Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider gave a vote of confidence to Yusei Kikuchi on Monday following another rough outing for the left-handed starting pitcher.
Kikuchi struggled through five innings in Toronto's loss to the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering five earned runs on six hits (three homers) and three walks. The 31-year-old's ERA now stands at 5.13 for the season.
Despite the consistently poor performances, Schneider shot down any rumours of moving Kikuchi to the bullpen once Ross Stripling returns from injury.
“[Kikuchi] is grinding... He’s going to keep getting chances and keep getting a chance to go out there, and hopefully string a few good ones together," Schneider said after the game, per Sportsnet's Hazel Mae. "Tonight was a couple of bad pitches, but he’s going to get his opportunities.”
The Blue Jays signed Kikuchi to a three-year, $36-million contract last offseason in what was viewed as a high-risk, high-reward move. The native of Japan has shown brief flashes of his potential, but too many of his starts have simply been non-competitive. He's logged four innings or fewer in nine of his 19 appearances, which puts extra strain on the relief corps.
Unlike Schneider, Blue Jays fans are ready to see Kikuchi moved out of the starting rotation, and are putting some of the blame on the front office for signing him in the first place, then not acquiring a proven starting pitcher at the trade deadline.
Kikuchi's got to be the most frustrating, anger-inducing pitcher on the planet. He just doesn't have the control. One of the worst free-agent Jays starting pitcher signings of the last 20 years.
— Borner Bichette (@BluejaysKing) August 8, 2022
tHe AsKiNg PrIcE oN sTaRtErS wAs ToO hIgH …
Good call, let’s give the big league team a competitive disadvantage every time Kikuchi takes the ball just so we can hoard prospects in hopes they will one day contribute.
Will never understand the logic.
— VOT6 (@ViewsOnThe6) August 9, 2022
A pitcher like Kikuchi should not have a spot in a rotation for a contending team
— Alyssa Cohen (@aalyssacohen) August 9, 2022
Yusei Kikuchi looking like the biggest snub of all time. Should’ve pitched in the All Star Home Derby
— Blue Jays Dad (@BlueJaysDad) August 9, 2022
i never wanna see kikuchi pitch for us again this needs to be the last straw
— nessa (@nessuhhr) August 9, 2022
Blue Jays deserve to lose this game because Ross Atkins didn't wanna trade for a legit starting pitcher. Kikuchi needs to be released and Jays need to eat the money. Stop sending him out there 🗣🗣🗣🗣 #BlueJays #NextLevel
— JayC (@Chux36) August 9, 2022
Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, there aren't many internal options who would be able to step in and replace Kikuchi. Mitch White was brought in at the trade deadline and would be the leading contender, but that would leave Toronto without a bulk reliever in the bullpen. Max Castillo was traded in the deal that brought Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays, so the options at triple-A are names like Thomas Hatch and Casey Lawrence, who have both struggled when given chances at the MLB level this season.
Toronto currently holds the American League's top wild-card spot, with FanGraphs giving the club a 94.9 percent chance of making the postseason. Barring injury or a sudden spike in performance, Kikuchi won't figure into the Blue Jays' playoff rotation. But for now, fans should get used to seeing him take the mound every five days, like it or not.
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