TORONTO – David Phelps has put in his bids for a lot of managers in many places, but one thing that has always stuck with him is the way Craig Counsell referred to him and his Bullpen teammates during his 2020 stint with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“He called his outside men,” Phelps recalls. “This is our job. It’s exactly the same mentality we have here. It’s not about getting a role. We know Jordan [Romano] ix. But other than that, when the phone rings and calls out your name, you’re all set. Both were the first half all the way through the ninth.”
Tell us about it. On Saturday, Ross Streibling, a substitute who has spent his career teetering between long starts and relief, was pushed into the rule-packed, takeout and ninth position by one half and asked to save with a zero lead. Error. On Sunday, at the end of a 21-time crazy afternoon, Phelps was called to save for the first time in three seasons, and only the seventh of his 10-year career, with — what else? One-time pillow.
On Tuesday, Julian Meriwether, who has rarely been trusted to protect the skinny leads this season and allowed him to run two runs without logging out in an influence spot last time on a hill, was asked to lead by one in the eighth inning. And Trent Thornton – who had been in the first division for the previous three weeks – would warm up behind him in case things went wrong.
These are the places where the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves with excessive stress, and excessive leverage that carried a huge load through the first two months of the season. Of the 48 games the Blue Jays played in Wednesday’s game with the Chicago White Sox, 22 are scheduled for MLB games in one round. takes a price.
And thanks to some excellent work delivered by resilient sedatives in unfamiliar conditions, Toronto has won 15 of those contests—the same amount of wins it had once in all of 2021. To push painkillers into situations in which they were previously unsuccessful or not commonly encountered at all. Hence the “outsiders” mentality.
“We have a lot of players who can pitch in positions of influence. And that’s a good thing, because our entire pen has been in positions of influence pretty much all year,” says Phelps. “But that is our job. Keep the game in place until we have a chance to come back or retain the lead. We are very proud of him.”
On Wednesday, that meant Phelps entered seventh with a sprinter and pad two runs – what a luxury! – Clearing up Stripling, who threw 2.2 goalless innings behind Hyun Jin Ryu after being pulled off the start due to a tight forearm. Things got a little hairy, as Phelps allowed one ride and walk to load the bases for Dangerous Man at Jose Abreu. But a well-positioned 3-1 diver got the ball Phelps needed to escape the congestion.
Sending Phelps to eighth after missing the area with eight of his 12 pitches before the first half is likely Montoyo’s first instinct. But one night when Jordan Romano and Adam Semper weren’t available, what other choice did he have? So Phelps came out to face the fourth, fifth and sixth hitters with that two-round lead in eighth, and you wouldn’t have known, he retired in nine pitches.
“That was key,” Montoyo said. “Actually, that might have been the game.”
That put Yemi Garcia into ninth, something he’s only done once this season when he coughed in a tie game against the New York Yankees a month ago. Oh, and he’s also been on four of the past six days, including a 21-pitch outing on Sunday and a 16-pitch outing on Tuesday. Not exactly how you draw it. Which is what made this swing by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the 8th so huge:
Guerrero’s 10th home run this season boosted Toronto’s lead to four, which could also be 10 the way this team plays. That allowed Garcia to work with some room to maneuver for ninth, to finish Toronto’s seventh straight win – 7-3 over Chicago.
But up until that point, it was another night Montoyo and his trainer Pete Walker spent running a game of bulls on a tightrope, and the last probably won’t be more than a week away. At some point, the leads must be increased or the bulls base must be strengthened. Maybe both. Since the amount of high-impact action currently absorbed by a small group of analgesics should be a concern.
Of course, there is anxiety as well for Ryu, who left his last start after throwing 65 throws over five runs due to a tight elbow. This time he was 58 over four and tight in the forearm. And a number of large red warning flags along the road.
Rio sat at 87.6 mph with fastball and 77.8 mph with his change, both 2 mph below his season averages. He only threw one cutter at the outing, who sat over the core of the board and was knocked over to the left field wall by AJ Pollock.
Several of his dwindling speedballs were left above the board as well. Some of his makeovers were well in place, helping to produce five essential items. But others were not, like the car that Abreu drove 451 feet to the left.
“Going into the game and earlier, I thought I’d be able to go in there and do what I normally do. Eventually, I noticed I couldn’t go – I couldn’t go any further. So, I talked to Pete and Charlie about it,” Ryo said through Translator Jun Sung Park “We have since closed it.” “After going through those rounds, I realized I kind of regretted playing today’s match.”
