Status Updates on Blue Jays' Moreno, Gausman, and Kikuchi – Sports Illustrated

  • September 9, 2022

© Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
For Gabriel Moreno, his first taste of the big leagues brought mixed results.
On one hand, he showed that some of his highly touted tools played very well. The 22-year-old batted .276 with a sprint speed in the 63rd percentile and looked great throwing from behind the plate, averaging a 1.91 average pop time, the fifth-best mark in the majors.
But there were also some deficiencies in Moreno’s first 18 major-league games. The catcher had just one extra-base hit (.293 SLG) and walked just twice in 60 at-bats.
When Danny Jansen returned from the injured list Tuesday, Moreno was optioned back to Buffalo, where manager Charlie Montoyo said the Blue Jays' top prospect can keep working at his craft.
"Keep playing every day. Get at-bats," Montoyo said, explaining the decision to option Moreno. "Because now having two catchers, it's gonna be tough to give him very many at-bats. So that's the whole point."
With Jansen’s return, the Jays elected to keep Zack Collins on the major-league roster. Collins doesn’t bring much defensively—he hasn’t caught a full game with Toronto since May 7—but he bats left-handed, giving the Jays a little more flexibility.
Moreno’s .593 OPS (70 OPS+) seems disappointing given all the hype around the Venezuelan when he made his long-awaited MLB debut in Detroit last month. Still, it’s hard to put much weight into such a small sample size, considering how steep the discrepancy is between Triple A and MLB pitching.
The greater takeaway from Moreno’s brief stint is that some very strong physical skills are there—he can hit, he can run, and he can throw.
"Those tools, they’re gonna play," Montoyo said.
The youngster also got a crash course on handling a major-league pitching staff during a very competitive point in the Blue Jays season. Things didn’t go as planned for Toronto’s arms while Moreno was behind the plate, which is reflected in his 5.46 catcher ERA, but he did pick up on some nuances of the position, such as individual pitcher preferences and how to use PitchCom.
All to say, Montoyo said he thinks Moreno will be better prepared the next time he comes up.
"He knows what to expect now," the Jays skipper said. "And that's one of the things we talked about. And he said the same thing. Now he knows how it feels to be in the big leagues and what it takes to compete and have success."
Kevin Gausman (ankle contusion) was a late scratch for Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. The right-hander instead threw a bullpen, with the team tentatively planning to start him once before the All-Star break begins July 18. Ross Stripling will start Wednesday, Montoyo said.
Yusei Kikuchi (neck strain) also threw a bullpen and practiced fielding groundballs before Tuesday’s game. Before his surprise placement on the 15-day injured list, the lefty was in the midst of a horrendous stretch, having allowed 21 earned runs in his last 23.2 (7.99) frames with 10 homers allowed and 17 walks (8.85).
Kikuchi's spot in the rotation is expected to be filled by Max Castillo on Saturday), though it’s undetermined if that’s as a starter or a reliever.
Ethan Diamandas is a baseball reporter for Sports Illustrated covering the Toronto Blue Jays and their minor league affiliates. Follow Ethan on Twitter @EthanDiamandas

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