Notes: Thornton (elbow) to IL; sked update

August 6th, 2020

The Blue Jays trimmed their roster to 28 players ahead of Thursday’s league-wide deadline to do so, optioning infielder  and right-hander . However, Waguespack was pulled back onto the active roster quickly when the Blue Jays placed starter  on the 10-day injured just prior to their series finale in Atlanta.

Thornton is dealing with right elbow inflammation, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“He was throwing a bullpen and he felt kind of weird about it,” Montoyo said. “And, of course, the moment somebody complains a little bit, we don’t want to rush it and we want to be careful with it.”

For now, Thornton’s issue isn’t considered serious, but the club is exercising extreme caution. He’ll miss his next start at the very least, and the club will continue to reevaluate over the coming days.

On Thursday, MLB announced that team rosters can stay at 28 players for the remainder of the season, eliminating a second cut down to 26 that was originally planned in another two weeks. Along with that change, the taxi squad grew from three players to five. Espinal is currently joined by catcher  and right-hander  on that squad, which travels with the club on road trips.

Espinal made a strong impression in Spring Training and Summer Camp, and it’s likely that he’ll impact this roster again at some point in 2020. The 25-year-old managed just one hit in 11 plate appearances with the Blue Jays through their first nine games, but it’s clear that he has Montoyo's trust.

The Blue Jays turned to Espinal at shortstop multiple times, and long term, he could still be a top reserve option behind Bo Bichette. Espinal also played second base, third base and the outfield, making him an ideal fit on a Montoyo roster. Brandon Drury and Joe Panik currently rank ahead of him on the depth chart, but Espinal has Minor League options and should have plenty more opportunities.

Waguespack has made three scoreless appearances so far this season out of the bullpen, striking out four over four innings and giving up just two hits to the 16 batters he faced. To fill Thornton’s rotation spot, though, the Blue Jays will be seeking other options.

Chase Anderson is due to return from an oblique strain and could start on Saturday in Boston, though a final decision has not yet been made. Regardless, with Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch and Ryan Borucki in the bullpen, the Blue Jays could easily piggyback two multi-inning arms to fill the bulk of that game before turning things over to the 'pen.

In Thornton's lone start this season, the 26-year-old held the Nationals to one run on eight hits over four innings. In late July last season, Thornton also spent a brief stint on the 10-day IL with right elbow inflammation.

Scheduling changes
The Blue Jays will face the Phillies on Aug. 20, which was originally scheduled as an off-day, in a doubleheader beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. They’ll also play a doubleheader on Sept. 18 in Philadelphia beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, instead of the single game that was originally scheduled. These changes will make up for the three games postponed this past weekend.

Between Aug. 14 and Sept. 9, the Blue Jays will play 28 games in 27 days with no scheduled off-day, a stretch that will surely test their depth. In a corresponding change, the time of their game on Aug. 19 in Baltimore, just prior to the doubleheader against the Phillies, has been moved up to a 1:05 p.m. ET start to allow for more travel time.

Borucki shining in shortened role
Borucki continues to show flashes out of the bullpen that few saw coming, with his fastball jumping up to 96.3 mph on Wednesday, as he struck out both batters he faced, Freddie Freman and Johan Camargo.

It marked the first relief appearance for Borucki that was unscheduled and based purely on need. As a starter, he’s typically sat around 91-93 mph and navigated his way through games, but this level of aggression is suiting him well so far.

“I’m more of a finesse kind of pitcher as a starter, just trying to get ground balls and stuff like that. Now, it’s coming in with my best stuff and whatever’s working that day, I’m going to go with -- if it’s the changeup, if it’s the slider. Then yesterday, I was fortunate I had all three pitches.”

Short term, it’s working. Long term, the Blue Jays still say they view Borucki as a starter. So how will he keep his workload up entering 2021 after a shortened season this year?

“I’m just going to have to adjust what my normal throwing program is,” Borucki said, “maybe start a bit earlier [in the offseason] and not take as much of a break. I had all that time off. A lot of guys will be trying to find what works for them this year because it’s such a unique year. I’ve been thinking about that a lot.”