One guy’s injury is another’s opportunity.
Earlier in the week, Rafael Dolis underwent a procedure to have his appendix removed. He’ll be out of action for a week and then the Blue Jays will re-assess him after that. Apparently, the timeline for recovery is anywhere between three to six weeks.
This is obviously really unfortunate for Dolis, a pitcher looking to make it back to the Major Leagues after spending four seasons in Japan. Given the fact Opening Day is just two-and-a-half weeks away (!!!), it seems very unlikely Dolis will be ready to travel north with the team. Of course, this isn’t going to be some season-altering thing for Dolis. It’s a misstep, but he’ll still surely play a big role on the team this year.
As of right now, the entire bullpen is up in the air save for Ken Giles, who, barring injury, will be the team’s closer. Dolis was one of the names who was expected to be tired out in a set-up role in the later innings, so we can scratch that name off the list for now. Again, really tough break for the guy, but it opens up an opportunity for somebody else.
The locks for the bullpen, as reported by Arden Zwelling, are Giles, Anthony Bass, Wilmer Font, Shun Yamaguchi (assuming Trent Thornton is named the fifth starter, which seems likely), and Sam Gaviglio. Yamaguchi and Sammy G are best served as mid-inning, long relief types, so the arm that comes in to replace Dolis off the hop would ideally be a late-inning type.
Here are the other names in the mix…
- Jordan Romano. He’s probably as close to a lock as you can get at this point. Romano is on the 40-man roster, he looked good last year before getting injured, and he’s been dominant in spring training. Through four innings of work, Romano has yet to allow a run and has six strikeouts. I think Romano was going to make the team regardless, but Dolis’ injury creates an opportunity for him to throw some high-leverage innings late in games.
- A.J. Cole. One of Toronto’s non-roster invitees, it’s always seemed like Cole was going to find his way into the team’s bullpen. Over 26 innings for Cleveland last year, the hard-throwing Cole posted a 3.81 ERA while striking out 10.4 batters-per-nine. It’s honestly kind of shocking that showing wasn’t enough to net him a big-league contract somewhere. Cole hasn’t allowed a run through four innings of work so far in spring.
- Justin Miller. Another non-roster invitee, Miller is in the same mix as Cole is. He’s a journeyman who pitched well for the Nationals in the minors last season and had a good-not-great showing for them over 15 2/3 innings in the Majors. It’s hard to imagine both Cole and Miller making the team because both would require a player to be removed from the 40-man roster in order for them to be added.
- Julian Merryweather. Given how many names Toronto has in their Triple-A pitching logjam, some guys are inevitably going to have to be moved to the bullpen. It really, really seems like Merryweather, the infamous Player To Be Named Later, will be one of those guys. The 28-year-old has pitched a grand total of six innings over the past two seasons, so stretching him out to be a starter at this point seems futile. I share the same logic with Sean Reid-Foley, though it seems the Jays are going to keep trying him out as a starter. I figure that by the end of the year that isn’t the case, but he won’t be starting the season in Toronto’s bullpen.
- Travis Bergen. An arm the Jays lost in the Rule 5 Draft but got back mid-way through last season, Bergen is somewhat of a forgotten name when it comes to the bullpen picture. His showing in the Majors with San Fransisco wasn’t great, but Bergen has performed well in the minors and he’s pitched well in spring thus far. Again, though, he’s another guy not on the 40-man roster, giving him an uphill battle. If the Jays are going to use a lefty in their ‘pen, you’d assume it would be Thomas Pannone, who’s already on the 40-man.
- Jose Bautista. I’m totally joking here. Or am I? Honestly? I wouldn’t be against it. The guy wants to make a comeback as a pitcher and we all want to see him bean somebody. It might as well be Jose Bautista pitching as a Blue Jay beaning Rougned Odor, right? You know it.
Anyways, it seems that the biggest benefactor from Dolis’ misfortune here is going to be Jordan Romano. It had always looked like there was a spot in the ‘pen for Romano to lose, but, without Dolis there, Romano suddenly becomes one of the Blue Jays’ top options for late-inning work. Beyond Romano, I also suspect that this injury will open the door for Cole to crack the club, if that door wasn’t already open.
Here’s how I would guess the ‘pen looks on Opening Day, barring any other injuries: Ken Giles, Anthony Bass, Jordan Romano, A.J. Cole, Sam Gaviglio, Wilmer Font, Shun Yamaguchi, Thomas Pannone.