The Blue Jays announced that they’ve signed right-hander Lucas Harrell to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Harrell is represented by Frontline.
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The 31-year-old Harrell returned to the Majors in 2016 after spending the 2015 season with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization. Last year, after inking a minor league contract with Atlanta, Harrell reemerged in the Majors and tossed 47 innings of 4.21 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate in nine starts between the Braves and Rangers.
Harrell’s best season came with the 2012 Astros, when he hurled 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA ball and averaged 6.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 to go along with a sensational 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. He’s lost about a mile on his fastball since that time, however, and his ground-ball tendencies last season were clearly diminished.
Toronto’s rotation is largely set (barring any spring injuries), with Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano tabbed to comprise manager John Gibbons’ starting five. Harrell, though, could compete for a multi-inning relief role in a currently murky bullpen picture. Beyond closer Roberto Osuna, sophomore Joe Biagini and veteran Jason Grilli, there’s little certainty among the Blue Jays’ relief corps. Alternatively, Harrell could head to Triple-A to open the season, where he could function as a reserve for the big league rotation. Estrada, after all, pitched much of the 2016 season with a herniated disk in his back, and injuries to a starting staff are virtually inevitable over the course of a Major League season.