Tellez makes Blue Jays' Wild Card roster

September 29th, 2020

The Blue Jays announced their 28-man roster for the American League Wild Card Series against the Rays prior to Tuesday’s opener, which includes some returning players and hints at their upcoming strategy.

has rejoined the team after missing the tail end of the season with a right knee strain that looked like it would keep him sidelined much longer than it is. Both manager Charlie Montoyo and general manager Ross Atkins said recently that they didn’t expect the slugger back quite this soon, but that opens up more options for Montoyo.

Tellez could factor into the designated-hitter picture, depending on how strong that knee is at this point in his recovery, or he could provide the Blue Jays with a valuable bench bat after hitting .283 with eight home runs and an .886 OPS over 36 games this season.

“What he was able to do over the last four days was not what we expected,” Atkins on Tuesday. “We just didn’t expect him to be able to handle the things that were asked of him. Then we were able to get him into a position from a baseball standpoint with a lot of live BPs and creative work.”

This is one benefit, Atkins said, of having the rest of their 40-man postseason playoff pool around. They have extra arms who aren’t just trying to get work in, but are actively trying to prove themselves, so the work that Tellez got came across pitchers who were very close to simulating real game situations.

The name missing from Toronto’s postseason roster for this round that fans were hoping to see is Canadian reliever Jordan Romano, who is still working his way back from a right middle finger injury. Romano was the breakthrough star of the bullpen earlier this season, posting a 1.23 ERA with a fastball that lived in the high-90s and a devastating slider, so his return will remain a major storyline if the Blue Jays can advance past the Rays.

Romano has been throwing to live hitters recently at max effort, so a return in a potential AL Division Series would not be out of the question. Other pitchers missing from the Wild Card Series roster include starter Tanner Roark and reliever Shun Yamaguchi, both of whom are coming off long, difficult seasons.

Anthony Kay is back on the roster now after two tough outings in mid-September led to him being optioned. The Blue Jays have kept the hard-throwing left-hander fresh, and he’s likely to see action against the Rays given how many left-handed bats they have. The same can be said for Robbie Ray and Ryan Borucki.

On the infield, the Blue Jays bring the versatile young Santiago Espinal back into the fold, but the most interesting addition might just be catcher Reese McGuire. The 25-year-old was just 3-for-41 (.073) over parts of 19 games this season before being optioned, but it’s unlikely he sees action in this series. Instead, carrying McGuire as a third catcher behind Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk could act as insurance.

Kirk’s nine games with the Blue Jays after a late promotion this season have changed the look of their lineup entirely. With an advanced plate approach and an all-contact swing, Kirk hit .375 with a .983 OPS, showing he’s fully capable of handling the velocity the Rays will be throwing at him.

Tellez will be part of the DH picture over the three-game series, but it’s possible that the Blue Jays opt to use Kirk at DH at one point, which would necessitate having McGuire on the roster in case Jansen were injured or removed from the game for a pinch-runner. This would also allow the Blue Jays to use Kirk off the bench as a bat, because even though he lacks experience at this level, he’s one of their surest bets to put a ball in play when needed.

Pitchers (13) -- Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass, Ryan Borucki, A.J. Cole, Rafael Dolis, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, Nate Pearson, Robbie Ray, Hyun Jin Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Ross Stripling, Taijuan Walker

Catchers (3) -- Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Reese McGuire

Infielders (8) -- Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Joe Panik, Travis Shaw, Rowdy Tellez, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders (4) -- Jonathan Davis, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández