By the late afternoon, he was throwing 99 m.p.h. fastballs in on the hands of Giancarlo Stanton, spotting change-ups on the bottom edge of the strike zone and throwing sliders for called strikes. All it took was 11 pitches to strike out the middle of the Yankees’ order in quick succession and suddenly, it was easy to dream on the potential of a pitcher who was hardly heard from at all during spring training.
99 with late life from Julian Merryweather today pic.twitter.com/wGplApFpMU
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) April 2, 2021
“The moment itself, being in Yankee Stadium was pretty surreal,” Merryweather said afterwards. “That’s like little league dreams right there.”
For Merryweather, that first ever save represents a career milestone. For the Blue Jays, the way he got there was perhaps just as important as the end result. Few pitchers combine velocity, movement and command the way Merryweather did Thursday afternoon, and as long as he’s healthy enough to sustain this, he has the ability to contribute in high-leverage innings.
As one MLB scout said, “Just straight dominant.”
“He’s got the stuff,” manager Charlie Montoyo added. “If he stays healthy, he’s going to help us all year. We knew that’s what he can do and he did it (Thursday). It doesn’t get more high-leverage than what he did.”
While some pitchers condense their repertoires while pitching in relief, Merryweather used three pitches against the Yankees, keeping the middle of their lineup off-balance with offerings as slow as 78.7 m.p.h. and as fast as 99.1 m.p.h. Even the middle of New York’s lineup had no answer for him on a day all of his pitches were working.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Julian Merryweather’s statistics against New York Yankees’ Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres on April 1, 2021.
“I came in just feeling good and feeling confident with everything,” said Merryweather, who was acquired as the player to be named for Josh Donaldson in 2018. “To be able to feel it all come together in the bullpen and have it work out in the game was great.”
That in itself is a significant development for a team looking to backfill for the loss of closer Kirby Yates to Tommy John surgery, especially since Merryweather’s status was uncertain after a spring in which back stiffness limited him to just two Grapefruit League appearances. And while it was the most significant development for the pitching staff Thursday, it wasn’t the only one.
By turning to Tyler Chatwood with a runner on in the sixth inning of a tie game, Montoyo showed he’s comfortable using the right-hander in high-leverage spots. This time the move worked, as Chatwood escaped without allowing any runs and topped out at 95.1 m.p.h. with his fastball.
Chatwood did walk a hitter before escaping trouble, but David Phelps had an ever closer call the following inning when he allowed two hits before escaping with a double play. For what it’s worth, Phelps averaged 91.5 m.p.h. with his fastball, down from 94.1 m.p.h. a year ago.
All of which to say that the Blue Jays, like all teams in baseball, will spend much of the season seeking answers in their bullpen. With that in mind, they’ve recently connected with left-hander Mike Montgomery, who became a free agent after asking for his release from the Mets late last month. A veteran of six big-league seasons, Montgomery has pitched extensively as a starter and a reliever on his way to a lifetime 3.84 ERA.
Of course the Blue Jays check on many players, and interest doesn’t always equate to deals, but it’s a possibility worth monitoring especially since the front office can open up a 40-man spot when needed simply by shifting Yates to the 60-day injured list.
That’s mostly hypothetical, though. Merryweather’s performance against the Yankees, on the other hand, was very real. There’s reason to be cautious in setting workload expectations for a pitcher who has battled injuries for much of his career, including as recently as last month. But as long as Merryweather can pitch like this, the Blue Jays have a difference maker with stuff that’s good enough to retire the game’s best hitters.
“I’ve always been open to whatever role they’re going to use me in, whether it’s an opener, long relief guy in extra innings,” he said. “It’s just about being ready for the whole game.”
Sick Jon Rahm withdraws from Fortinet Championship's Wednesday pro-am – Golf Channel
World No. 1 Jon Rahm withdrew from the Fortinet Championship’s Wednesday pro-am because of a stomach illness.
Rahm was supposed to tee off at 8:40 a.m. PST and moved his press conference to 2 p.m. But he then canceled his pre-tournament presser altogether and the Tour announced he would not appear at Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course at all on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is scheduled to tee off at 7:44 a.m. local time in Round 1.
After competing this week in Napa Valley at the PGA Tour’s season opener, Rahm is expected to travel to Whistling Straights, Wisconsin, for next week’s Ryder Cup.
Oilers Rookie Notebook: Dylan Holloway’s wrist injury a tough blow – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — The first blow came even before Edmonton Oilers rookie camp had opened, with prized prospect Dylan Holloway going under the knife Tuesday to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist.
What made it even more disappointing was, after busting the bone in the NCAA playoffs with the University of Wisconsin, Holloway had surgery after Wisconsin’s season ended in late March in Chicago that was designed to have him ready to play hockey this fall. But that surgery failed.
Holloway, Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2020 (14th overall) lunched with Holland during a Calgary world junior camp in August, and the Oilers GM didn’t like what he heard.
