TORONTO -- Jacob Waguespack’s journey to the Majors has been an unlikely one.
After three successful years in the Southeastern Conference on the pitching staff at Ole Miss, the 2015 Draft came and went without an opportunity for the right-hander to pursue a professional career. But when the Phillies offered the young hurler a chance to sign as a free agent a little over a week later, he jumped at it.
Now, in his fifth season of professional baseball, the 25-year-old has joined a Blue Jays roster in need of pitching depth with an opportunity to make his big league debut.
“It’s a dream come true,” Waguespack said. “It’s pretty cliché, but I signed as a free agent and guys like me aren’t supposed to be here. So all the hard work and all my mentors and coaches, I think about those people who helped me along the way. I’m just super excited and humbled to be here.”
Acquired by the Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline last year in exchange for left-hander Aaron Loup, Waguespack was the Opening Day starter at Triple-A Buffalo this season, and he owns a 2-6 record with a 5.86 ERA in nine starts and 43 innings with the Bisons. Over 369 career Minor League innings, Waguespack has posted a 4.07 ERA with 145 walks and 368 strikeouts.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound hurler has had to create opportunities for himself along the way, as a guy with little money and no Draft status behind him to assist.
“I’m always a guy who puts in a lot of work and listens to my coaches and asks questions and tries to get better,” Waguespack said. “But it’s part of the game. You come out every day and do what you’re supposed to do as a baseball player, and I think I’ve done that along the way and hope to continue doing that.”
Waguespack’s spot on the roster opened when Tim Mayza was placed on the injured list Sunday morning. The 27-year-old left-hander is sidelined with left ulnar neuritis, and his status on the IL is retroactive to Thursday. Mayza compiled a 3.48 ERA over 25 games and 20 2/3 innings this year for Toronto, with 26 strikeouts.
The latest addition to the Blue Jays’ pitching staff is unsure of what his role might be with the big league club. This season is the first in which he has been solely a starter, and he has split time between the rotation and the bullpen since his time at Ole Miss.
“I haven’t been told anything,” Waguespack said ahead of Sunday’s series finale against the Padres. “I’ve just kind of been [going] 100 miles an hour for the last hour or so. I’m still waiting to meet with Charlie [Montoyo, Blue Jays manager] and Ross [Atkins, Toronto’s GM] and Pete [Walker, the team’s pitching coach] and we’ll get that figured out.”
Though Waguespack won’t have any family in attendance for Sunday’s game, learning of his callup in the fifth inning of last night’s matchup between the Bisons and Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and his family travelling from Louisiana, he believes they should make it to Tampa for Toronto’s next series.
“I let them know last night,” he said. “However, I didn’t know if I’d be active or not today, so being that we only have a day game here for today, my family won’t be here. They’ll surely be watching on TV, but they’ll probably make it out to Tampa.”
Justin Shafer also made the trip to Toronto from Lehigh Valley with Waguespack and has been added to the taxi squad for the Blue Jays in case the relief corps has further need.