SEATTLE – The Toronto Blue Jays got away with it Thursday, this making things up on the fly in the starting rotation that’s been going on for a couple of weeks now, and they can thank a scrap-heap righty airlifted out of the Pacific Coast League for that.
Mike Hauschild, owner of a 4.88 ERA and 1.546 WHIP over 19 starts in the triple-A loop, was certainly an unlikely candidate to become the first Blue Jays pitcher to throw six consecutive innings without allowing a run since Marcus Stroman on July 21. But there the 28-year-old was at Safeco Field, mere hours after passing a physical to finalize his contract, stymying the Seattle Mariners, much to the delight of the sizeable hoser contingent among the crowd of 26,110.
Six innings. Four hits. No runs. A walk. Five strikeouts. By a guy who pitched in four games for the Texas Rangers last year, getting clubbed in each. All in relief of Tyler Clippard, who made 680 relief appearances between big-league starts, establishing a new record.
Baseball is crazy.
“It is pretty crazy, it kind of feels like a dream based off my last week,” said Hauschild, just the hero the Blue Jays needed. “A couple days ago I was waiting to see which team I was going to be playing for. Now I’m in the big-leagues. Just a whirlwind of emotions going through.”
Feel-good story aside, this approach isn’t sustainable for the Blue Jays, who beat the Mariners 7-3 on their third bullpen day in the past 10 games
If taking this tact was part of a structured approach with a bullpen built to absorb the workload and not be tattered in the ensuing days, that would be one thing. But the Blue Jays were scrambling to find a warm body all Wednesday while praying that Marcus Stroman would go reasonably deep in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics. They’re lucky he went five.
The Blue Jays needed Hauschild, or someone like him, because in recent weeks they’ve traded J.A. Happ, lost Aaron Sanchez to injury and had emergency depth options like Chris Rowley and Deck McGuire claimed on waivers. Nick Tepesch, whom you may remember from bad stop-gap outings last year, got lit up with triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday while Thomas Pannone, a pitcher expected to see time with the Blue Jays this season, pitched Monday and was unavailable.
However, there still was one logical in-house option in Sean Reid-Foley, the big-armed righty who’s made tremendous progress this year. He pitched Wednesday and could have been held back and flown to Seattle.
There’s a strong case to be made for taking a look at him and starting his service-time clock, especially since he needs to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season anyway. He’s pitched well all season, and ended up throwing 6.1 innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts against Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, so why not gauge his progress ahead of the off-season?
Now, it’s entirely possible the Blue Jays have some developmental concerns that would preclude the 22-year-old Reid-Foley from getting the ball. GM Ross Atkins didn’t reply to a text message seeking comment on the potential downside of starting him.
Either way, to salvage something from the wasteland of the final two months in this lost season, the Blue Jays need to start getting a handle on which of their young players have a chance to factor in for 2019.
Taxing the relief corps with regular bullpen days will have long-term repercussions, if not this season then next, while giving opportunities to stop-gap arms from other organizations can be demoralizing to those grinding away in the system.
None of that is healthy.
At least Thursday, none of that mattered. Hauschild rescued a pitching staff in need of a lift and earned his first big-league win when Kendrys Morales hit a go-ahead two-run shot in the seventh inning. After Nelson Cruz’s second homer of the day in the eighth pulled the Mariners within one at 4-3, a Kyle Seager throwing error in the ninth allowed one run to score while a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer opened things up.
“It’s a tremendous story,” manager John Gibbons said of Hauschild. “You know the odds of him being here weren’t real good anyway. The way it all laid out, sometimes things are meant to be. I thought he did a tremendous job. He threw strikes, he threw everything at any time, which is the key to pitching in the big-leagues. He looked like he belonged. He looked confident and comfortable out there, and gave us a shot in the arm because we were pretty depleted down in the bullpen. You’re happy for the guy.”
Against the odds, the Blue Jays enjoyed a good day, in a fashion that’s unsustainable.