The picture of what the early 2019 Blue Jays’ bullpen has suddenly become much more clouded. Two of the better arms, Ryan Tepera and John Axford, have been announced to have elbow pain and will be checked out for potential injuries.
Charlie Montoyo says Ryan Tepera and John Axford both being checked out due to elbow pain. #BlueJays will have more into tomorrow.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) March 20, 2019
More information tomorrow, but if these two are out for any length of time, the one strength the Jays had cemented coming into the new season, might turn into another weakness.
Montoyo is reluctant to predict anything before they get checked out completely.
Without Axford or Tepera to start the season, the likely makeup of the bullpen includes the likes of Trent Thornton, Sam Gaviligo, and possibly David Paulino will have bigger roles than assumed. More assumption, but those names seem like the most likely to be the next on the depth chart.
Tim Mayza, Joe Biagini, Ken Giles, and Bud Norris are the guaranteed names for the bullpen when the season starts next week.
As speculation swirls, Tepera was destined to be the key set-up arm for the Jays after pitching in 64.2 innings last year, with a 3.62 ERA and having a 9.46 K/9 his highest rate in the majors of his career. A veteran presence among veteran presence, he would be tough to see go with so many young arms in the bullpen.
Elvis Luciano is another interesting name in this battle for spots. The Rule-5 pick just turned 19-years-old(!), but they have to keep him on the 25-man roster no matter what. Perhaps they will find a way around it – negotiating a deal with the Royals so that they can send him down, or whatever else comes to mind.
Another potential name that would be at a future date would be David Phelps, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but his return will not be for a while.
What used to be a certainty for the Jays this season, it now appears much more malleable. It’s anyone’s guess really, but there is yet another positional battle to be had.