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“It was an important day for him and for us,” John Schneider reflects on Kevin Gausman’s 2024 debut in Blue Jays’ Spring Training finale

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
3 months ago
Kevin Gausman’s encouraging outing in the Toronto Blue Jays’ Spring Training finale on Monday afternoon wasn’t just about getting his work in. It was a vital sign that Gausman is on track to regain his Cy Young-calibre form.
A shoulder injury that popped up earlier in camp had cast some doubt on his readiness for the regular season, but the 33-year-old righty looked sharp as he struck out seven batters over three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The importance of Gausman’s successful recovery-to-form cannot be understated. After finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting last season, Toronto will undoubtedly rely on him, Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Bassitt, and Jose Berrios to operate at a high level for the team to find success. Fans and the Blue Jays organization alike don’t just need their ace healthy — they need him firing on all cylinders to make a deep run this season. Based on Monday’s performance, those expectations might be justified.
Gausman’s fastball hummed at an average of 95.1 mph, reaching 96.9 at its peak. He complimented it with a devastating splitter that clocked in at an average of 87.2 mph and looked every bit as dangerous as it did during his stellar 2022 season. After some initial inconsistency with the pitch, he found his groove, drawing a mix of swings, misses, and weak contact. He ended up pitching 3 innings, striking out 7 with a 3.00 ERA. 
This combination of velocity and command indicates that Gausman’s shoulder issues may truly be behind him.
“It felt good… I thought my command got better as I went,” said Gausman. “I threw some really good fastballs up and in on lefties; that’s a big pitch for me so I’m happy about that. Everything worked out well today. It could have been bad… but the biggest thing is getting used to the ups and downs – having four of those [innings] is huge. That was a big sign.”
Blue Jays manager John Schneider echoed Gausman’s positive assessment: “He looked like Kevin. It was an important day for him and for us.”
Barring any unexpected setbacks, Gausman seems poised to take the mound either Sunday to wrap up the season-opening series against Tampa Bay or on Monday against the Houston Astros in Toronto’s second series of the season.
Gausman’s strong outing adds some much-needed clarity to the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, but questions linger about the bullpen. Jordan Romano and Erik Swanson will likely start the season on the injured list, leaving two crucial spots to fill.
While Mitch White and Trevor Richards can offer some length in relief, adding pitchers capable of handling multiple innings would offer more flexibility. Zach Pop, Wes Parsons, and Nate Pearson are among the in-house candidates with varying degrees of experience.
“A little bit of both,” said Schneider on filling the sizable holes left by Romano and Richards’ absence. “We’ve got to see how Kev is today and how he goes, and what that means going forward. From there make a decision whether it’s one inning guys, length guys… We kinda have that already with Trevor (Richards) and Mitch (White).”
The Blue Jays are also carefully considering their options for Cuban reliever Yariel Rodriguez. His powerful stuff makes him an intriguing option, but after a year away from competitive baseball, the team may prefer a more structured development path as opposed to sporadic long relief work.
Schneider highlights the puzzle he faces: “In a perfect world, you have a somewhat set schedule [for Rodriguez]… you can kind of build in the length that way. But…you never know how games are going to unfold and who else you’re going to want to use.”
Despite the questions still swirling around the bullpen, the Blue Jays can rest at least a little easier knowing their ace appears ready to lead. Gausman’s shortened spring training might not have been ideal, but his confidence is a testament to his experience.
“A little bit of both,” said Schneider on filling the sizable holes with Romano. “We’ve got to see how Kev is today and how he goes, and what that means going forward. From there make a decision whether it’s one-inning guys or length guys… We kinda have that already with Trevor (Richards) and Mitch (White).
“If this was my first year… I wouldn’t be too happy with where I’m at…”, Gausman reflects, “[But] I know what I need to do to be right for when games matter… I’m not going to miss much time, so that’s good.”

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