Notes: Kay steady after Roark stumbles

March 21st, 2021

TORONTO -- ’s fourth start of Spring Training looked a little like 2020, giving the veteran right-hander a feel for some final adjustments that need to be made with Opening Day just 10 days away.

Roark recorded just one out in the first inning of the 8-3 loss to the Yankees on Sunday at TD Ballpark, but he re-entered the game in the second and went a total of 2 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits. Many of those misses were sailing high or catching too much of the plate, resulting in four exit velocities north of 100 mph by Yankees hitters.

“I’ve got to use my fastball more and locate it better,” Roark said. “Everything plays off my fastball. No matter what, throughout any game, I have to establish the fastball. I have to make them respect the fastball, and then everything else plays off of that. That’s what I didn’t do in the first inning.”

Behind 26 fastballs, Roark threw 18 curveballs, 17 sliders and 11 changeups, so a more top-heavy fastball approach will be in mind come the regular season. Roark also noted that his timing wasn’t sharp in the first inning, and that it took some time to get his arm speed and release point to where they need to be.

Roark was followed by , who pitched four of his best innings this spring. The left-hander allowed one run on a pair of hits and two walks while striking out three. Kay’s fastball averaged 94.6 mph, reaching up to touch 97-plus mph as it’s done several times this spring, and he featured his developing cutter heavily.

With injuries to No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson and right-hander Thomas Hatch, Kay and T.J. Zeuch are suddenly the next arms up in that starting rotation.

“I’m a big fan of Anthony Kay,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “He just comes at you with a good fastball. He was high at 97 today, and now he’s working on a cutter that’s a really good pitch for him. He’s done well this spring, and again, I’m a big fan of the kid.”

Ryu, Merryweather work in sim game
The Blue Jays kept Hyun Jin Ryu away from the Yankees again Sunday, instead having him throw in a sim game at the club’s complex. According to the team, Ryu threw five shutout innings on 77 pitches, allowing three hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Ryu is fully on pace to be where he wants to be come Opening Day in New York.

Right-hander Julian Merryweather also threw two innings on 34 pitches, allowing two hits with two strikeouts. Merryweather had been dealing with some lower back tightness, but he should move into a Grapefruit League game soon and be ready for Opening Day. As a multi-inning bullpen option, Merryweather offers plenty of upside.

'Two shortstops' for the Blue Jays
Marcus Semien’s transition to second base hasn’t been all that noticeable this spring. That’s a good thing.

The veteran has looked right at home on the other side of the bag, teaming up with Bo Bichette to form one of the most offensively talented middle infields in the American League. There’s always a transition period when a club puts together a new double-play combo, but these two have clicked right away.

“It’s going great. I think that we have two shortstops up the middle,” Semien said, “so there’s a lot that I can bounce off him and a lot that he can bounce off me. The days we’re not playing, we actually both get a lot of work in at short and days that we are playing, we work up the middle. It’s been a good combination.”

Chatwood on excellent spring
Right-hander Tyler Chatwood has made six appearances this spring, throwing seven scoreless innings with just one hit allowed and five strikeouts. The Blue Jays are betting on Chatwood’s upside when he’s healthy, and given his ability to go multiple innings, Montoyo will be able to move him between multiple roles.

Chatwood likes what he sees in the group around him, too. With Kirby Yates the presumed closer, the Blue Jays also have Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis and Ryan Borucki on the back end with Chatwood.

“We have some unbelievable arms,” Chatwood said. “Obviously, when I signed here I looked and watched some video, but to see it up close is unreal. To pick some of their brains, I talk to Kirby [Yates] a lot and pick his brain about some stuff. It’s been really fun. I’m looking forward to it.”