DUNEDIN, Florida – It's difficult to explain, explains Ken Giles after his first appearance in the spring on Monday afternoon. You don't want to feel too good the first time.
The closer Toronto Blue Jays looked really good on the hill and only needed 13 parking spaces (nine hits) to effortlessly retire three Atlanta Braves with two groundouts and a strikeout. And he felt really good too, with speed, fine Fastball command and an electric slider.
"I had a pretty good feeling about it today," said Giles about his slider. "It's just one of those things. I don't want to have a perfect feeling for it yet. So it's one of those 50-50s. I want to be there now."
This is a pitcher if you intentionally want to build up to the opening day instead of reaching its climax too soon. Giles focuses more than anything else on his mechanics during spring training trips to maintain the intensity he brings into his role when the results count.
"I'm just trying to stay inside myself, not to be overwhelmed. I'm trying to do some work and just enjoy my time," he said. "I really just want to make sure that I'm in my mechanics stay. "
In any case, it looked as if he had reached this Monday when Giles drove through his excursion and easily a big leaguer (Charlie Culberson) and two top 100 MLB prospects (Drew Waters and Cristian Pache) retired. On Tuesday, he will review the dates of the trip and then focus on his next feedback point in a few days.
The TD Ballpark, which has been thoroughly renovated in the last 12 months, showed a multitude of improvements and new functions around Giles during its reopening on Monday. Unfortunately, this did not include any radar gun readings on the towering new display panel in the middle left field.
This made it impossible for observers to track speeds for Giles, whose fastball averaged 98 m.p.h. Early last season, but in the end closer to 96 after a bout of mid-season elbow infection. But he said his pitches felt as firm as they should be on Monday and he had had no complaints.
“Everything felt good. It felt like the ball was really jumping out of my hand, ”said Giles. “Sliders were pretty good. Overall, it felt great today. It's just about building yourself up now. "
Giles put together an enormous year 2019 and in his first 25 appearances he achieved a value of 1.08 ERA with 15.1 K / 9 before problems with the elbow developed. A 10-day stay on the injured list in June to calm things down paused and may have cost him an all-star nod. Then, after pitching three consecutive days in early July, things got worse.
The following month he performed only five times, though he never returned to the injured list. During this time he had nerve irritation in his right arm after a massage, visited an elbow specialist for an examination and received a cortisone shot.
Uncertainty about Giles' health made his daily availability a constant theme throughout the summer, and even helped close a deadline deal in the 11th hour when he went to New York Yankees would have been shipped.
In mid-August, he finally returned to a regular workload and appeared in 16 of Toronto's last 40 games. This continues until this spring, with Giles free of symptoms and making progress as he would normally do before the season.
"He's fine, he's healthy," said Charlie Montoyo, manager of Blue Jays. "He is ready to go."
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That's good, because Giles is an integral part of a volatile, unproven Blue Jays bullpen. The club are currently able to rely on Rafael Dolis, who has spent the last four seasons at the Japanese NPB, and Anthony Bass, a Seattle Mariners winter waiver, to bring the ball to Giles through high leverage. MLB goods not exactly proven.
Wilmer Font, who was bought for cash last season and was mainly used as an opener, will also be an option. Sam Gaviglio (career 4.84 ERA) will deliver length, possibly along with Shun Yamaguchi, who is currently against cracking Toronto's rotation.
A.J. Cole, who split his year 2019 between Triple-A and the majors in Cleveland's organization, is in a good position to win a job, along with hard-core Jordan Romano, who has been an ERA in 17 major league games as a rookie of 7.63 scored last season. Thomas Pannone, a converted starter, and Justin Miller, a non-squad invitee, are also under discussion.
Giles, Font and Gaviglio are the only weapons in Toronto's Bullpen that have spent the entire 2019 season with the majors. And Giles is the only one of the three who did this late in games in high-leverage locations. Despite his injury problems, Giles still threw 53 innings and ended the season with 1.87 ERA and 14.1 K / 9 numbers, which were among the best bas-reliefs in baseball.
That's all to say that a healthy and effective Giles is extremely important to the success of this group, provided Montoyo can assemble a bullpen with such an unsafe crew and bring the ball to him. And of course, if the Blue Jays aren't in competition by mid-season – FanGraphs gives the club a one percent chance to play Tuesday's playoffs – the trade talk that surrounded Giles last summer will start all over again towards free Hand.
This is an important year for Giles, an important year for his influence on the Blue Jays. And it would be hard to start better than on Monday.
The Blue Jays reunited in MLB Draft Monday 2007 with their choice in the fifth round and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski for a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training committed
The 34-year-old worked for the Blue Jays from 2009 until the close in 2011 when he was part of a seven-player deal that brought Colby Rasmus to Toronto. Since then he has been with seven different organizations and in 2019 spent at Arizona's Triple-A subsidiary in Reno, where he achieved an ERA of 5.04 in 45 appearances.
In his late 20s, Rzepczynski started a great career as a left-handed player in a large number of big league bullpens – from 2011 to 2016 he achieved a 113 ERA + in 268 innings with respectable peripheral devices (8.6 K / 9) and 3 , 9 BB / 9). But command problems arose when he hit his 30s and bottomed out in 2018 when he ran 21 Batters over 22.1 innings between the majors and Triple-A.
Even in its best form, Rzepczynski recorded somewhat higher miter rates – but never to this extent. He spent 2019 regaining control of Triple-A, and the Blue Jays believe he has made an adjustment that should allow him to be more consistent in the zone.
Nonetheless, due to MLB's new three-stroke minimum, Rzepczynski will find it more difficult for pitcher to crack a squad in a big league. Over the course of his career, he was much more effective against lefties and limited himself to a slash of .227 / .296 / .305 compared to .280 / .385 / .437 against righties. Last season, right-handers in the small league had an OPS of 0.976 (118 record appearances) against Rzepczynski, while left-handers lagged 0.789 (96 record appearances).
But the Blue Jays are hungry for left-handed relief, with Pannone being the only South Paw helper on the 40-man roster. And the club obviously believes that its old draft pick from 2007 could still make a contribution to the league, as it did in 2016 when he put over 70 appearances on 2.64 ERA.
“Maybe he can go back to who he was 16, which was incredible. Maybe he can go back to that model, ”said Blue Jay's GM Ross Atkins. “There are reasons to believe that he has made some adjustments and will be more consistent. That was the reason for the signing. "
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet's baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together they bring you the most extensive Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering the latest news with opinions and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
Nate Pearson will be the center of attention on Tuesday as the top prospect makes its 2020 debut against the New York Yankees. Pearson will start for a shared Blue Jays squad before joining Julian Merryweather, Patrick Murphy, A.J. Cole, Yennsy Diaz and Phillippe Aumont.
The starters Matt Shoemaker (knee surgery) and Tanner Rorark (flu) both threw bullpens on Sunday and felt good. You are on the right track to be ready for the start of the season.
Blue Jays outfielder Jonathan Davis is expected to report back to the camp on Thursday. The 27-year-old was excused from the camp to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
A total of 6,335 people attended the reopening of TD Ballpark on Monday, the largest crowd in the stadium's history. Due to renovations, the capacity was increased from 5,500 to 8,500, including the promenade only for standing room around the outer field.