The Blue Jays asked themselves two questions about the organization’s pitchers once the reality dawned that there would be no 2020 minor league season and only a few prospects could work out at the club’s alternate training site.
First, they wondered how to get everyone a sufficient workload. Second, they asked how to ensure that this summer remained an opportunity for development.
The answers have meant different things for different pitchers, with some of the organization’s top young arms like Simeon Woods Richardson, Alek Manoah and Patrick Murphy getting reps in Rochester, Adam Kloffenstein heading to independent ball and others left to throw into a net, filing video back to the club to ensure a feedback loop.
Creativity and determination reign.
“What we’re seeing is an ability for guys to just truly develop certain things because they aren’t getting chewed up by riding the bus for four hours, or having to be on a roster and pitch so many innings,” said Matt Buschmann, the Blue Jays’ director of pitching development and big league bullpen coach.
“So if there’s a bright spot, it’s that we’ve got to focus on specific things that maybe we weren’t able to do during the season.”
As an example, Buschmann pointed to 25-year-old righthander Sean Reid-Foley, a former top pitching prospect for the team who saw his stock fall. A drop in velocity has been part of the problem. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Reid-Foley’s four-seamer averaged 93.7 mph in 2018 when he debuted in the majors but dropped to 92.5 last year and remained there during summer camp.
The 2014 second-rounder from Sandalwood High in Jacksonville has earned a couple of emergency callups in 2020, during which his fastball has averaged 94.3 mph and his slider has ticked up to 87.5 mph. He had struck out six through 5.2 innings.
“The fact he wasn’t having to recover from pitching all the time in game-like intensity and traveling allowed him to just really focus on that and make that his focus when he’s pitching against hitters in a controlled setting,” Buschmann said.
— Catcher Alejandro Kirk became a surprise addition to the club’s taxi squad, though Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo downplayed the possibility of a callup, saying he was with the team to accelerate his learning.
— The Blue Jays parted ways with prospects Kendall Williams, Alberto Rodriguez and Griffin Conine, an additional player to be named and up-and-down lefty Travis Bergen in four trades for big league help before the trade deadline.