There haven’t been a lot of bright, shining moments to point to for the Toronto Blue Jays over the past couple of months, but Chad Jenkins provided one Sunday afternoon, despite the fact his teammates didn’t score any runs, and therefore couldn’t avoid being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Jays’ first-round pick in 2009, Stephen Chadwick Jenkins — or @jenknutz on The Twitter — was a rising star in their minor-league system going into this season, and the Jays hoped that at some point this year he’d be able to come up and contribute to the big-league team. However, Jenkins stumbled badly in a return trip to double-A New Hampshire and would have pitched himself out of the Blue Jays’ plans for this season if not for the complete and utter carnage that befell the big club’s pitching staff.
Jenkins came up to be used as a long man out of the bullpen because the Jays were dying for innings, and made an immediate strong impression, throwing three shutout innings in his major-league debut, then being perfect over his next four outings.
The Blue Jays said they were going to try to get him a start or two before the season ended, and when Mother Nature made sure that the Jays would play a pair of double-headers over the final 15 days of the season — with no days off — Jenkins was the easy choice to slip into the rotation.
Sunday afternoon, he took the mound to start a game for the first time as a major-leaguer, and though the butterflies were evident off the top, he settled down and was tremendous.
Jenkins gave up a rocket to deep right-centre to the leadoff man, Desmond Jennings, but Colby Rasmus chased it down, ramming into the wall so hard that he actually broke it, and then B.J. Upton took Jenkins deep to left field, a massive no-doubter that gave the Rays what turned out to be the only run they would need. After a walk and a strikeout, Luke Scott hit a shot to the wall in centre, but Rasmus hauled that in as well.
So in the first inning of Jenkins’ first big-league start, he gave up three really, really hard hit balls and walked a guy — those would be the butterflies — but he came out of it having given up only one run.
Over the rest of his outing, just five innings in total because he hadn’t been stretched out outside a 60-pitch simulated game in Florida earlier this week, Jenkins was dominant. He allowed only one more hit, a slice-job double down the left-field line by Matt Joyce in the fifth, struck out three without issuing a walk and gave up a bunch of grounders and lazy fly balls, the only exception being a line drive to right by Joyce that Brett Lawrie dove for and snared while playing the shift.
Jenkins will get another start, against the Yankees on Friday night, and he may also be on the mound for the season finale against the Twins. Two more terrific starts won’t put him into the conversation for a spot in the rotation to begin next season — those will likely belong to Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Henderson Alvarez or J.A. Happ and two established pitchers who will be acquired over the winter via trade or free agency — but it’ll certainly send the Blue Jays into the off-season both feeling a little bit better about their minor-league pitching depth and a lot better about Jenkins’ chances to be a big-league contributor.
Even though the odds suggest there’s no chance we’ll see the need for as many pitchers in the majors next year as we did this year, there’s a very good chance that help will be needed at some point next year, and it’s likely that Jenkins will be able to give the Blue Jays more than an Aaron Laffey or whatever Jesse Chavez-type minor-league free agent they wind up signing over the winter.
Thank you all so much for doing such a great job of voting for Tom Cheek in the first round of fan balloting for the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence. Tom has advanced to the second round, which cuts the remaining group of 41 down to just three. We have to keep voting — once a day, every day, until voting closes at 5:00 p.m. ET on Oct. 5 — to make sure those who elect the Frick winner are well aware of just how much Tom deserves to be honoured in Cooperstown among other broadcasting legends, how much he continues to mean to Blue Jays fans all across the world, and how important his contributions were to baseball fandom across this country.
So please, be even more diligent than you were before and make sure to go to www.facebook.com/baseballhall, then click on ’13 Frick Voting and cast your vote for Tom. He’s on the first page now, so it’s even easier! You can vote once every 24 hours, so please do so as often as you can. For more reminders, follow @VoteTomCheek on Twitter and like the “Send Tom Cheek To Cooperstown” page on Facebook. Thank you, you’re doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful man.