Pitching prospects Gabriel Ponce and Connor Cooke impress, Zach Pop has a hiccup, and more as the Blue Jays fell 6-2 to the Yankees

Can spring training just be over already?

The Blue Jays took on the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon, falling 6-2 to the Bronx Bombers. However, there were still some positives to take away from the game, mainly with regards to the minor league pitchers.
Let’s dig in.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Gabriel Ponce
You may have never heard of the 23-year-old right-handed reliever, but he showed up on Sunday afternoon.
Pitching in the bottom of the eighth inning, he struck out the side, generating six whiffs on just 17 pitches. The only base runner reached on a sharply hit ball which would have been an out if the shift were not banned.
Ponce pitched at three levels last season, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, where he posted a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings pitched. He topped out at 95.5 mph with his fastball, and looks to be a reliever to keep an eye on in 2023.

Here’s Gabriel Ponce (@gabriel2ponce)’s strikeout and whiff edit.
He struck out the side and touched 95.5 mph with the fastball.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/EG192J4HQ0
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 26, 2023

Things worth mentioning:
The bats were cold on Sunday afternoon. While they managed to score two runs, Toronto only had four hits with a lineup comprised of mainly big leaguers or fringe big leaguers… and fan favourite Peyton Williams. Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple, while Matt Chapman, Danny Jansen, and Santiago Espinal all had a single apiece.
Connor Cooke was absolutely filthy on Sunday. While he allowed an earned run and walked two in his inning of work, he struck out Giancarlo Stanton on what is best described as a whiffle ball pitch (his slider literally hit 3106 RPM this afternoon), as well as Gleyber Torres. Drafted in the 10th round of the 2021 draft, Cooke spent time between Low-A and High-A last season, pos …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Roster moves galore, as Jay Jackson gets his release, Nate Pearson optioned to Triple-A, and more!

Well, the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth just got a bit weaker.

On Saturday afternoon, it was announced by Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that reliever Jay Jackson was granted his release, as he would not be added to the roster.

Jay Jackson, who impressed in #BlueJays camp with a 95-96 m.p.h. fastball & hard slider, is now a free agent per source.
The Jays had until noon ET today to add him to the roster. They declined to do so, which meant granting Jackson his release instead.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) March 25, 2023

The 35-year-old righty pitched 9.1 innings with the Blue Jays and didn’t allow a single run. Moreover, he had 14 strikeouts facing just 37 batters for a 37.8 K%.

Here’s his second strikeout of the game on an 85.7 mph slider. pic.twitter.com/6Eb5MtDsgX
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 20, 2023

It’s easy to say that a team will add Jackson to their 26-man roster, as he has major league experience and pitched well this sring.
Blue Jays roster cuts:
If Mitch White is to hit the injured list to start the season, it had appeared that spot would either go to Zach Pop or Nate Pearson. Well today, we got our answer as Pearson was optioned to the minor leagues.
That doesn’t mean Pearson won’t play a role with the 2023 Blue Jays. The 26-year-old flame-throwing right-handed pitcher struck out 13 batters in 8.1 innings pitched, and has a 3.24 ERA. This came after pure dominance in the Dominican Winter League over the winter. Pearson’s talent has never been in question, but if he can stay healthy, that’d be a huge boost for the Jays.

In this outing, Nate Pearson showed why he’s more than just a flame throwing pitcher.
Yes, he hit 101 mph to get his only strikeout, but look at the knuckle curve (second clip), or even his two sliders for whiffs.
If he can stay healthy, he’ll be fantastic.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/Qr30NGgm8j
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 2, 2023

Nate Pearson wasn’t the only pitcher optioned, as Zach Thompson, Trent Thornton, and Thomas Hatch were …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Alek Manoah pitched a gem, Peyton Williams smashed the ball, and more as the Blue Jays beat the Phillies 6-3

Another day, another Blue Jays victory.

On Friday evening, the Philadelphia Phillies visited Dunedin, Florida to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Sadly for the visiting team (Phillies), they lost the game.
Let’s look at the player of the game, as well as some things worth mentioning.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Daulton Varsho:
Admittedly, it could have also been the starting pitcher, who we’ll get to soon, but Friday’s player of the game goes to Daulton Varsho.
Varsho had three plate appearances, reaching all three times. His first plate appearance was an RBI triple down the right field line. The second was a scorching single up the middle, before taking a walk in his final plate appearance.

