Hatch awaits chance: 'Everything is sharp'

Blue Jays sign 15 Draft picks; Romano set for Canadian homecoming

July 21st, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tuesday night in Buffalo was supposed to be a new beginning for , then it rained. That’s been a recurring theme for him in 2021.

The talented right-hander earned the spot to start in Alek Manoah’s place with a strong run of late at Triple-A. Hatch put up a 2.73 ERA as a reliever last season, but the organization has always viewed him as a starter, and one who could be more than just a depth piece. At this point, he just needs an opening to get rolling.

When Hatch returned home to ramp up his training this past offseason after his honeymoon, he tested positive for COVID-19. Hatch had only mild symptoms, but by the time he was cleared and got back to where he wanted to be physically, that cost him about a month. When it came time to push for a rotation spot in Spring Training, Hatch hit the IL with a right elbow impingement late in camp and later dealt with side tightness as he rehabbed, so he didn’t see consistent Minor League innings until June.

"I felt like my Spring Training was that rehab period," Hatch said. "The regular Spring Training was more of a catch-up, and unfortunately, that put me in a bad position, but I felt like coming through the rehab was really beneficial for me to catch up. I feel like I’m in a stronger position than I’ve ever been."

Following Tuesday’s rainout, Hatch was available as a long man out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s series finale against the Red Sox, and the Blue Jays will evaluate his role from there. Manoah’s health matters, as he was placed on the IL with a back contusion. So does the performance of Steven Matz and Ross Stripling, who have run hot and cold this season.

Whenever and wherever the innings come, though, Hatch feels he’s in a good place, physically.

"I’ve been making some mechanical adjustments," Hatch said. "My routine has made my body feel really good and I feel like I’m in a good place, especially for the back nine of the season. Those mechanical adjustments started to take place, stuff started to arrive at the mitt and everything is sharp right now.”

Hatch is most optimistic about his sinker right now, his old “bread-and-butter” pitch from college with which he’s rekindled a relationship.

When Hatch got to the Minor Leagues, he worked on developing his four-seamer, a pitch he threw so well up in the zone last season. That’s his primary weapon now, but he uses the sinker against right-handed hitters to keep them off the outer half of the plate. He also likes how that sinker sets up some added deception on his changeup, his best secondary pitch.

Blue Jays announce 15 Draft signings
Toronto officially announced the signings of 15 Draft picks on Wednesday, along with two undrafted free agents. First-rounder Gunnar Hoglund had already been announced, and on Wednesday, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline reported the club signed third-rounder Ricky Tiedemann -- a left-hander out of Golden West College -- for a $644,800 bonus, just a few thousand under the pick’s slot value.

Romano ready for Canadian homecoming
The Blue Jays’ lone Canadian, Jordan Romano, is truly headed “home” on July 30 when the club returns to Rogers Centre.

“When we found out the news, I was really excited because of my family; I haven’t seen them in a while,” said the Markham, Ontario, native. “I probably got 20 or 30 text messages from ex-teammates and buddies about how pumped they are to have us back in town. It’s been a long time and we’re all really excited to get going.”

Romano has seen sparse action lately, but manager Charlie Montoyo says the right-hander is capable of staying sharp over extended periods without work. A break doesn’t hurt, either, because the Blue Jays will likely be involved in plenty of close games down the stretch. The club will be targeting some bullpen help at the Trade Deadline, but they need Romano and his elite fastball-slider combo to make a run.

Back to home crowds
This Red Sox series, like the Yankees series in June, has seen waves of visiting fans flood Sahlen Field in Buffalo.

“I go outside and run. That’s when I find out what kind of fans we’re going to get and what kinds of jerseys they’re wearing,” Montoyo said. “That’s why I knew it was going to be full of Boston fans the other day. This place is great. That’s what I like about what we did here. All our players have all they need to compete in a big league game. Credit to the Blue Jays and Buffalo.”

The Blue Jays announced Friday that they would make a $25,000 donation to the Buffalo Bisons Charitable Foundation to support its efforts to grow the game of baseball in the Buffalo area.