Blue Jays hope latest call-up Taylor Cole can help beleaguered bullpen

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, left, and pitching coach Pete Walker. (Nathan Denette/CP)

HOUSTON – Taylor Cole was watching TV around midnight Friday, when Bobby Meacham called with some good news. The manager of the triple-A Buffalo Bisons told Cole that the Toronto Blue Jays were calling him up for his big-league debut.

Getting there, however, would require some coordination. First, Cole stayed up all night to ensure he could make his 6:15 a.m. flight from Buffalo. His day started smoothly enough, and he made it to Detroit, his first stop, but he read his boarding pass wrong and thought he had less time than he did. Intent on making his connecting flight, he sprinted through the Detroit airport only to arrive with plenty of time to spare.

Sleep deprived but elated, he joined the beleaguered Blue Jays bullpen at Minute Maid Park Saturday afternoon.

"It’s just a surreal feeling," Cole said. "I’m just running on adrenaline at this point."

He’ll rest later. For now, he’s enjoying his first taste of the big-leagues.

"Absolutely," he said. "I’ll take this all day long."

Cole has been recovering from a torn labrum, so he didn’t make his 2017 debut until July 5. After three games in the Gulf Coast League and two more in the Florida State League, he advanced to Buffalo, where he pitched four times before his promotion. All told, the 27-year-old has pitched 12.2 scoreless innings this year with 16 strikeouts compared to two walks and six hits.

Cole has been feeling good physically since returning to action, and credits stem cell injections he received to help his ailing shoulder.

"I’m good to go," he said. "I’m feeling really strong."

A starter for most of his professional career, Cole could be called on to pitch multiple innings at a time, especially considering that the Blue Jays needed five relievers in Friday’s 16-7 loss.

"We probably need him to be a multi-inning guy," manager John Gibbons said. "He can do that."

The Blue Jays didn’t have an open 40-man roster spot so they designated Mike Bolsinger for assignment to create room for Cole, who has spent seven seasons in Toronto’s minor-league system since being selected 889th overall in 2011. Bolsinger allowed the first seven hitters he faced to reach base in Friday’s loss.

PROGRESS FOR TRAVIS

When Devon Travis first started taking ground balls at second base a few weeks ago, he was essentially stationary, careful not to over-exert his knee too soon after mid-season surgery. He’s now moving from side to side much more easily when he takes ground balls, and has ramped up his hitting to the point that he took batting practice on the field with his teammates Friday and Saturday.

At some point soon he’ll start running, but even now he’s making enough progress that a return later this season seems increasingly realistic. "He looks good," Gibbons said.

SANCHEZ THROWS

Aaron Sanchez threw off of flat ground in Houston Friday, and yet there’s no firm timeline for the right-hander’s next start. The Blue Jays do expect him back at some point this season.

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