Blue Jays announce Yusei Kikuchi will start Saturday versus Pirates
Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
By Thomas Hall3 months ago
Following a disastrous 2022 campaign, left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will kick off the Toronto Blue Jays’ first exhibition contest on Saturday versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team announced Thursday.
Kikuchi, featuring a stylish beard this spring, will likely throw at least a few innings in his 2023 debut before giving way to newcomer Zach Thompson and Trent Thornton. The Blue Jays will also probably feature a few other hurlers to round out nine innings of action.
Kikuchi is coming off a miserable inaugural campaign with the Blue Jays, where he posted a 5.25 ERA and 5.94 FIP across 20 starts. The 31-year-old fared much better as a reliever, though, registering a 4.15 FIP and 28.9 per cent strikeout-to-walk rate difference over 18.1 innings in 12 appearances.
With Mitch White’s off-season build-up delayed by a shoulder impingement, Kikuchi holds a slight edge for the fifth starter’s spot during the early stages of spring training. Things can still change, of course, between now and Opening Day.
Thompson, acquired from Pittsburgh in a trade for outfielder Chavez Young over the winter, made 22 starts and seven relief appearances with the Pirates last season, logging 121.2 innings. The 29-year-old earned a 5.18 ERA and 4.87 FIP, but with some tweaks to his pitch usage and mechanics, the Blue Jays are hopeful he can return to his 2021 form, where he finished with a 3.24 ERA and 3.69 FIP over 75 innings with the Miami Marlins.
Thornton split time between the majors and triple-A in 2022, compiling 46 innings in Toronto and 28 in Buffalo. The 29-year-old, with one minor-league option remaining, produced a 4.11 ERA and 4.66 FIP while being worth minus-0.1 fWAR in the big leagues.
The Blue Jays went 9-6 with a .600 winning percentage in Grapefruit League action last season, albeit during a condensed schedule following the CBA lockout.
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