The Toronto Blue Jays quirkiest pitching staff since 1994

Part one of the series incited a lot of discussion and even kicked off a bit of a theme here at THT. For part two, how about we dive into some of the more memorable (?) hurlers to ever to toe the rubber at the Dome.

I’ve decided to go with a five man rotation and a four man bullpen (long reliever, middle reliever, setup man and closer) for the sake of simplicity. You’ll take care to notice a disproportionate number of left handed pitchers on this list. I guess lefties are a little different after all.

The Rotation
Mike Sirotka, 2001 (DNP)

Sirotka is the lone player on either of my lists to never appear in a game for the Blue Jays, but he was a memorable story nonetheless. For those who do not recall, Mike Sirotka was the key piece coming back to Toronto in the trade which sent David Wells to the White Sox.

Things got pretty heated once Sirotka arrived in town with a busted left shoulder as the Jays immediately called into question the integrity of White Sox (rookie) GM Kenny Williams who allegedly withheld the most accurate knowledge regarding Sirotka’s health. Sirotka never threw a pitch for the Jays and Bud Selig denied their claim for additional compensation which brought a disappointing end to what was, all told, a very silly episode.

Ted Lilly, 2004-06

Lilly was acquired from Oakland for a Moneyball archetype of sorts, Bobby Kielty, and was seen as the number two pitcher to give the Jays a big 1-2 punch with Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation. Lilly had a productive first season in Toronto as he made his first of two career all-star games to date. His second season was also productive, but that’s pretty much when it went off the rails in Toronto.

Things came to a head in 2006 when Lilly was pulled from a game against the A’s, his former team, against his wishes. He proceeded to get into an actual physical dust-up with manager John Gibbons in the tunnel. He departed for Chicago after the season and that was the end of that.

Miguel Batista, 2004-05

Batista was a free agent signing of the Blue Jays in 2004 with the plan for him to hold down the number three starter’s role on a team that looked increasingly poised for a playoff push. While his raw talent was evident, Batista couldn’t harness his ability at all, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. He held down the closer role for a short period of time before being unceremoniously relieved of those duties after blowing eight saves down the stretch.

What makes Batista such an interesting character is the fact he is actually a reputable author in his home country, the Dominican Republic. Batista, now a member of the Mets, has published a poetry book and a serial killer mystery.

Gustavo Chacin, 2004-07

Say the words, “Smells like Victory” to any Toronto Blue Jays fan and they will no doubt be reminded of the tenure of Gustavo Chacin. After a successful rookie season in which he won Rookie of the Month twice and was named to the Topps All-Rookie Team, Chacin’s career fell apart, largely due to off-field issues and injuries. He was arrested in Florida and charged with driving under the influence. Thanks to his awkward delivery and looping curveball, he also struggled with arm injuries over the course of his four seasons.

After a series of Toronto radio jokes that his name sounded more like a cologne than a baseball player, the Jays had an official Chacin cologne night and sold the fragrance with proceeds going to the Jays Care Foundation. Smells like victory, indeed.

Paul Spoljaric, 1994, 1996-97, 1999

This one is more for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of my fellow countrymen as Paul Spoljaric, a fellow Canadian, played for the Jays intermittently several times during the 1990s. Spoljaric was an amateur free agent signing by the Jays and found his way to the big club after five years.

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Interestingly, after the end of Spoljaric’s career in the major leagues, he migrated to the Intercounty Baseball League and became the ace of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Most recently he has pitched for the Barrie Baycats of the IBL.

The Bullpen
Brian Tallet, 2006-10, 11

Whoever said don’t judge a pitcher by the haircut or facial hair never saw Brian Tallet throw a ball. Granted I’m not sure anyone has ever said that, but the general message still holds.

Tallet came to Toronto from the Cleveland Indians in a trade for a guy named Bubbie Buzachero no less. The 6-foot-6 LSU Tiger alumnus could be seen looping out of the Jays pen for the long inning relief efforts because, quite frankly, he can’t be trusted to nail down a lead after a quality start – sorry, Brian.

At any rate, it’s tough not to see Tallet’s hair, sideburn, and moustache combination and feel at least a little bit of baseball whimsy. He was let go by Toronto after being reacquired in the Colby Rasmus trade and he will be missed. Visually, at least.

Dirk Hayhurst, 2009

Hayhurst was a decent bullpen arm for the Jays during his brief stint in 2009. Obviously 22.2 innings pitched is not the world’s largest sample size, but for someone who is so readily self-deprecating in his writing, Hayhurst did just fine.

It’s his phenomenal writing that gets Hayhurst a place on this list, and it only makes me appreciate him more that I’ve had the opportunity to see him pitch in person. Will he ever be confused with Mariano Rivera? Absolutely not. That doesn’t change the fact that The Bullpen Gospels is easily one of the best books I have ever read. If you haven’t taken a read through it yet, you are missing out. Read the rest of this article and this entire website and then go pick it up.

Brandon League, 2004-09

Many of you have become familiar with Brandon League in the last season after his All-Star game appearance for the Mariners in 2011. Before that, League was a very intriguing power pitching prospect for the Jays and one that I have many memories of.

My first reaction to Brandon League was, “What’s this guy’s deal?” when he came trotting out of the pen in 2004. With glasses affixed to his face and tattoos covering his arms, he was a sight to behold. Then he lit up the radar gun and all you could really say was “wow.”

What crushed the long term possibilities of a League/Jays marriage was League’s workout routine which caused him to overdevelop his shoulder muscles, threw off his delivery, and curtailed his velocity. An odd tale to match an odd looking guy.

B.J. Ryan, 2006-09

This one is kind of cheating given that Ryan was, at one point, a very prominent player and defeats the system I’ve set up here.

That being said, how many more memorable Jays relievers have their been since 1994? Between his excessive flame laden intro on the Jumbotron which was synched with the soothing tones of Slipknot, his corkscrew delivery, his general intensity, and his 2006 season which was completely and utterly dominant (0.86 WHIP, for starters), B.J. Ryan was something else for those of us who weren’t entirely sure what to expect.

When coupled with his spectacular crash back to earth after elbow problems – or back problems if you ask J.P. Ricciardi – and the general inconsistency which plagued him until his outright release, he’s become synonymous with any bad contract given to a closer, and it’s tough to argue against that.

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Señor Spielbergo
Señor Spielbergo
“While his raw talent was evident, Batista couldn’t harness his ability at all, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen.” Just like Kelvim Escobar (who coincidentally had just left for Anaheim when Batista arrived). As for Chacin… in 2006, I invited my mom to a baseball game at The Centre Formerly Known as SkyDome for her birthday, and he was the Jays’ starting pitcher. What stuck about Chacin to me more than anything else is her observation about him: “He looks like Charlie Brown.” Of course, I doubt Charlie Brown would’ve won the game for his team by 10 runs and… Read more »