Faltering bullpen an issue for Blue Jays

Toronto's relievers lead AL in losses, percentage of inherited runners scored

Faltering bullpen an issue for Blue Jays

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays appear to have a major issue on their hands with a struggling bullpen, and they will need to figure it out quickly.

Toronto had yet another late-inning meltdown Monday night as Brett Cecil entered in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs but could not retire any of the three batters he faced. Gavin Floyd then made matters worse by surrendering a go-ahead double, and just like that, a four-run lead turned into a 7-5 loss to the White Sox.

The Blue Jays' bullpen leads the league with seven losses and has now allowed 17 of its 34 inherited runners to score. That 50 percent rate is the highest in the American League and trails only the Marlins for the worst mark in the Majors. It's safe to say, this is not what Toronto envisioned at the start of the year.

"No, I don't," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked if he had any regrets about using Cecil. "He has been throwing pretty solid lately. After a slow start, he has been getting better. ... That's his inning there, and let's be honest, we need him. We have to get him to get sharp, he needs to find it."

Cecil had been pitching better -- one unearned run over his previous six innings -- but any momentum he had was lost against the White Sox. He allowed a pair of singles and a walk before Gibbons had to come get him.

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The problem is that the Blue Jays do not have any obvious candidates to step in and fill the void. Outside of closer Roberto Osuna, almost everyone in the bullpen has faltered at some point this year. Setup man Drew Storen has struggled in his transition to the AL, and Jesse Chavez has battled inconsistency and a sore back.

The only other left-hander in the bullpen is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, and he's not someone the team seems to trust in high-leverage situations. That doesn't leave a lot of options at Gibbons' disposal if Cecil isn't pitching well, and the frustration clearly boiled over Monday night.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman was in line for the win when he departed in the seventh with a 5-1 lead. The bases were loaded, but there were two outs, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the Blue Jays would close out their 11th win. Instead, minutes later, Chicago had the lead and never looked back.

Stroman was visibly upset about the turn of events, as he was seen on the broadcast slamming his glove into the dugout bench and letting out several loud yells. That created some speculation that Stroman was showing up either Cecil or his manager, but that was something he denied after the game.

"I think if you ask my teammates, they know the type of character I am," Stroman said. "I think that resonates with every single individual in this clubhouse. At no [time] have I ever tried to show my teammates up in any sense, it was more frustration and the fact that I feel like I didn't do my job in the end and put my team in a position to win when I went back out there for the seventh."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.