousel once again. Call up when you need someone who throws hard around the strike zone.
Apparently the Blue Jays want three left-handed relievers these days, as Rasmussen replaced Phil Coke today to keep the number of southpaws constant. Most people will remember Rasmussen from his 10 appearances with the team last year where he pitched okay despite walking 14% of the batters he faced. The 26-year-old has once again pitched pretty solid with Buffalo this year, even if he's still walking way too many batters (11.5%). The lefty is also probably one or two bad outings away from not getting a sniff of the majors again this season. Call up when you need a lefty who can strike hitters out.
Every Blue Jays fan should know Todd Redmond by now. The 30-year-old is called up seemingly once a month and in the past two seasons he's actually performed fairly well. This season though, the righty was hit hard in a few appearances in April and then had an okay start against the Angels. After that start he was DFA'd and will have to be added back to the 40-man when he comes up today. He hasn't been great in Buffalo either...but that's Todd Redmond I suppose. Call up when you need someone to eat innings big time NOMNOMNOM.
Coke was on the roster for a lot of June and only made it into two games thanks to a poorly used eight-man bullpen. The lefty came over from the Cubs and wasn't even that bad in his 2.2 innings, but the Jays need arms after yesterday's game and the southpaw was one of the casualties. Call up when you need someone to warm the bullpen bench who happens to put the glove on his right hand.
It took a while for Copeland to finally make his major league debut, but in five appearances with the Blue Jays he wasn't too bad. After a few solid relief appearances, the 27-year-old was put in the rotation and did pretty well up until his third start yesterday. He's always around the plate and can shut some teams down if he has the BABIP gods on his side. I was at his first career start against Miami and I left the game thinking he might actually be capable of holding down the fifth rotation spot for a bit. Yesterday's implosion along with the chance to skip his start this week means he can be optioned for at least 10 days and can come back up in either a starting or relief role. Call up when you need a versatile pitcher who can throw strikes and gives you a chance to win.
Ryan Tepera, whose actual first name is Dennis, waited just as long as Copeland to make his major league debut and was also sent down yesterday. Unlike all of the waiver claims on the carousel, Tepera was drafted by the Jays in 2009 and made his way up the minor league system before finally getting the call in May. He was used more than guys like Schulz and Coke and pitched quite well. Another guy who throws hard, Tepera only allowed runs in three of his twelve appearances and surrendered a single walk. The righty didn't deserve to get demoted and was another casualty of the need for fresh arms. He should be back in less than two weeks I imagine. Call up when you need a reliever who might actually be good...
Hynes was up for a bit this season and was solid enough in his short time with the team. Another lefty, Hynes will likely be up again when all of the other southpaws have exhausted their chances. Call up when you need a third lefty who isn't named Coke or Rasmussen.
The 20-year-old that many people expected to survive longer in the big league bullpen than his friend Roberto Osuna, Castro was given way too much responsibility and blew it. After being handed the closer's role in his first month as a major league player, the lanky righty blew one too many saves and couldn't recover any of the confidence he had to start the year. He probably could have stayed with the team in a lower leverage role but he was shipped to Buffalo where he came across some injury issues while being stretched out as a starter and hasn't done a whole lot since. Call up when you want some unpredictability in your life.
Norris was handed a rotation spot to begin the year and was another one of the rookies who the Blue Jays sent down mighty quickly after some early struggles. The lefty returned to Buffalo and has pitched well in nine starts, although he is still struggling with control issues. The Jays can't keep him in Triple-A much longer if they keep burning through all of their other options so we should see Norris soon enough. If Aaron Sanchez has his injury struggles persist, then Norris could be up as soon as next week. Call up when you're willing to let a young starter face a few struggles at the big league level.
Chad Jenkins is similar to Todd Redmond in the fact that even most casual Jays fans know his name. Another player drafted by Toronto, the righty Jenkins was solid with the team in 2013 and 2014 but was only given one appearance with the big league squad this year. He's pitched well enough in Buffalo to warrant another chance and it's strange that he hasn't been given it yet, although apparently his stuff is not as sharp as it was last year. Call up when you need a dependable righty with a track record to pitch in the middle innings.
Not on the 40-man roster
Albers has been stretched out as a starter in Buffalo since being outrighted but could always be added to the 40-man to provide some bullpen help if needed. He's a lefty with the added disadvantage of not being on the roster, so it seems likely that the Pan Am Games will be the most important part of the remainder of his season. Call up when you need a third lefty who isn't named Coke, or Rasmussen, or Hynes.
A legit prospect who has the chance to come up to Toronto and make an impact, Boyd is beginning to adjust to Triple-A after his recent call up from New Hampshire. The 2013 draftee will likely be added to the 40-man sometime this summer if the Jays bullpen issues continue and he could slot into a high leverage role as a lefty pretty quickly, especially if Aaron Loup continues to struggle. Call up when he's succeeded at the Triple-A level.
The Double-A New Hampshire closer in 2014, Infante has continued to pitch well in Buffalo this season despite walking a fair number of batters. He's behind a lot of guys on the depth chart but eventually he'll be given his chance to show what he's got if he continues his fine form. Call up in September.
The current Bisons closer in Korecky is another guy like Infante who is pitching well, but faces a tough road to the majors thanks to not being on the 40-man roster. Another possibility later in the year. Call up if the need arises.
That's quite the exhaustive list of guys riding around and around on the Blue Jays bullpen carousel with the chance that their name could be pulled out of the hat when a reliever is needed. Obviously there are players who are just filler like Schultz and Redmond, while there are also pitchers who are on the verge of legitimately contributing like Norris and Boyd. It's only a matter of time before every single guy is given a chance to put a few outings together and stick with the team for more than a few weeks. Right now there's three bullpen spots up for grabs and a list a mile long of guys willing to fight for them. Who would you like to see jump off the carousel next?