TORONTO – Baseball America released its latest organizational talent rankings Wednesday and the Toronto Blue Jays are now listed at No. 3, up from No. 7, in the influential third-party evaluations. The blue-chip power combo of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette are driving the bus on that front, but BA noted in its evaluation that their system has “impressive depth as well, with big leaps forward from Kevin Smith, Cavan Biggio and Sean Reid-Foley.”
Certainly the time has come to show off some of that depth, particularly when it comes to Reid-Foley, after the Mike Hauschild experience followed its natural course in a 10-5 drubbing from the Boston Red Sox. The right-hander, signed in a frenzied scramble to find an arm to pitch last Thursday in Seattle, was unable to replicate his six-shutout-inning magic at Safeco Field, lasting only seven outs while allowing four runs on three hits, three walks and a hit batsman.
The Blue Jays could give him another start next Monday at Kansas City against the dreadful Royals, but what’s the point? The plan when he signed was for him to report to triple-A Buffalo where arms are needed to backfill the organizational machinations in recent weeks, and he ended up getting thrust to the majors, where he earned himself a first career big-league start.
A second outing from Hauschild was like found money for a team struggling to cover innings and a gap in the rotation remains with Aaron Sanchez due to pitch in a rehab game Thursday and likely to need a couple more outings after that before he returns.
“With how unexpected it was there’s not too much to think about,” Hauschild said of how he’s approaching this opportunity with the Blue Jays. “I’m not pretending like this is just extra days in the big-leagues for me, I’m just out here trying to pitch, enjoying baseball.”
Hauschild may very well be able to contain the Royals next week, but the next time up for that spot in the rotation is the Friday series opener at Yankee Stadium.
There’s no sense in grinding through another five-reliever slop-fest the way they did against the Red Sox, when a two-run shot from Teoscar Hernandez in the sixth and three-run drive from Randal Grichuk in the seventh were too little too late.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said manager John Gibbons. “I give the guy credit, he had a good one the last time and today didn’t get out of control by any means. … He’s a grinder, one of those guys that’s paid his dues and he got an incredible break. We’ll see where it goes.”
A very fair and defensible argument can be made that starting Reid-Foley, or any other rookie, against the Red Sox is like throwing a blood-covered fish into a shark tank, and counter-productive to his development.
But certainly debuting against the Royals, at spacious Kauffman Stadium, with lots of advance notice, is about as ideal as it gets. A follow-up at Yankee Stadium is far from ideal, but starts against the big boys are part of life in the American League East, and the Blue Jays are almost out of Hauschild-like depth options after losing both Deck McGuire and Chris Rowley on waivers, and trading Nick Tepesch to Detroit for cash on Wednesday.
Brandon Cumpton, who pitched 1.2 innings of relief last week in Oakland, is back at Buffalo and could be an option. But beyond him, that would seem to leave Reid-Foley, left-hander Thomas Pannone and newly acquired righty Jacob Waguespack – who allowed only an unearned run in 5.1 innings of four-hit ball with six strikeouts for Buffalo against Gwinnett – as the next men up.
After getting Waguespack from the Philadelphia Phillies for Aaron Loup just before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, GM Ross Atkins said the 24-year-old’s path to the majors would be “dictated by performance and opportunity.”
There’s no doubt about the opportunity end of it, and the Blue Jays simply don’t have a bullpen capable of covering up for an insufficient rotation and that group has been asked to cover three full games plus make up for a handful of short outings from the starters.
Four of the five relievers that followed Hauschild allowed runs, Jaime Garcia finally delivering a clean ninth inning. By then it was too late.
“Those kinds of games when the starter comes out early, you know they’re going to be difficult and you’re going to have to swing it. We hung around, we just couldn’t get that big shutdown inning,” said Gibbons, adding later: “It definitely gets your bullpen for that following night. For the most part we’ve been able to hold that together, somebody steps up and those guys can catch their breath a little bit. That’s who it usually affects.
“As far as the team, they understand the circumstances.”
The Blue Jays needed a shutdown inning after Grichuk’s mammoth homer made it an 8-5 game in the seventh, but Joe Biagini promptly surrendered an ugly two-spot in the top of the eighth.
Such moments make these days doubly demoralizing for a lineup showing admirable determination under the circumstances.
“It’s tough, honestly,” Grichuk said of all the bullpen days of late. “It makes the game go by slower, pitching changes and just being out there longer. But it’s the situation we’re in. Everyone is going to give it their all and try to win a ballgame regardless of what the situation is, and give it their best in their role.”
The Blue Jays are largely doing just that, and they deserve the best available roster for the fight.