The Blue Jays announced they’ve reinstated reliever Julian Merryweather from the 60-day injured list. Right-hander Bryan Baker was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to open active roster space, while lefty Anthony Kay was placed on the COVID-19 injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Merryweather is back after missing nearly five months due to a severe oblique strain. Injuries have unfortunately been frequent occurrences for the right-hander, who missed most of the 2018-19 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery and also dealt with elbow tendinitis towards the end of last season.
There’s little question about Merryweather’s ability, though. He’s long been regarded as a potential high-leverage reliever by scouts and he flashed that talent at the big league level over the season’s first few weeks. The 29-year-old struck out seven of the fourteen batters he faced, allowing just a pair of baserunners over 4 1/3 scoreless innings. His fastball averaged a stellar 98.2 MPH and he racked up swinging strikes at a 14.5% rate to earn the closer’s role early in the season. It seems unlikely manager Charlie Montoyo will immediately reinstall him into the ninth inning after such a long absence, but Merryweather has a chance to emerge as the lockdown relief ace the Jays have been seeking all year.
His return comes at a fortuitous time for the Jays, who have caught fire of late to vault themselves back into the American League Wild Card picture. Toronto is riding a six-game winning streak and has taken nine of their last ten, putting them two games back of the Red Sox and two and a half behind the Yankees. The Jays won’t face Boston again this season, but they have five more against New York — including tonight’s and tomorrow’s contests.