It’s a Daulton Varsho (@DaultonVarsho25) triple!
86.4 mph exit velocity, and drives in Brandon Belt!#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/yqSP3X7weH
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 24, 2023

It’s also worth mentioning that he started a play in the outfield where they tagged out a runner trying to score.

Fundamental 👏 Baseball 👏
Varsho 👉 Chapman 👉 Kirk pic.twitter.com/7gSZU9ryoz
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 24, 2023

Varsho has three hits in his past two games (five at bats). He’s heating up at the right time.
Things worth mentioning:
Alek Manoah also deserves the player of the game, as he continues to impress in spring training. On Friday in his last spring training start, he pitched six innings, allowing three hits and an earned run, while striking out six.  He finished spring training with 20.1 innings pitched,  21 strikeouts, eight walks, and an ERA of 3.10.

Here’s Alek Manoah (@Alek_Manoah6)’s strikeout thread from this evening!
82.3 mph slider ties the batter up.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/du4T4VYLZr
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 24, 2023

Peyton Williams’ makeup is my favourite from the 2022 Blue Jays draft class. The first baseman stands at 6’5, 255 pounds, but slashed .317/.455/.593 with 21 homers, a 16.9 K%, and a 15.7 BB% in 492 plate appearances with the University of Iowa. He also has a ton of raw power, evident in his 110.9 mph double on Friday.

Surprised no one posted the Peyton Williams (@peyton_w2) double, which clocked in at 110.9 mph.
He’s so fun to watch.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/ZyN4HVo1nj
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 25, 2023

Trent Thornton looked solid in his limited …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Addison Barger’s MLB debut will have to wait, but for how long becomes the question

Toronto Blue Jays fans haven’t seen the last of prospect Addison Barger.
Barger, who was optioned to triple-A Buffalo following Monday’s 5-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, entered this spring with plenty of optimism after being added to Toronto’s 40-man roster last November but was seen as a long shot to break camp with the big-league club as their 26th position player. And understandably so, considering the 23-year-old played just eight games with the Bisons last season.
With Barger and veteran outfielder Wynton Bernard headed to the minors, the battle for the Blue Jays’ final roster spot appears to be down to two players: right-hander Otto Lopez, who is likely the favourite and is coming off a tremendous performance at the World Baseball Classic, and left-hander Nathan Lukes.

#BlueJays assign the following players to minor league spring training camp. 42 players remain in big league camp (8 non-roster invitees), which includes 25 pitchers, 3 catchers, 9 infielders, and 4 outfielders. pic.twitter.com/UVjTYFNtqI
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) March 20, 2023

This isn’t the end for Barger, though. It is just the beginning. While he is likely disappointed about not making the big-league roster, the organization’s No. 6 top prospect successfully put himself on the coaching staff’s radar this spring, beginning that process when he first arrived at the player development complex as his six-foot, 210-pound frame could barely fit inside his tight workout shirt.
It wasn’t that long ago that the sixth-round selection from 2018 weighed in the 150-160 pound range. But he made the best of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, allowin …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Ricky Tiedemann threw a bullpen session on Sunday after being shut down with shoulder soreness

Well, Blue Jays fans got some good news on Sunday!

According to MLB.com, Ricky Tiedemann threw a bullpen on Sunday and apparently felt good. Last week, it was reported that Tiedemann had soreness in his pitching shoulder, which had shut him down for a few days.

Left shoulder soreness for Ricky Tiedemann. Shut down for a couple of days but expects him to throw a side Wednesday per Schneider #BlueJays
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) March 13, 2023

It’s also worth noting that Tiedemann was cut in the first wave of cuts, meaning that the young pitcher will start his season in the minor leagues, likely with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The 20-year-old left-handed pitcher is the Blue Jays’ consensus top prospect, with multiple publications such as MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, Fangraphs, Prospects Live, and several other sites awarding him the number one spot.

