Jays bullpen woes a blip or a trend?

Here’s the question the Toronto Blue Jays are surely mulling over today: When do their struggles in the bullpen morph from rough stretch to worrying trend?

Tuesday night’s 10-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals was their fifth since a collapse in Minnesota versus the Twins on April 17 in which the bullpen has given up a lead, and especially concerning is that no one has been immune.

The list of the lost isn’t pretty:

– On April 17, they blew a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning of a 9-5 loss to the Twins. Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos and J.A. Happ combined to walk eight batters in the eighth.
– On April 20, they blew a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning of a 6-4 loss to the Indians in Cleveland. Aaron Loup walked three batters with two out before a David Murphy double cashed them in.
– On April 23, they led visiting Baltimore 6-1 after two innings and Dustin McGowan left with a 6-3 lead and the bases loaded in the fifth before Todd Redmond surrendered a grand slam in what finished as a 10-3 loss.
– On April 24, they surrendered a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning of an 11-4 loss to the Orioles. Neil Wagner, Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers got burned in that one.
– And on April 29, they led 5-2 in the seventh inning of the 10-7 loss to the Royals, with Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Sergio Santos and Esmil Rogers all getting roughed up.

Even if the Blue Jays close out just three of those games, they’re sitting pretty at 15-11 right now instead of 12-14 and how you feel about that depends on whether you’re the half-full, or half-empty type.

There are no shortage of explanations, from the absence of closer Casey Janssen thinning out the late-game corps to overwork to lingering effects from last year’s heavy usage. Regardless, the Blue Jays bullpen ranks 28th in baseball with a 5.08 ERA, is second in walks allowed at 52 and is 27th in WHIP at 1.53.

While the rotation ranks 23rd with a 4.37 ERA, all of a sudden the starters may not be the club’s biggest worry.

I was in Buffalo last night to watch the triple-A Bisons beat the Louisville Bats 4-1 and Marcus Stroman was some kind of impressive with six innings of no-hit, one-walk ball and 10 strikeouts. The Blue Jays are deliberating over a number of scenarios that would lead to his call up as soon as Sunday, but Dustin McGowan’s fine outing in K.C., when he allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits and three walks over six innings, may alter their thinking.

No matter how it plays out, Stroman very much seems like he’s ready for a shot at the majors.

A side note, and this may be little more than due diligence on the part of the Chicago Cubs, but major-league scout Dave Littlefield was among those watching Stroman. The Blue Jays have a longstanding interest in Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, but the apparent asking price of Stroman and Aaron Sanchez has been a total non-starter.

While at Coca Cola Field, I also had a chance to speak with Ryan Goins, who was optioned Monday to make room for Chris Getz. The infielder was keeping his head up, determined to find his batting stroke and return to the big-leagues. At some point I’m sure the gifted defender will be back in Toronto.

The Blue Jays had some interest in outfielder Steve Pearce and Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that they put in a waiver claim on him, but the lefty masher declined, opted for free agency and re-signed with the Orioles. As I understand things, Pearce was seeking everyday playing time, not a platoon role like the Blue Jays were offering, and the Orioles should be able to give him that with Chris Davis on the DL.

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