It’s one step forward, one step back for the Blue Jays.
While Josh Johnson is expected to return on Tuesday, the Blue Jays just announced that Brandon Morrow has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain.
Morrow left Tuesday’s start against the Braves after two innings with the injury. The Blue Jays were initially hoping that he would be able to bounce back to pitch tomorrow against the Padres, but it turns out that he’ll need some more time to recover.
Morrow is off to a disappointing start this season, posting a 5.63 ERA and 42/18 K/BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings over 10 starts. Toronto’s starters rank 28th in the majors with a 5.50 ERA. Only the Astros and Twins have been worse.
With Morrow out, the Blue Jays have brought back Ramon Ortiz to replace him on the active roster. In doing so, they removed left-hander Ricky Romero from the 40-man roster and outrighted him to Triple-A Buffalo. This means that he passed through waivers unclaimed. Of course, that shouldn’t be a big surprise at this point, as he has a brutal 13.85 ERA and 3/20 K/BB ratio through four starts in Triple-A and is still owed around $19 million. But it’s the latest indication about how far he’s fallen.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.