Notes: Chatwood dominating; Buffalo seating

May 12th, 2021

As Spring Training rolled into March and Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo listed his impressive group of high-leverage bullpen arms, he started to say “Tyler Chatwood” more often.

This projected as a stacked group, though, back before Kirby Yates was lost for the season. There was also Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, Julian Merryweather, David Phelps and Ryan Borucki, but injuries have come early and often. The bullpen, however, just keeps finding ways to pull it off, and Chatwood is one of the biggest reasons.

Chatwood enters play on Wednesday with a 0.73 ERA over 12 1/3 innings, including 17 strikeouts and just three walks. He’s leaned on his cutter more than ever -- which opposing hitters have struggled to make much contact against -- and moved away from his curveball a bit, instead opting for a heavier arsenal out of the bullpen. Chatwood had moved back and forth between starting and relieving in the past, but with some clarity coming into this season, he’s embraced the attack mentality.

“I feel like I can throw my cutter and command it a lot better right now, so that's what I've been attacking with,” Chatwood said. “It’s definitely different, but you're just attacking the hitters with your best stuff and what you feel like you can get them out with, your strengths.”

Montoyo would prefer to keep Chatwood in one-inning spots, but he’s capable of going two when the situation calls for it. That’s the case with many of these arms, and multi-inning relievers have been part of the strategy all along.

Toronto’s bullpen carries a 2.86 ERA into Wednesday, the fourth-best mark in baseball. They’ve also thrown the fifth-most innings (144 2/3), so it’s all hands on deck. Now 31, Chatwood has been around long enough to know what a fresh bullpen and a gassed bullpen looks like, but he’s encouraged by what he’s seeing.

“I’ve never been on a team with two lefties with that velocity and those sinkers like we’re able to run out there in [Tim] Mayza and Borucki,” Chatwood said. “Then Dolis, with high velocity and nasty movement on that splitter. Romano, same thing. The depth of this bullpen is really good and I think that’s what is helping us. We’re able to absorb some of those injuries that we’ve had. We lost Merryweather, who throws 100 with an 80-mph changeup. That’s tough to replace, but the depth and guys who have come up to fill in have been awesome.”

Updates to seating plan at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field

When the Blue Jays make their move to Buffalo on June 1, there will be fully vaccinated seating sections, increasing their overall stadium capacity to 35 percent, the club said in a release Wednesday. This will be in effect for the first eight home games (June 1-17).

These fully vaccinated seating sections will have 100 percent capacity, with fans required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination. Physically distanced seating sections, which will have tickets available to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated fans, will sell tickets in pods of four, which will be spaced at least six feet from one another. Full details on all requirements can be found here.

Woods Richardson, Moreno rolling in Double-A

No. 4 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson made his second start of the Double-A season, and it was another good one. The quick-working right-hander tossed five innings of one-run ball, allowing just a solo home run and striking out eight.

No. 7 prospect Gabriel Moreno had a big game at the dish, going 2-for-5 with a home run, walk and five RBIs. Moreno will continue to see everyday reps in Double-A with Riley Adams in Triple-A, but the organization is very high on the athletic young catcher and his early results have impressed.

Injury updates

• George Springer (right quad strain) took batting practice Wednesday and will start his running drills.

• Thomas Hatch (right elbow impingement) will throw two-to-three innings on Thursday at the Blue Jays’ complex.

• Julian Merryweather (left oblique strain) is now playing long toss.

• Alejandro Kirk (left flexor strain) is hitting off the tee and throwing, but running will be his primary challenge when his rehab ramps up.

• Patrick Murphy (right AC joint injury) threw an 18-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday and will throw another soon.

• Rafael Dolis (right calf strain) is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Friday.

• Anthony Castro (right forearm strain) is expected to throw another bullpen by the weekend, but has still been feeling a bit of tightness. 

• Joe Panik (left calf strain) hit in the cage Wednesday.