“He was telling me that he couldn’t shoot, couldn’t take draws. He was getting frustrated,” Holland said. “We were five to six months down the road … and there was very little healing going on. Probably about 30 per cent. The decision was made: nothing was really happening, and we’d need to start the process all over again.”
Holloway is only 19, but can play in the American Hockey League. He was likely destined for Bakersfield this year, which is definitely where he will be assigned when he heals up sometime around the new year.
No Room At The Inn
The Oilers roster is pretty much set with veterans, with precious few (if any) spots for a youngster to worm his way into the NHL.
But two left shot defencemen who may have the best shot — along with left winger Tyler Benson — are both in town and ready to begin their North American transition in earnest. Dmitri Samorukov and Philip Broberg are at the Rookie Camp prep’ing for main camp, where it isn’t a total reach that one might be able to stick around.
“They’re both going to be in North America,” said Holland, who had good news when doctors cleared Samorukov for full contact after a January shoulder injury suffered in Moscow. “He was playing very well in the KHL, but hasn’t played hockey since January. Two years of pro — one in Bakersfield, one in (the KHL) — and I’m also excited to see where Broberg is at, like everybody else.
“Do they force their way onto the Edmonton Oilers roster? Or do they have to go down to the American League and continue their development into NHL defencemen? That’s what we’re trying to find out, but they are both here (in North America) to stay.”
Samorukov, 22, played a season in Bakersfield then went home to CSKA Moscow last year, the club where he was raised as a player. Broberg, 20, spent two developmental seasons in Sweden’s top league with Skelleftea, while limping through the 2021 World Junior here in Edmonton.
“I had a knee injury and a shoulder injury at the World Juniors. It was difficult,” said the defenceman, who played through the pain. “It is an honour to play for your country, especially at the World Juniors.”
Broberg said he was about “80 percent” when he returned to Skelleftea, and by season’s end, his minutes were down. Samorukov injured his shoulder in a January battle drill during practice and lost the back half of his KHL season, but says the last two seasons have him ready to challenge for a spot on an NHL blue line.
“When I first came to the AHL two years ago, it was really good for me. Learning how to be a pro player,” he said. “Then, the season in the KHL, I established myself as a pro player. Now, we’re trying to knock in the door. To do our best.”
Remember, Samorukov first came over as a 17-year-old to play three junior seasons for the Guelph Storm. He had 45 points in 59 games in his 19-year-old season and then nicely quarterbacked the Russian powerplay at the World Juniors in Vancouver-Victoria. But the 197-pounmder has settled on a less offensive game as a pro.
“Of course when you come from junior you have a lot of points. You think you might be something special,” he smiled. “Then you realize you have some guys who can really get points. (You learn) what kind of game you have to play. I know who I am right now.”
Samorukov was part of the ask by Arizona when they were peddling goalie Darcy Kuemper, a package considered too rich by Holland. Now, we’ll begin to get a closer look at the 2017 third-rounder, who moves a nice puck and stands six-foot-three.
“This rookie camp offers him a good chance to get up and running,” said Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft, “so he’s feeling confident heading into main camp next week.”
Is this finally the year that Tyler Benson cracks the Oilers roster? It had better be — he is waiver eligible now, at age 23 years of age with four pro seasons under his belt.
With left wingers Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele in town, it’s pretty clear that Benson will have to make the club as a fourth-line left-winger and try to move up from there. He’s in against Devin Shore and Brendan Perlini for that 4-LW spot, as a former candidate for exceptional status as a junior now finds himself in a utility role if he wants to get his NHL career off the ground.
“We came up with a plan to develop different areas of his game (in Bakersfield last season),” Woodcroft said. “For example, his board work. Introducing him to the penalty kill. Something he had minimal experience on, but something we felt provided a line of sight or a pathway to … make our parent club.
“Tyler was a point-per-game player last year and played on what I felt was the most dominant line in the Pacific Division of the AHL. He made plays,” his coach said. “The opportunity before him is obvious. He feels like he’s in top shape, mentally ready to go, and he’s excited about that opportunity.”
Edmonton’s recent first-round pick (22nd overall) Xavier Bourgault hit the gym hard this summer, putting on 10 lbs. He comes to camp at six feet tall and 172 pounds, so he has a ways to go.
Blue Jays optimistic Jose Berrios won’t miss next start after abdominal scare – Sportsnet.ca
After the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team reported that Berrios left the game due to abdominal tightness on his left side and received post-game treatment.
Berrios threw seven innings of one run ball Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only four hits.
“He’s doing fine,” Montoyo said. “He’s doing a lot better than we thought, which is great news. Actually, you might get to see him playing catch in a little bit to see how he’s doing. He did all the tests. Everything looks good.”
The right-handed pitcher who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline is 11-8 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA in 173.1 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays wrap up their series with the Rays on Wednesday at 3:07 p.m. ET/ 12:07 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.
Sick Jon Rahm withdraws from Fortinet Championship's Wednesday pro-am – Golf Channel
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