Pitching prospects Gabriel Ponce and Connor Cooke impress, Zach Pop has a hiccup, and more as the Blue Jays fell 6-2 to the Yankees

Photo credit:Jon Blacker
Ryley Delaney
1 year ago
Can spring training just be over already?
The Blue Jays took on the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon, falling 6-2 to the Bronx Bombers. However, there were still some positives to take away from the game, mainly with regards to the minor league pitchers.
Let’s dig in.

Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Gabriel Ponce

You may have never heard of the 23-year-old right-handed reliever, but he showed up on Sunday afternoon.
Pitching in the bottom of the eighth inning, he struck out the side, generating six whiffs on just 17 pitches. The only base runner reached on a sharply hit ball which would have been an out if the shift were not banned.
Ponce pitched at three levels last season, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, where he posted a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings pitched. He topped out at 95.5 mph with his fastball, and looks to be a reliever to keep an eye on in 2023.

Things worth mentioning:

The bats were cold on Sunday afternoon. While they managed to score two runs, Toronto only had four hits with a lineup comprised of mainly big leaguers or fringe big leaguers… and fan favourite Peyton Williams. Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple, while Matt Chapman, Danny Jansen, and Santiago Espinal all had a single apiece.
Connor Cooke was absolutely filthy on Sunday. While he allowed an earned run and walked two in his inning of work, he struck out Giancarlo Stanton on what is best described as a whiffle ball pitch (his slider literally hit 3106 RPM this afternoon), as well as Gleyber Torres. Drafted in the 10th round of the 2021 draft, Cooke spent time between Low-A and High-A last season, posting a 5.21 ERA in 57 innings pitched. Don’t get it twisted though, the stuff he throws is nasty, and he has a big arm as well.
Bowden Francis pitched well on Sunday afternoon, striking out four batters in 4.1 innings pitched. Moreover, he allowed just a single run and finished spring training with an ERA of 2.08 in 13 innings pitched. On Saturday evening, he was reassigned to the minor leagues, but don’t be surprised if he is one of the first pitchers called up if injuries occur in the starting rotation.
Zach Pop struggled on Sunday afternoon, allowing two home runs in his two thirds of an inning of work. Regardless, he still had an impressive spring training. His K% has jumped to 33.3% (9 strikeouts against 27 batters faced), while his BB% sits at an incredibly low 3.7%. Pop’s 29.6 K-BB% would rank ninth in the MLB in 2022 over a full season. No wonder why he’s earned a spot in the bullpen.
We’re in the home stretch of spring training, as we officially start the season this upcoming Thursday. The last televised spring training game will take place on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:07 PM.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.


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