Clayton Richard was with the Blue Jays when the team arrived in Chicago to open up their four-game series with the White Sox on Thursday, so everyone assumed that he would be making his season debut on Saturday. It turns out that isn’t the case. Instead, lefty knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend will be getting the start.
#BlueJays likely to start lefty knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend tomorrow
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) May 18, 2019
He isn’t currently on the 40-man, so the Jays will need to make a corresponding transaction to add Feierabend to the roster. The easiest thing, I figure, would be to DFA Javy Guerra again.
Feierabend was an interesting under-the-radar minor league signing the Jays made right at the beginning of spring training. He pitched in the majors with Seattle between 2006 and 2008, spent five full seasons in the minors, and then pitched with Texas in 2014. Feierabend spent the last four seasons pitching in Korea where he worked on the art of the knuckleball.
Jay Jaffe over at FanGraphs wrote a feature about Feierabend back when the Jays signed him, making the knuckleballer seem much more interesting than your standard, mid-30s minor league depth signing.
Since adding the knuckler, Feierabend has used it as an out pitch. Last year, he threw it 26.8% of the time when he was ahead in the count and 23.4% when he got to two strikes; by comparison his numbers for his changeup were 23.1% and 18.4%, respectively. If you needed further evidence of his confidence in the pitch, the splits say that there are negligible differences in the frequency with which he throws it when there are runners on base and when the bases are empty, or when the batter is a righty or a lefty.
In three starts (16 2/3 innings) with Triple-A Buffalo, Feierabend has surrendered just five earned runs on 15 hits and six walks while recording 13 strikeouts. The one sort of alarming number would be his three home runs surrendered, but, all in all, the numbers are decent over a small sample size. I mean, he’s doing better than pretty much everyone else in Buffalo.
It’s only the middle of May and the Jays are reaching really, really far into the depths of their pitching bucket to patch together a starting rotation. With Ryan Borucki, Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker, Richard, and now possibly Aaron Sanchez on the shelf, the Jays only have one pitcher from their expecting starting rotation currently available.
The worst part about all of this is that, as I said earlier, none of the prospects in Buffalo are warranting a promotion. Sean Reid-Foley, Jacob Waguespack, Jordan Romano, and David Paulino are all having difficult seasons and haven’t earned a chance to capitalize on this opportunity. Hopefully Feierabend can.