Here’s every single pitch from Ricky Tiedemann (@TiedemannRicky3)’s afternoon.
I’m going to say it right now. This man is going to win multiple Cy Young awards.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/lr4WKpab7j
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) February 28, 2023

And for good reason, pitching mainly as a 19-year-old in 2022, he had a 2.17 ERA in 78.2 innings pitched at Low-A, High-A, and Double-A. Here’s to another good season that could potentially propel him to a top-10 position on lists, and potentially make it to the big leagues.
Other notes from the article:
Mitch White hasn’t pitched yet this spring, but that looks likely to change this upcoming week. While it may not be in a spring training game, it will be a game scenario, unlike the bullpen sessions he has recently had.
It’s also worth noting that the Jays made their second wave of cuts on March 18. Pitchers Adrián Hernández and Casey Lawrence, as well as first baseman Rainer Núñez, were all sent to minor league game on Saturday afternoon.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.


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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Whit Merrifield hit his first home run of spring training, Bowden Francis pitched well, and more as the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 5-2

It’s always a good day when the Blue Jays beat the Yankees.

On Saturday afternoon, the Jays beat the Yankees in impressive fashion. Let’s look at the standouts, as well as some other things worth mentioning.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Whit Merrifield
Merrifield had a productive game on Saturday afternoon, hitting his first spring training home run and driving another insurance run in his next at bat.
The battle for second base continues to brew, with Merrifield’s slash line sitting at .360/.393/.640. This is better than Santiago Espinal’s slash line (.324/378/.500) and Cavan Biggio’s slash line (.270/.341/.351).
I have no idea who will be the starting second baseman, but this battle is fun.

Raking WHIT the bat 💪@WhitMerrifield is hitting .333 this spring! pic.twitter.com/gpHWrfjXoG
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 18, 2023

Things worth mentioning:
Bowden Francis looks damn good, doesn’t he? On Saturday afternoon, he pitched three innings, gave up three hits, two runs, and walked a batter. However, he also struck out a game-high five, generating a game-high nine whiffs. His role is yet to be determined, but I think there’s a good chance he will start the season as a starter with Buffalo.

Here’s Bowden Francis (@Bowdenpoint0)’s strikeout and whiff edit.
Very good fastball today, as it had a 43 whiff percentage (9 whiffs on 21 swings).
Could be a starter to look out for this season.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/WVOwV8GRel
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 18, 2023

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s knee is doing better. He hit his third home run of the spring in only 21 plate appearances. That home run tied him with George Springer for the most, but the latter has 36 …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays apparently made a “contract suggestion” to Alek Manoah this winter and the two sides were “not close”

We’ve got some Blue Jays news (?) shoved in the middle of a News and Notes article from Jon Heyman at the New York Post…

The Jays in nearby Dunedin can really hit. And their outfield, which formerly had one part-time center fielder, now has three who can do it. Their baserunning is also much improved, a consideration with those pizza-box bases.
The Jays made a contract suggestion for Alek Manoah this winter. Word is they were “not close.”
The way this information is presented is funny because it goes from Heyman complimenting an improvement the team made over the off-season and then quickly chiming in with a quick jab that they’re “not close” on a “contract suggestion,” which makes it appear as though there’s some rift between the team and their young ace.
Heyman calling it a “contract suggestion” indicates that no actual offer was made from the Blue Jays to Manoah but it also doesn’t give any indication of how serious the talk was. It’s more than likely just the standard early stages of a negotiation, in which both sides present what they feel would be a worthwhile long-term agreement for them to make.
From Toronto’s perspective, they’d be looking for a hometown discount from Manoah in exchange for security, while Manoah would likely only want to lock himself down in exchange for a gigantic bag of cash given how well the first two seasons of his Major League career …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays have reassigned Ricky Tiedemann and 11 other players, Addison Barger remains at big league camp

The Blue Jays have made some roster moves.

On Monday evening, the Blue Jays reassigned 12 players to the minor leagues, which you can see in the embedded tweet below.

The #BlueJays announce they’ve assigned these 12 players to Minor League camp.
They can still be brought back over for MLB spring games, so you’ll still see a few of them. pic.twitter.com/g4EPd8Mn1Z
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) March 13, 2023

The name that immediately jumps out is Ricky Tiedemann. The consensus Blue Jays; top prospect probably wasn’t in competition for a spot, but the exposure to big-league hitters could help his development. It’s also worth noting that the 20-year-old will be shut down for a few days, as he has shoulder soreness in his pitching arm.
The other six non-roster invitees reassigned to the minors are: OF Cam Eden, C Jamie Ritchie, LHP Jimmy Robbins, RHP Sem Robberse, RHP Hayden Juenger, and LHP Jimmy Burnette. The latter pitched in 3.1 innings, striking out five batters and allowing a single earned run.

