Borucki shakes off nerves, throws 2 scoreless

February 23rd, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Ryan Borucki's first season in the Major Leagues could not have gone much better, but despite the early success the 24-year-old hasn't lost that rookie feeling quite yet.

Borucki joined Toronto in late June and proceeded to go 4-6 with a 3.87 ERA over 97 2/3 innings. He tied Marco Estrada for the team lead with 11 quality starts, which were also the most by a Blue Jays rookie pitcher since Marcus Stroman had 14 in 2014.

Not bad for a debut, and now Borucki has to worry about the encore. It's pretty unrealistic to expect this season will go as smoothly, some ups and downs should be anticipated, but the future remains bright for a cornerstone of the starting staff.

"I'm just going to go out there and control what I can control," Borucki said. "If I can do whatever I can do to help the team win as much as possible, and just pitch my game, and whatever happens, happens. I'm not really thinking about anything else, other than get outs and help this team win."

All of Borucki's quality starts last season involved at least six innings with two runs or fewer. There were six outings that did not fall into this category and only four of them involved fewer than five innings. That's the same type of consistency he will be hoping for this year but with hitters about to make some adjustments, the native of Illinois knew he had to make some as well.

Borucki said he added approximately 5 to 6 pounds of muscle this offseason. The goal was to build more endurance for late in the year, but a side benefit also might be increased velocity on his fastball. According to Statcast, Borucki averaged 91.5 mph on his sinker last season and on Saturday afternoon in the Blue Jays' 4-0 loss to the Tigers, he topped out at 95.

The main area of focus for Borucki this spring will be tightening up his slider, which occasionally has a tendency to a little bit too loopy with not enough velocity. The rest relates to command and being able to alternate which side of the plate he is attacking at will.

"I feel like a rookie still, but being able to have those three months in the big leagues has definitely helped me be a bit more comfortable around the guys here and be myself here a bit more rather than just be quiet," Borucki said.

If anyone needed a reminder of how inexperienced Borucki still is they received it Saturday afternoon. Borucki said he took the mound for the spring opener vs. Detroit with more nerves than he's had in any start over the last three years, and it showed.

Borucki walked the first batter he faced on five pitches and also served up a pair of singles over two scoreless innings. He pitched out of trouble in the first and induced a ground-ball double play after a leadoff hit in the second to escape any possible damage. Borucki was put to the test, and at least on this day, he passed, but it wasn't always pretty.

"He did a good job of getting out of trouble," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "It looked like he was all over the place, but then he relaxed a little bit and got the outs. He did a nice job.

"He's pretty level-headed, pretty even keel. He'll be all right. Nice job today getting out of trouble."