The Toronto Blue Jays shuffled some of their pitching around in the minor leagues on the weekend. Starting in AAA Buffalo, Dustin McGowan was assigned there to continue his rehab assignment after two successful appearances in Dunedin.
Additionally, John Stilson, who has made two appearances in New Hamspshire was promoted to Buffalo. Since the Blue Jays plan to keep him throwing out of the bullpen, it makes sense to challenge him with some better competition in Buffalo. Stilson, 22, was taken in the 2011 draft by the Blue Jays and put up excellent numbers in Dunedin and decent ones in New Hampshire last season – his first in pro ball. In two outings, he has given up 1 run in 2 1/3 innings but has struck out six in that time.
In AA New Hampshire, several moves were made. Reliever Dustin Antolin got promoted from Dunedin while reliever Danny Barnes was activated off the disabled list and sent to Dunedin. Starting pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx was demoted to Dunedin. On Saturday, the Fisher Cats received Scott Gracey from Dunedin as well.
Antolin, a 23-year-old Hawaiian, goes north to Manchester due to his strong numbers so far in Dunedin. He has spent parts of three seasons with the Dunedin Blue Jays and this year is by far his best, striking out 20 and walking only 6 in 15 2/3 innings. He’s given up 6 earned runs for a 3.45 ERA and has a 1.277 WHIP and hasn’t given up any home runs.
Scott Gracey has been in the Jays’s system since 2008, gradually working his way up. He’s 26 now and is returning to New Hampshire, where he made 12 appearances last year. The biggest issue in 2012 was walks – he walked 14 in 26 innings while striking out 18. So far this season, in 20 2/3 innings with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Gracey has 19 strikeouts and 2 walks to go with a 2.61 ERA.
Also, while this is pure speculation, I believe that the Blue Jays have changed their mind about sending Marcus Stroman to Dunedin to being the season. His suspension ends on Sunday and he tweeted Friday that he was heading to New Britain to join the Fisher Cats:
En route to New Britain, CT!
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) May 17, 2013
UPDATE: Shi Davidi has confirmed that Stroman will start on Sunday for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
UPDATE 2: The Fisher Cats placed RP Chorye Spoone on the DL to make room for Stroman.
While technically a demotion, the 28-year-old Bibens-Dirkx has been a minor-league journeyman since being drafted in 2006. From understanding a little bit about the way things work in the Jays system (through little more than observation), this is not really a “demotion” but a shift for him to go where he is needed. With Marcus Stroman getting sent to New Hampshire and not Dunedin as originally discussed, and with Sean Nolin off the DL and starting in New Hampshire and Chad Jenkins probably coming back in a week or so,* there doesn’t appear to be room in the NH rotation for Bibens-Dirkx, despite his excellent results so far this season. As I had originally thought, he was going to Dunedin to start, replacing reliever/spot starter Marco Grifantini as the starter in Friday night’s game. Through 45 2/3 IP in New Hampshire, Bibens-Dirkx was 3-3 with a 2.36 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks while giving up an opposing batting average of only .220.
Danny Barnes going to Dunedin is most likely a “rehab” assignment (although those don’t exist in the minors). He is just coming off an injury and would have already been participating in extended spring training in Dunedin, so the general procedure here is to let him get some innings under him in Dunedin before going north to New Hampshire. Barnes was the lights-out closer for the D-Jays last year, striking out 63 and walking 14 in 51 1/3 innings while pitching to a 1.40 ERA.
Filtering down further, Efrain Nieves was demoted from Dunedin to Lansing. While control wasn’t a problem for Nieves in Dunedin, he wasn’t striking out a lot of hitter (13 in 19 2/3 innings) and was getting hit hard with 23 hits against in 19 2/3 innings. It was also somewhat of a numbers game, with Nieves, at 23 years old, one of the younger members of the Dunedin pitching staff.
To make room for Nieves in Lansing, reliever Chuck Ghysels was sent to extended spring training back in Dunedin. The 23 year old was 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA and had a very high 1.811 WHIP, mostly influenced by his 14 walks in 17 2/3 innings pitched.