Here’s Jimmy Burnette (@Burnette_Jimmy) strikeout and whiff thread.
A bunch of nice sliders here for his four whiffs.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/SY3QO0jJmX
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 11, 2023

The Blue Jays also optioned five 40-man roster players: INF Orelvis Martinez (two homers), INF Leonardo Jimenez (3 hit-by-pitch), INF/OF Spencer Horwitz (playing for Team Israel), RHP Hagen Danner (shut down for a few days with forearm pain), and RHP Yosver Zulueta. The former struck out the side in his appearance on Monday afternoon.

82.9 mph slider for his second strikeout of the game! pic.twitter.com/8Cg016ht9C
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 13, 2023

While these players aren’t officially at the big league camp anymore, there will still be plenty of opportunities to play in spring training games. For example, the Jays will have a split-squad day on Friday, with both games against the Phillies.
It’s also worth noting that Blue Jays Nation’s second-ranked prospect, Addison Barger, survived the first wave of cuts. Could he be in cont …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays right-hander José Berríos struggles in outing against Venezuela

The Toronto Blue Jays have a handful of players in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, both from the active roster and within the Minor League depths.
Reliever Yimi García is with the Dominican Republic and had a solid outing yesterday in the loss to Venezuela, pitching a clean inning against the top of the order while Jays starter José Berríos is on Puerto Rico’s roster, joining former Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman in the rotation. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Dominican) and Alejandro Kirk (Mexico) were both slated to suit up in the tournament but Guerrero withdrew after a minor knee injury while Kirk’s spring warmup was delayed due to the birth of his daughter, with the club and player deciding to forego the tournament.
The Jays’ farm system is also heavily active across the World Baseball Classic including Luis Quiñones (Puerto Rico), Jaden Rudd (Great Britain), Spencer Horwitz (Israel), Jesús López (Nicaragua), Jiorgeny Casimiri (Netherlands), Otto Lopez (Canada), Damiano Palmegiani (Canada), and Dasan Brown (Canada).
Berríos Gets the Start for Game #2 Against Venezuela
Stroman made the start for Puerto Rico against Nicaragua yesterday, going 4.2 innings and allowing just one earned run in the contest. Puerto Rico would win the contest 9-1, collecting 11 hits with four players collecting two or more in the contest.
In a stacked Pool D that is made up of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Israel, and Venezuela, Berríos got the ball for Puerto Rico’s second game against a strong Venezuelan squad that pulled out a huge win the night before again …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Sem Robberse dazzles, Orelvis Martinez has a good day at the plate, and more as the Blue Jays beat the Boston Red Sox 2-0

Last season, the Blue Jays had a 16-3 record against the trash Boston Red Sox. On Friday afternoon, their dominance continued.

Coming into the game, the Red Sox had a perfect 9-0 record, but that was promptly ended with a 2-0 defeat to the beloved Blue Jays.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Sem Robberse
In only his second appearance of the spring, the 21-year-old Dutchman showed us why he’s one of Toronto’s best pitching prospects.
He struck out Christian Koss, Triston Casas, and Adam Duvall in his first inning of work (with a single to Christian Arroyo). In his second inning of work, he generated two ground balls, walked an MLB batter in Bobby Dalbec, and got Stephen Scott to flyout.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Robberse has the floor of a back-end of the rotation starter. He’s also added muscle this off-season, which has seen his average velocity jump to 93-95 mph. On top of that, he’s a pitcher with great command and nasty stuff. So yeah, keep an eye out for Robberse next season.

Here’s Sem “The Pitching Dutchman” Robberse (@SemRobberse)’s strikeout and whiff edit from this afternoon.
A Double-A start is probable, but it’s not out of the question that we see the 21-year-old pitch in Triple-A in 2023.#BlueJays pic.twitter.com/48URgp5nXC
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 10, 2023

Things worth mentioning:
Orelvis Martinez had a good day at the plate. In his first plate appearance, he drew a walk on a 3-2 count (embedded at the end of the article). In his seco …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation