The Blue Jays have shut left-hander Ryan Borucki down due to tightness in his left elbow, tweets TSN’s Scott Mitchell. The plan is to re-evalute the 25-year-old within the next few days, but it’s clearly an ominous development after Borucki was limited to just two MLB appearances in 2019 due to elbow troubles. General manager Ross Atkins said that an MRI on Borucki has not revealed any structural damage (Twitter link via Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi).
Borucki isn’t a household name outside of Toronto, but he’s been viewed as an important piece for the Jays as they look to emerge from a rebuilding effort. The former high school draftee ranked among Toronto’s top 20 prospects from 2014-17 before making an impressive big league debut in 2018 when he posted a 3.87 ERA in 17 starts. That season saw Borucki total 97 2/3 innings while averaging 6.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 0.65 HR/9 with a 46.8 percent ground-ball rate.
The Blue Jays invested heavily in pitching this winter, signing free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu (four years, $80MM) and Tanner Roark (two years, $24MM) in addition to trading for Brewers righty Chase Anderson. That trio was expected to be joined by a returning Matt Shoemaker — who was excellent early in 2019 prior to tearing his ACL — and Borucki. Now, however, it’s difficult to forecast that Borucki will be a go to break camp in the Toronto rotation — or even on the active roster.
Toronto isn’t shy on alternative options. The Jays also signed Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi this winter, and the former Yomiuri Giant has experience as both a starter and a reliever. Trent Thornton, who paced the Jays in innings pitched last year, remains in the mix. The Blue Jays also have several young options on the cusp of MLB readiness; each of Anthony Kay, Sean Reid-Foley, Jacob Waguespack and T.J. Zeuch has already gotten his feet wet in the Majors and could be in line for a look. Others on the 40-man roster include Thomas Hatch, Yennsy Diaz, Hector Perez and Julian Merryweather.
Whoever opens the season in the fifth spot could end up serving as a mere placeholder anyhow. The Jays have one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects in right-hander Nate Pearson. He and his triple-digit fastball are expected to make their big league debut at some point during the 2020 campaign.