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Blue Jays’ Bassitt shows trademark dependability amid depleted pitching pool

TORONTO — The realities of how this Toronto Blue Jays season is playing out, combined with today’s fire-hose-stream-of-content world means that, fairly or not, until the July 30 trade deadline passes, speculation is likely to touch nearly everyone on the roster.

After all, contenders are all circling vultures at this time of year, looking to pick what they can from the carcasses of clubs bound for the upper third of the 2025 draft. Even after an entertaining 10-6 win over the San Francisco Giants fuelled by another Ernie Clement three-run homer plus a wild six-run sixth Wednesday, that currently includes the 2.1 per cent playoff-probability Blue Jays.

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As such, Chris Bassitt’s name has surfaced a bit recently within the chattering classes, not in a he’s available kind of way, but more along the lines of an, if they’re selling anyway they should consider him, thought-exercise sort of way. 

From a buyer’s perspective, it makes sense. Who wouldn’t want the remarkable reliability the 35-year-old right-hander brings to the table, not only for the rest of this season but also next year, too?

But with the Blue Jays intent on only trading expiring contracts this month and trying to compete again in 2025, well, they really can’t afford to sacrifice Bassitt’s dependability, especially amid the ongoing attrition to their pitching organization-wide.

The latest hits came not at splendid Oracle Park, but at Lehigh Valley, where top pitching prospect Ricky Tiedemann’s return to triple-A Buffalo lasted only one inning and 27 pitches due to left forearm tightness. The 21-year-old had just come off an injured-list stint for ulnar nerve inflammation in his left elbow, after being limited to 62 innings last year due to separate shoulder and biceps issues.

Exactly how severe the issue is wasn’t immediately clear, but his truncated return comes on the heels of fast-rising Canadian lefty Adam Macko missing his weekend start at double-A New Hampshire and hitting the injured list with left forearm soreness that he’s rehabbing.

Fellow pitching prospects Brandon Barriera and Landon Maroudis both underwent the hybrid Tommy John surgery with an internal brace earlier this season, the same procedure Alek Manoah had last month. 

All of that depletes the pitching pool the Blue Jays can draw from next year, when they’ll need to not only replenish their major-league staff, but the depth layer beneath it. 

Cliched as it is to say, you can never really have enough, their making-it-up-on-the-fly bullpen being Exhibit A, with closer Jordan Romano recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery, Yimi Garcia’s latest rehab outing from an elbow injury pushed back another day due to neck stiffness, Erik Swanson at Buffalo trying to figure things out and Tim Mayza just joining the Yankees on a minor-league deal after being released.

There’s so much heavy lifting needed to get this team ready for another run at the post-season out of the American League East that with finite resources it’s hard to fathom how they would backfill for Bassitt, as well.

His latest start was a classic demonstration of his resilience.

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Struggling again with his delivery in his final outing before the all-star break, something he plans to focus on during the coming down-time, he faced seven batters and threw 33 pitches during a two-run first, added 29 more during a second in which he left the bases loaded yet still managed to give the Blue Jays five innings, allowing three runs.

And in mitigating the damage early, he allowed the offence to eventually get to Logan Webb, who in five innings allowed a career-high seven earned runs in a home outing.

“Chris has had so many good outings and that kind of gets overlooked,” manager John Schneider of the way Bassitt manages outings when he’s not at his best. “Pitch count is in the 60s after two and then really settled in. That’s kind of what he does. You look up and it’s only 2-0 because of some big pitches that he made. But for him to get through five, really, 99 pitches, that’s kind of all we could ask for after the first two. I thought he used his breaking ball better as the game went and that was kind of the difference for him. And, man, that’s a gutsy effort by him.”

Bassitt’s competitive nature kept him from “taking any positive in that,” especially since he also allowed four runs on eight hits and four walks against Houston in his last outing. He spent the first couple of innings versus the Giants trying to diagnose what he could throw to where and vowed that when he next takes the mound after the break, “a lot of stuff will be ironed out.”

Allowing only three runs despite five hits and four walks in five innings while searching for an in-game fix “is just what everyone should do,” said Bassitt. “If you don’t have it, go try to get it any way. I’ll definitely be losing sleep over tonight, just trying to figure out what I need to do to basically get my mechanics correct. I don’t think it’s going to be too hard with the amount of time off. But I’ve got to fix them.”

Immediately after Michael Conforto’s RBI double in the fifth tied the game 3-3 following Clement’s homer in the top half of the inning, the Blue Jays offence fixed the scoreboard for Bassitt.

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Justin Turner delivered a go-ahead RBI single to cash in a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. double, RBI singles from Davis Schneider, Alejandro Kirk and Clement followed before a two-run double from George Springer capped the outburst.

That made it 9-3 on a night the Blue Jays watched Daulton Varsho leave with a left knee contusion and Bo Bichette leave with right calf soreness that prompted a late-night MRI, and their depleted bullpen found the final 12 outs to bring it home.

“It’s amazing what this pitching staff can do,” said Clement. “It’s nice to score some runs for them because they they’ve picked us up all year and we’ve got to start giving them some more support, for sure.”

All of it started with Bassitt, though, an essential stability post for a team desperately in need of one, an essential stability post right to be coveted by others, too.


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