TORONTO — Tim Mayza’s worst fears have been confirmed.
After throwing a pitch Friday night and crumpling to the ground in obvious pain, it was pretty clear the Toronto Blue Jays’ 27-year-old lefty had suffered a significant elbow injury.
Manager Charlie Montoyo relayed the news Saturday morning that Mayza tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery, which is expected to sideline him for the entire 2020 season.
It ends his first full major-league season after 68 appearances and 51.1 innings, with Mayza pitching to a 4.91 ERA and striking out 55 batters.
It was a heartbreaking scene on the mound Friday night when Mayza went down after sailing a fastball to the backstop in the 10th inning while facing New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Mayza immediately dropped to a knee and flexed his left arm, at times covering his face with his jersey and holding back tears.
“Everybody loves Timmy,” Montoyo said after revealing the diagnosis. “He’s never had an MRI for anything. He pitches, he doesn’t complain. He pitches every day and he’s got a smile every day.”
Even with Bo Bichette bashing the first walk-off homer of his career a couple innings later, it was a bittersweet win after losing a teammate in that fashion.
“It’s terrible to see that happen to anyone,” said Blue Jays rookie Anthony Kay, a fellow lefty who had started Friday’s ballgame at Rogers Centre.
While Mayza will now begin a lengthy rehab process — the typical Tommy John recovery timeline is anywhere from 12 to 14 months — it also leaves the Blue Jays with one less bullpen option next year.
Mayza, who's had his ups and downs in his first full season in the big leagues, was expected to be the key southpaw in Montoyo’s ’pen in 2020, but that won’t be the case anymore.
Currently, the only lefty relievers on the roster are Buddy Boshers and Thomas Pannone, but neither has the type of swing-and-miss stuff and mid-90s fastball that Mayza possesses.
SHOEMAKER RECOVERY GOING WELL
Closing in on five months removed from tearing the ACL in his left knee, Matt Shoemaker’s recovery has gone as smoothly as possible.
The right-hander, who’ll turn 33 later this month, has already played catch on flat ground and expects to throw a bullpen session next month, putting him on track to be restriction-free heading into spring training.
Before that happens, however, Shoemaker’s camp and the Blue Jays will have to come to terms on a new contract.
With one more year of team control and a trip through arbitration in the offing, the Jays’ front office holds all the cards, but there’s a chance the two sides will find a number that works for both parties long before the January deadline.
After being non-tendered by the Los Angeles Angels last off-season, Shoemaker signed a one-year, $3.5-million pact with the Jays, meaning he’s in line for a raise through the arbitration process.
There seems to be mutual interest in finding common ground sooner rather than later.
“Maybe a little bit of talk, but it seems like one of those things where they want to wait until the off-season to discuss,” said Shoemaker, who pitched to a sparkling 1.57 ERA in five starts with the Jays prior to his freak injury on a rundown play. “But we’ve had some small discussion showing my interest. To be completely honest with you, I’d like to be here and I’d like to be here long term. I like what the organization is doing and you can see what they’re doing. With some of the new faces we have here and the excitement and obviously their talent level and the city, the organization, you name it, I’d like to be here for a while.”
As of today, Shoemaker, potentially a healthy Ryan Borucki, and maybe Trent Thornton would be in line for rotation spots in 2020, but absolutely nothing is set in stone at this point and the competition is expected to be heated in Dunedin next spring.
FIRST-ROUND PICK IN TOWN
First-round pick Alek Manoah is a long way from the majors at this point, but he already possesses a big-league body.
The 11th overall pick out of West Virginia is being given a tour of his future home this weekend in Toronto, and the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder certainly does not look out of place.
After throwing 17 innings for the Blue Jays’ Northwest League affiliate in Vancouver in his pro debut this summer, Manoah heads into the winter confident that he’s going to have success.
Manoah struck out 27 batters across 17 innings, registering a 2.65 ERA in six truncated starts for the Canadians.
“Just that the stuff plays,” Manoah said when I asked the massive right-hander what he’s learned about himself since being drafted. “The stuff’s pretty good and baseball is 60 feet, six inches. A lot of people try and change things from level to level and you’ve just got to pitch. That’s the biggest thing. Just trust in my stuff, go out there and get ahead in counts and put guys away and find a way to recover after eight-hour bus rides.”
The expectation is that Manoah will follow the same path as 2017 first-round college draft pick Nate Pearson and start 2020 in the warm weather with High-A Dunedin, where the third pitch in his arsenal will be the focus.
The high-octane fastball and slider are ahead of his change-up, a very common developmental story.
“Haven’t really had the chance to throw the change-up too much,” Manoah said. “Didn’t really get the chance too much in Vancouver, either. I think one of the things when I’ve sat down with the coaching staff and things like that, when I throw my first pitch next April I want to be able to command all my pitches in every count. Not just the fastball and the slider, but to be able to throw the change-up in every count, as well.”