The frustrating start to Brett Cecil’s 2016 season hit another road bump this morning, as the lefty will go on the 15-day disabled list due to a left triceps strain suffered in last night’s loss in Texas. The two-thirds of an inning he threw last night against the Rangers was his first appearance since way back on May 3, as he spent the entirety of the San Fransisco Giants series away from the team as his wife was giving birth to their third child.
In a corresponding move, the Blue Jays recalled right-hander Dustin Antolin, who you likely haven’t heard of, from Triple-A Buffalo. And even though you probably haven’t heard his name, he’s got a story that makes him pretty damn easy to root for.
Like I said, Cecil’s start to the season has been, well, not good to say the least. The 27-year-old who’s set to become a free agent this winter has pitched 10 1/3 innings posting a 5.23 ERA. The main issue with Cecil is that he’s allowing a hell of a lot more his per nine this year than he usually does (14.8), and to further compound that issue, he’s striking out fewer batters per nine than usual (7.8).
But this isn’t anything new for Cecil, who always tends to struggle in the first few months of the season. Last year, he didn’t really settle down until the end of June, where, with a 5.96 ERA that ballooned thanks to a terrible outing against the Orioles, he began a legendary 38-appearance streak without allowing an earned run that would extend into this season.
I don’t have any intel on this at all, but if I had to venture a guess, I would assume that this injury didn’t spring up yesterday, and it’s something that’s been lingering for a little while now. If that’s the case, it’s certainly a good thing that Cecil is going to get some rest rather than having this thing explode into something much more significant.
Dustin Antolin is seventh among International League pitchers (min. 20 IP) with a 29.1 percent strikeout rate in 2016. So that’s something.
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) May 15, 2016
On the other side of all this is Dustin Antolin, a native of Hawaii who’s likely going to make his Major League debut some time in the new few days. I’m pretty sure you haven’t heard of him, and if you have, that’s impressive, and you have a much better grasp of the depths of the Jays farm system than I do.
If you’re looking for a reason to root for this guy, you don’t have to look very hard. He’s one of those guys who just kept scratching and clawing, and he finally pulled it off.
Antolin was a minor league free agent this spring and almost gave up baseball. His girlfriend convinced him to give it one more shot.
— Barry Davis (@SNBarryDavis) May 15, 2016
Antolin was just about to go to bed last night when he got the call he was coming up. He called his family, in tears.
— Barry Davis (@SNBarryDavis) May 15, 2016
The Blue Jays drafted Antolin back in 2008, which was the year they picked David Cooper, Eric Thames, and A.J. Jimenez. It was also the second-last draft of the J.P. Riccardi era! So if Antolin comes up and lights the world on fire, he can salvage what was ultimately a pretty terrible draft for Riccardi.
This is Antolin’s ninth season in the Jays system, and first at the Triple-A level. Throughout his time in the minors, he’s always managed to collect pretty good strikeout numbers, but he’s also walked his fair share of batters, too. This season, through 20 innings with the Buffalo Bisons, he has a 2.70 ERA, 11.2 strikeouts per nine and 5.0 walks per nine to go along with a 1.450 WHIP.
This move leaves the Jays with only one lefty in their bullpen, rookie Chad Girodo, which gives me the indication that Antolin’s recall is mainly a cup of coffee to reward him for an excellent performance so far in Buffalo. Once Aaron Loup is ready to go, I’m sure that he’ll take Antolin’s spot, giving the Jays another left-handed option.
Loup made his first rehab appearance for Dunedin. Doesn’t look like it went well at all: 0.1 IP, 2H, 4 ER, 2 BB. #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) May 15, 2016
Speaking of Loup, how is that rehab assignment going? Well, he kicked it off yesterday in Dunedin with the Jays Single-A affiliate, and he got roughed up pretty hard, allowing four runs on two hits and two walks while only recording one out. To be fair, this is the first time he’s pitched since Oct. 17, 2015.
Loup seems to get overlooked a lot because his basic stats last year weren’t as good as they have been in the past, but you can hinge a fair amount of his misfortunes on some bad luck and poor fielding behind him, which was certainly the case for a lot of pitchers in the first half of 2015. Loup’s ERA last year was 4.46, which was the worst of his career, but his fielding independent pitching number was much stronger at 3.72, and he struck out more batters per nine innings (9.8) than ever before in his career. So let’s not write him off as irrelevant just yet.