The third week of the 2010 schedule was an up-and-down affair for the Blue Jays. They had their first taste of tough AL East competition with a three game set in Tampa, and finished the week with a 3-3 record. But shoddy bullpen work played a part in all three losses, leaving a black mark on what could have been a stellar week. Starting pitching continues to be a strong spot for Toronto, but poor hitting is putting heavy pressure on the bullpen, which, aside from Kevin Gregg, is crumbling.
Here are the three top stories coming out of week three:
1. Hard Luck Romero
Through four starts Ricky Romero possesses All Star credentials: 1-1, 1.80 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 25 K’s in 30 innings pitched. Too bad he can’t hit. Romero, in his second full season, has developed Roy Halladay-itis – a condition where a starting pitcher continually has his efforts wasted because his team can not score runs. Last season Halladay made 14 of his final 18 starts against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, threw about eight innings per start with a 2.98 ERA and five times as many strikeouts as walks yet finished with a 7-9 record (SI – April 5, 2010). Toronto simply couldn’t score for him. The same is happening to Romero. In his four starts the Jays have only managed to plate 10 runs – four of them after he was pulled:
Apr. 8 at Texas – 7 IP, 1 ER, left trailing 1-0 (Jays won 3-1)
Apr. 13 vs. Chicago – 8 IP, 2 ER, left with a 4-2 lead (Jays won 4-2)
Apr. 18 vs. Anaheim – 8 IP, 1 ER, left trailing 1-0 (Jays lost 3-1)
Apr. 24 at Tampa Bay – 7 IP, 2 ER, left with a 3-2 lead (Jays lost 9-3)
Hopefully this will not be a season long epidemic.
2. Bullpen Woes
9.35, 5.63, 6.43, 7.94, 20.25. Those are the ghastly ERA’s of five of Toronto’s seven bullpen pitchers (Jason Frasor, Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, Jeremy Accardo, and Merkin Valdez respectively). For a team that was supposed to find strength in its bullpen, 2010 has quickly become a nightmare. Only Shawn Camp and Kevin Gregg have proven to be reliable options for Cito Gaston early on, something that must change for the Jays to stay close to the .500 mark. The good news is that most of these pitchers have tasted success at the major league level in the past, so it’s possible they haven’t rounded into form yet. The struggles are definitely not due to overwork, as Toronto’s bullpen has only thrown 49.1 innings all season, an average of 2.6 per game. web archive The starters are holding up their end of the bargain – it’s time for the relievers to do the same.
3. Molina’s Gun
When the Jays signed Jose Molina before the season began, it was obvious they were signing him for his defensive capabilities, not his offensive production. The catcher is a career .235 hitter with only 20 home runs in 560 games, but is excellent behind the plate. His ability to call a solid game for the pitcher, and to keep poorly pitched balls in front of him, quickly made him a favourite of former Jay A.J. Burnett last year. The Blue Jays were counting on his presence to keep their young pitchers calm and settled on the mound, especially with runners on base. Even better, he has the ability to eliminate runners on base with his arm. apache web server . Yesterday Molina set a Blue Jays record by throwing out four would-be base stealers in Tampa Bay, a feat not accomplished in the majors since 2002. Nothing settles a pitchers nerves more than a catcher who can rescue them, and Molina is making a name for himself by doing just that.