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Whit Merrifield joins short list of Blue Jays pitchers to have worn a single digit

Merrifield becomes the 17th player wearing a single digit number to pitch for Toronto.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Whit Merrifield (1) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning at Rogers Centre. 
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A couple years ago after the Blue Jays signed Shun Yamaguchi (#1), I wrote a piece about Toronto pitchers who have worn just a single digit on their backs, the majority of whom were position players pitching. There have been some additions since then, notably yesterday’s reliever Whit Merrifield (#1) and today’s starting pitcher Alek Manoah (#6). The last time two single-digit pitchers pitched on back-to-back days for the Blue Jays was in July 2019, when Clayton Richard (#2) pitched on the 13th and Marcus Stroman (#6) on the 14th.


None. Taijuan Walker wore #00 when he pitched for the Blue Jays, but that’s a two-digit number.


Bob Bailor (3 games, 1980). In August 1980, Bailor pitched in three blowout games in a 13-day period. He had never pitched professionally before and would never do so again.

Infielder-outfielder Bob Bailor makes his first appearance at Exhibition Stadium as a relief pitcher for Toronto Blue Jays.
Bob Bailor
Photo by Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Whit Merrifield (1 game, 2022). Yesterday, Merrifield tossed an inning of mop-up work in a blowout against the Angels in Toronto. He had previously pitched an inning for the double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, recording a save in an extra innings game on June 16, 2013.

Whit Merrifield giving up a home run to Jo Adell. screencap

Shun Yamaguchi (17 games, 2020) was a free agent from Japan who was terrible for the Blue Jays and only pitched that single season in MLB, finishing with an 8.06 ERA.

Sep 1, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Shun Yamaguchi (1) delivers a pitch in the 6th inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


Clayton Richard (10 games, 2019). After wearing #3 with the San Diego Padres, Richard switched to #2 when he was traded to the Blue Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Clayton Richard (2) throws a pitch during the baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images




Kyle Drabek (39 games, 2010-2014). Drabek, a first-round pick who headlined the return for Roy Halladay, never lived up to his potential in Toronto.

Kyle Drabek pitches in a Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays game. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Frank Menechino (1 games, 2004) Menechino was the final pitcher for the Blue Jays in an 18-6 blowout loss to the Yankees on August 28, 2004.

Screencap via sglamantia on YouTube


Santiago Espinal (2 games, 2020). Espinal pitched twice against New York in the span of a week in September 2020, against the Mets on the 11th and the Yankees on the 15th. Espinal was named an All-Star in 2022.

 Santiago Espinal #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 15, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 20-6. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Craig Kusick (1 game, 1979). Kusick was brought into pitch in the sixth inning of a game in which the Blue Jays were losing 22-2 to the Angels. The game ended 24-2 and Kusick even recorded two 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and ninth.

Craig Kusick pitches for the Blue Jays Erin Combs / Toronto Star


Alek Manoah (44 games, 2021-2022). Drafted in the first round in 2019, Manoah made just nine minor league starts before his callup to the major leagues. Manoah was named as an All-Star in 2022.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Jeff Mathis (2 games, 2012). Mathis pitched against the Rangers in May and Athletics in July in blowout games. He threw 21 pitches in both games.

Jeff Mathis #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch Brad White/Getty Images
MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Stroman (109 regular season games* and 5 postseason games, 2015-2019). Making his major league debut with the Blue Jays in 2014 wearing #54, Stroman switched to #6 in 2015 in memory of his late grandmother who was born on March 6, 1943. He was named an All-Star in 2019. (*Only counting the games wearing #6)


Josh Towers (108 games, 2003-2007). Dave Berg (#2) once told reporters that he didn’t care about what number he wore, as long as pitchers—like his teammate Towers—don’t wear a single digit on their back.

 Pitcher Josh Towers #7 of the Toronto Blue Jays checks the runner at first  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Toronto Blue Jays infielder Richard Urena (7) throws a pitch. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Richard Ureña (1 game, 2019). Ureña was brought into a blowout at Dodger Stadium in August 2019 to pitch the eighth inning of a game in which the Blue Jays used seven pitchers, none of whom got more than five outs.


Kendrys Morales (1 game, 2018). After pitching for the Blue Jays against the Athletics in 2018, Morales pitched for the Athletics against the Blue Jays last season. Searching all position players who pitched after 1950, I found that Morales was the first position player (since 1950) to pitch for team X against team Y, then pitch for team Y against team X. Later in 2019, Mathis pitched for the Rangers against the Blue Jays, becoming the second position player to complete that feat.


Rick Leach (1 game, 1984). Leach threw in his only major league inning in August 1984 in a 16-1 blowout in Cleveland. He was the University of Michigan’s starting quarterback from 1975 to 1978 before switching to baseball.

Cliff Pennington (1 posteseason game, 2015). Pennington (in)famously became the first position player to pitch in a major league posteason game in 2015 when the Royals were blowing out the Blue Jays 14-2 in the ALCS.

 Cliff Pennington #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals during game four of the American League Championship Series Harry How/Getty Images

Bonus Fun Fact

Earlier this week, the Red Sox’s Reese McGuire (#3) pitched against the Blue Jays. Other than “real” pitcher David Wells, every Boston Red Sox player who has pitched wearing #3 did so in the month of August, three in the past three years and one 83 years ago: