No amount of depth could've prepared for this.
The Toronto Blue Jays have placed 11 different relievers on the Injured List just 37 days into the 2021 season.
Presumptive closer Kirby Yates was lost for the year before the regular season started, and high leverage options Jordan Romano, Ryan Borucki, and Julian Merryweather have all missed games with injury. Despite the barrage of injuries and a high workload, Toronto's pen has the fourth-best ERA in baseball (2.8).
Wednesday against the Athletics, David Phelps signalled to the dugout before he threw a single pitch. Phelps reached for his back and shoulder as he walked off the field and it became clear he would be the latest pen option to hit the IL.
Two days later, Dolis made the same signal to the dugout and the same walk off the field without finishing his inning. After the game Friday, the team announced Dolis was day-to-day with calf tightness, but Sunday morning he, too, was placed on the IL
With Yates out for the season and Dolis, Romano, and Merryweather all serving stints on the IL, Montoyo has rotated through late-inning options and five different pitchers have received save opportunities.
Romano returned from the IL after missing the minimum 10 days with right elbow neuritis in April and is one of the few healthy leverage relievers currently at Montoyo's disposal. Tyler Chatwood has a 1.37 FIP and .79 ERA in his first season as a full-time reliever and Toronto has leaned on lefties Borucki and Tim Mayza in recent days, but the Jays' bullpen success can also be credited to the production of players who weren't even on the Opening Day roster.
Waiver claims Joel Payamps and Anthony Castro have posted sub-two ERAs, 2019 starter Trent Thornton has logged 17.1 innings with a 2.6 ERA, and Travis Bergen (acquired for cash considerations) is yet to allow a run.
"[The Bullpen is] in a good spot right now," Thornton said after an April bullpen day. "Throwing a lot of strikes and commanding out pitches. We’re doing what needs to be done.”
Toronto has found stellar relief production from waiver claims and low-cost options before, with Dolis and Anthony Bass leading the team in saves in 2020. But 2021 has been an unprecedented test in depth. A test the Blue Jays pen has passed, so far.