From here, Ryu will go shoot on his arm before deciding on the next steps. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see him return to IL, where he spent three weeks in late April and early May with forearm inflammation. Stripling offers a turnkey alternative that can easily enter and take Ryu’s next turn. Of course, that only poses more than bulls can’t afford to lose a serviceable arm at the moment.
Returning Tim Maiza from a bout of forearm inflammation will definitely help. He felt strong after throwing the bulls on Wednesday, and if he feels good after his next scheduled session on Friday, he can be activated from the injured list without going on a rehab mission.
Beyond him, there are options in Triple-A Buffalo for strong starts like Adrian Hernandez, Matt Gage, Brandon Eisert and Jeremy Beasley. And Blue Jays have an open place on their 40-player roster after hiring Ryan Borucki for the job earlier this week. One way or another, the Toronto Bullpen needs some help. It is so long that only a few of them can carry a very large load.
Entering Wednesday’s play, no MLB player experienced greater influence than Toronto’s, according to the FanGraphs leverage indicator that represents score, occupied rules, potential in-round influences, and potential impact of position on winning expectation:
Of the 273 MLB lifters that have featured at least 10 rounds this season, five Blue Jays are ranked in the top 90 leverages they face, led by You Know Who:
“That’s what good teams do,” Phelps says. “Good teams and good pitches in situations of leverage. And they’ve done that. And you look at the number of games we’ve played at once, and you look at our record in those single-run games, and I think it just talks about how well we’ve done our job.”
You might not have expected Phelps’ name to be on this high leverage list a couple of months ago, but he was quietly an integral part of Toronto. He often rescued beginners at the end of their outings, or sedatives in the midst of crowds, and stretched slender bridges from the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He ran into base runners in six straight games earlier this month and none of them were allowed to score.
As he holds the 86th percentile of xERA in June, it’s easy to forget that Phelps has only been a year since major surgery — an uncommon and uncommon revision process that only a few top experts have performed. The process was necessary for Phelps to continue promoting competitively – but how much competition he would have on the other side of it was anything but certain. The Blue Jays’ spring coaching last March reported a minor-league deal not only trying to prove his worth to the big-league championship, but first and foremost trying to prove his worth.
Phelps did both and traveled north with the Blue Jays. But due to a deliberate build-up out of surgery, and spring training itself shortened after the MLB shutdown, the 35-year-old didn’t have a chance to test himself in games on back-to-back days or even outing that lasted longer than the inning. As he enters the regular season, he’s still not sure how his body will respond to that stress.
But after that, his debut of the year lasted for 1.1 rounds. After four rounds, he was required to enter the Games on consecutive days. Then go to the races. Last weekend, he appeared in three of his four matches in Toronto against the Angels – and is preparing to enter the other game. He says it was the best he’s felt all year.
“The ball feels good when it comes out. From the point of view of things, from the point of view of the way I’ve been attacking people, I think the LA series was as close as I’ve been in the past,” says Phelps. “I think it’s just knowing that my arms will feel comfortable, that he will recover — that’s the biggest thing. Just being able to come out and trust him.”
Of course, Blue Jays still keep a close eye on his workload. Phelps wasn’t completely unavailable, totally, not even if there was a fire, on Tuesday when the Blue Jays were asking Merryweather and possibly Thornton for a standoff. But after dumping plenty of volume in California ahead of a transcontinental flight that arrived at 4 a.m. local time on Monday, Blue Jays were determined to only use Phelps if absolutely necessary.
Much is considered in reliever availability decisions, including health history, objective recovery procedures, and subjective feedback from the athletes themselves. The club not only keeps track of how many pitches the pitch dwellers throw in matches, but how stressed those pitches are. They also paint high-voltage warm-up pitches in bull barns, regardless of whether the dwelling touches the game hill or not.
“There are definitely days where she comes in and is like, ‘I fell today.’ And you’re trying to defend your case and it’s just, no. Phelps says. “I think we all realize we have 162, and with what our goals are, the number will be more than 162. So, they just make sure as a whole group that we’re healthy all the time.”
And if the Blue Jays continue to wield the same amount of influence over their work as they did, those decisions will take on increased importance. And outsiders will have to get more and more accustomed to going out in unfamiliar circumstances.
“Nothing surprises us. The tie game, the running game once, the runners, two goals—we’re used to it now,” says Phelps. “It’s just going there and doing our work when we’re called. It doesn’t matter if we are top 10, bottom 10 or tied. Our job is to go out and put a zero. This is our mentality.”