2004 Jays Preview: Relievers

Last year, the Blue Jays bullpen was absolutely horrid. It was among the worst in the American League. This year should be a different story, as JP Ricciardi went out and added a ton of arms to the Jays pen. See how it'll stack up in our preview of the bullpen.

Arrivals Departures
Terry Adams (Philadelphia)
Valerio De Los Santos (Milwaukee)
Kerry Ligtenberg (Baltimore)
Justin Speier (Colorado)
Bruce Chen (Boston)


Doug Creek (Free Agent)
Cliff Politte (Texas)
Doug Davis (Milwaukee)
Pete Walker (Free Agent)
Trever Miller (Tampa Bay)
Corey Thurman (Cincinnati)

Get your programs ready folks! If you even blinked one eye during the winter, you won't recognize anyone warming up in the bullpen. The Jays brass completely revamped the Jays ‘pen this year, which was expected as the Jays put out one of the worst relief staffs in the American League last year. This is not to say it was all bad news after the starters came out last year, there were a few bright spots.

Aquilino Lopez, last season's rule 5 pick-up from Seattle shone in his role, whatever it was. In 72 appearances, Lopez managed to keep his ERA at a very tidy 3.42. He also displayed a knack at keeping the ball in the park, even pitching at hitter-friendly SkyDome. In 73.2 innings, he gave up just five round-trippers. That's quite impressive, considering he often times entered games with a huge mess left for him by one of his team-mates.

There were several key signings. Kerry Ligtenberg was signed on the same day as Hentgen, and brought instant credibility to the Jays bullpen. Any time you can pick up a player who once saved 30 games in a season, you've got to jump on the opportunity. The Jays did that. Last year in Baltimore, Ligtenberg appeared in 68 games, was 4-2 and held 14 games. He should be a very valuable arm in Toronto this year.

In what seemed like the deal of the century to Blue Jays followers, JP Ricciardi managed to get someone to take much-criticized Mark Hendrickson and even get someone in return! He picked up solid veteran reliever Justin Speier from Colorado in a three way trade. Speier can close, set-up or even throw a little long relief. Last year at the launch pad known as Coors Field, he went 3-1 with a 4.05 ERA with 9 saves and 12 holds. He is extremely versatile and just might be the Jays unsung hero this year.

There were a few other signings which may look minor on paper, but very well may serve valuable purpose come the season. Terry Adams is a very solid arm, an innings-eater. He joins the club from Philadelphia, where he held 16 games and had an ERA of just 2.65. Valerio de los Santos was picked up from the Milwaukee Brewers, and he will serve as a situational lefty for the Jays. Last year he was 4-3 with an ERA of 4.50, 11 holds and 1 save.

So if you can remember all those changes, you're good to go! The Blue Jays almost changed their entire bullpen, and replaced questionable names with proven arms. And the return of Bob File to the mix is definitely a huge bonus for the ball club. But if all else fails, it's almost impossible for the pen to be worse than last year's group.

2003's Worst: The bullpen last year as a whole was simply brutal last year. Nine relievers had an ERA over 5.00, with four of them over 6.00. The worst pitchers out of the pen last year were Vinnie Chulk, Doug Creek, Corey Thurman, Juan Acevedo, Dan Reichert, Jeff Tam, Cliff Politte, Doug Davis (also started), and Tanyon Sturtze. If I had to pick just one man, it would have to be Tanyon Sturtze. But that's mostly because he complained to the press about being sent down to the bullpen when clearly the Jays couldn't let him start.

Opening Day Bullpen :

Terry Adams, Valerio de los Santos, Bob File, Jason Kershner, Kerry Ligtenberg, Aquilino Lopez, Justin Miller, Justin Speier

Grade: B

Comments: This bullpen is so close to an A, but not quite. There's only one thing lacking in the ‘pen. They've got quality inning-eating arms, they've got the situational pitchers, and they've got an abundance of guys who can set up or close. The one thing that is sorely lacking in the Blue Jays bullpen is one dominant arm. It's hard to remember a strong playoff contending team that hasn't had one pitcher in the bullpen who is "lights out". One man who you can rely on game in, game out. Perhaps, we will find one of those types of relievers this year. Other than that however, the Blue Jays should look to have a very strong bullpen this year, which will result in more wins.


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