Healing Pitchers, Manager Changes, Rising Prospects and Other Blue Jays Notes – Sports Illustrated

  • September 8, 2022

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
A month's worth of news packed into one week.
In the span of a few days, the Blue Jays will tackle a manager change, the All-Star break, and the MLB Draft, all alongside the day-to-day buzz of a normal baseball season.
The news will continue to flow this weekend, but for now, here are a few notes from up and down Toronto's organization:
The Blue Jays don't have many players who've been around for a mid-season manager change, but veteran reliever David Phelps experienced one back in 2015 with the Marlins.
After Miami started the season 16-22, manager Mike Redmond was fired and replaced with the inexperienced Dan Jennings. Expectations for that Marlins team vs this Jays squad were quite different, and they're "two completely different teams," Phelps said, but the similarity is the response. Seven seasons ago, and again this week, both teams were not where they wanted to be, and the manager move caused some self-reflection, some "looking in the mirror," Phelps said.
"What it can do sometimes is galvanize the players to just pick each other up," Phelps said. "You know, realize that we just need to be better, play better."
Charlie Montoyo's firing on Wednesday was the third in-season manager change in 2022. The two previous moves, with the Angels and Phillies, have spurned two very different on-field responses. Since firing Joe Girardi, the Phillies have gone 24-14. After canning Joe Maddon, the Angels are 12-21. 
So far, the Blue Jays are 1-0 under their new leader. 
In his five appearances since returning from the injured list, Trevor Richards has pitched four innings of one-hit ball, striking out six and allowing no runs.
Richards went on the shelf with a neck injury that he's battled at times throughout his career, but it's never held him out of action before. In late July 2019, Richards was set for the first injured list stint of his career after the neck pain surged. But instead of going on the IL, he was traded to the Rays, who knew about his ailing neck and signed off on the deal anyway.
Richards managed to pitch through the injury after moving over to Tampa, and it eventually subsided like most other points in his career. But this year it was the worst it's ever been, Richards said, sending pain to his neck every time his leg hit the mound on a pitch. After taking a few days off from throwing, Richards was quickly pain-free and feeling better, the righty said, and could ramp back up to where he is today.
Another Toronto hurler working back from injury, Yusei Kikuchi (neck strain) will throw another bullpen on Friday. Kikuchi struggled before hitting the IL, pitching to a 6.28 ERA and walking 18 batters in his last four starts. His role is "to be determined" when the lefty returns, though the Jays haven't yet talked to him about his comfortability out of the bullpen.
"We'll make a decision whenever he's ready," manager John Schneider said. "But I haven't really determined that role yet."
Lost in the news and shuffle at the big league level, it's been a great July for some of Toronto's top prospects:
Ricky Tiedemann was named one of Baseball America's biggest midseason rising prospects with his 2.13 ERA in 14 outings across Single and High A. He was recently moved up to No. 35 in their Top 100 list.
"With excellent physicality, stuff, and pitchability Tiedemann has significantly raised his profile in just one year," BA wrote.
Tiedemann and Double A hurler Yosver Zulueta will represent the Jays at the 2022 Futures Game this weekend.
Spencer Horwitz earned a promotion to Triple A on July 5 and in his first eight games with the Bisons slashed .333/.412/.567. The 1B/OF has flashed elite plate discipline and pop at both of Toronto's upper-minors levels in 2022, and as a rare left-handed bat in the system, could push the big leagues this season with continued success.
Trenton Wallace has picked up the torch left by Dunedin pitchers before him. With Tiedemann, Zulueta, and Nick Frasso all earning promotions up from Single A already this year, Wallace is the latest young Blue Jays arm to put up gaudy numbers with Dunedin. In 11 outings, he has a 1.11 ERA, .787 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9.
"He's really bought into this just throwing strikes," Dunedin pitching coach Drew Hayes told Inside the Blue Jays. "Whether it's with the fastball, slider, changeup … That's what has led to most of the success. The stuffs always been pretty good, it was just getting it in the strike zone."
Mitch Bannon is a baseball reporter for Sports Illustrated covering the Toronto Blue Jays and their minor league affiliates.

Twitter: @MitchBannon

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