NEW YORK – It was only 338 days ag in this city, but at its other big league ballpark, Citi Field, that Steve Delabar was one of four Blue Jays representing the disappointing 2013 version of the ball club at the All-Star Game.
On Tuesday afternoon in this city, but at its American League cathedral in the Bronx, Delabar was given the news that he was being optioned, the technical term for a demotion, to Triple-A Buffalo.
“It's the business,” said Delabar. “I'm not crushed or beat up. I understand the move. It's obviously a team move. They have to do this or designate someone and they don't want to do that so I'm the guy right now. They're going to send me out.”
The Blue Jays found themselves in a roster predicament thanks to two injuries that, while considered relatively minor, have left them short a bench player and a reliever.
Brett Cecil tweaked his groin in the eighth inning on Friday night. He was not available for the two weekend games in Baltimore and was to be used only in a pinch on Tuesday night in New York.
The ailment which affected Delabar's status is Adam Lind's. He fouled a pitch off his right foot in the sixth inning on Saturday. He required the assistance of a golf cart to get off the team bus on Sunday. Lind wore a walking boot and was on crutches, making the injury optically worse than the Jays say it is.
“That's just a precautionary think to take the weight off it,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “The walking boot allows it to heal a lot sooner.”
Lind is “day-to-day,” Anthopoulos's words, and wasn't ruled out for Wednesday's game.
Let's let the general manager explain.
“The fact that we had the off-day, our bullpen is fresh and we needed to make a move,” said Anthopoulos. “Delabar hasn't performed as well as he did last year. He can use the consistent work. It's just a combination of things. We needed to clear up a spot to get an infielder up here and out of the relievers that were there, Chad (Jenkins) provided us a little more length right now and we can get Steve the work as well. That was the move for us, unless we were going to go the DL route.”
Regardless of the reasons, this stings Delabar. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA and a 2.72 FIP in 58 2/3 innings in 2013, a key part of a strong bullpen, which was the saving grace of an injured, bad team.
Now, he was at best the third right-handed bullpen option leading to Casey Janssen. Dustin McGowan took Delabar's coveted eighth-inning role weeks ago and Sergio Santos, back from the disabled list, will get a chance to reestablish himself as a viable right-handed, late-inning guy.
Delabar's main issue has been fastball command. He's seen his walk rate jump from 11.5 per cent last year to 14.8 per cent in 2014. Delabar's strikeout rate has plummeted. He whiffed 32.4 per cent of enemy hitters in 2013 compared with 19.4 per cent this season.
“Some small mechanical things that I was off line and it was causing me to be a little erratic in my command,” said Delabar. “Kind of cleaned that stuff up recently and there's really nothing to go down and really clean up; it's just go down there and get some consistent innings and just work on what I've been doing.”
Munenori Kawasaki was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo and started at second base on Tuesday night.
Kawasaki was hitting .276/.320/.388 and 11 of his 32 hits for the Bisons were doubles.
“We don't know how long the move is going to be for,” said Anthopoulos. “He's on the (40-man) roster, it's a left-handed bat, we're not facing any left-hander, will give you a good at-bat and you know all the other stuff he brings and so on. He's someone who can grind an at-bat and the fact we don't face any left-handers, it makes sense for us. And he can also play the outfield if we needed him to.”