Notes: Chatwood confident; Vlad's mission

February 24th, 2021

The back end of the Blue Jays' bullpen is stacked up with some familiar names in expected roles, but and his high-upside arm could change that.

Signed as a reliever, the right-hander expects to pitch in late, high-leverage innings, similar to Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis and projected closer Kirby Yates. Chatwood could be stretched a bit longer than those three right-handers with some two-inning outings, but by facing hitters just once, he can max out his best pitches without saving something for later.

"You're attacking from the get go," Chatwood said Tuesday from Dunedin, Fla. "You're not worried about having to see [a batter] two or three times. You're going out there to get him out with your best pitch. As a starter, you might try to save a pitch for a big situation that you want to go to. With this, you're trying to get the guy out as quick as possible and with the least amount of pitches as possible as well."

Chatwood's sinker averaged 94.2 mph in 2020, according to Statcast, and 95.7 mph the year prior, with one of the highest spin rates in baseball. His curveball is also a spin machine, and when paired with his cutter, which he's started to use more, and changeup, Chatwood can present a deep arsenal for a reliever.

Typically, when a starter with velocity makes their transition to the bullpen, they'll pare down that arsenal to lean on fewer pitches. Chatwood doesn't see it that way. He's confident in what he's got, and his best pitch might vary from game to game.

"A lot of my pitches are plus pitches, so I think just having that [helps]. Sometimes you're not going to have one breaking ball, I might not have a cutter, but my curveball is good or my changeup is the best pitch that day. I think that's only going to help me throughout this process."

While Chatwood was with the Cubs, former Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow and closer Craig Kimbrel were key in helping him transition to the bullpen, where he spent the majority of his 2019 season. At the time, Chatwood was coming off a disappointing '18 season with the Cubs, where he posted a 5.30 ERA over 103 2/3 innings in year one of a three-year, $38 million deal. Chatwood felt like he got away from his own strengths at times through those struggles.

"I think I just tried to people please," Chatwood said. "Guys wanted to change who I was after I signed that contract, and instead of doing what I did my whole career and sticking to what I do best, I tried to people please, switch up my mechanics midseason, stuff like that. It's not fun to try to do that."

He re-evaluated that offseason and has felt much better about his mechanics and raw stuff over the past couple of seasons, but it's been injuries that have held him back. Talent has never been a question with Chatwood, so with health finally on his side and a clear role in the Blue Jays' bullpen, he'll have a real opportunity to emerge as a cornerstone in this group.

Vlad on a mission
All eyes will be on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. when the Spring Training exhibition schedule opens on Monday, but until then, all the reviews out of Blue Jays' camp are glowing. Guerrero improved his fitness over the winter and made a strong early impression on his manager.

"He even said in the offseason how he learned from this past season, and that's why his offseason was so good," Montoyo said. "He looks great, and that's one of those that I wish you guys were here so you could see him, but he really does. Of course, he's moving around a lot better and he is on a mission to have a good year, and so far he looks great."

Reporting for duty
Right-hander Ross Stripling is expected to join the Blue Jays at Spring Training on Wednesday, Montoyo said. Stripling has been away from the club as his wife gave birth to their first child. Stripling will be stretched out as a starter, and it will be interesting to track his velocity this spring after the right-hander adopted a long-toss program over the offseason.

Elsewhere, Richard Urena and Gabriel Moreno have both arrived in camp. Tyler White, the first baseman who joined the Blue Jays on a Minor League deal this offseason, is not yet in camp as he deals with the aftermath of the major winter storm in Texas.

Extra bases
• Montoyo watched lefty Tim Mayza throw a bullpen session and was impressed by the movement of his pitches. Mayza, who's coming back from Tommy John surgery in late 2019, feels his two-seamer has added some depth.

"That made my day," Montoyo said.

• The Blue Jays are putting a greater emphasis on individual defensive drills this spring, Montoyo said. They'll run through all of the standard drills with full infields, of course, but early in camp, there's been a focus on developing individual skills one-on-one.

• Live batting practice sessions begin Wednesday for the Blue Jays.

Blue Jays complete deal with Dodgers

The club announced late Tuesday that outfielder Ryan Noda was sent to the Dodgers as the second player to be named later in last season's Ross Stripling deal. Kendall Williams, a right-handed pitching prospect, had been the first. Noda, now 25, was a 15th-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2017 and most recently played at the Class A Advanced level in '19. An on-base machine, Noda owns a career .422 OBP across three Minor League seasons. He was in camp with the Blue Jays as a non-roster invitee.