Joel Carreno Makes First Start Of Season

New Blue Jays starting pitcher Joel Carreno has gone from a relative unknown to an overnight celebrity among Jays fans.   People are lighting up the search engines with his name in hopes of learning something, anything about the young right hander.  Count me among the curious so let’s have a quick look at what Carreno brings with a few musings after his first major league start today.

Carreno wasn’t exactly pumping in the strikes today versus the Indians as he really struggled with his control most of the day.  He battled through 6 innings and threw 97 pitches (57 for strikes) while allowing six hits and four earned runs, walking four batters and striking out three.

Carreno has a very simple, straight forward delivery and utilizes a three-quarter arm slot to produce solid movement on his three pitches.  Carreno’s delivery is reminiscent of a relief pitcher and it will be interesting to see how he fares two and three times through an MLB lineup. 

His delivery isn’t deceptive and hitters can definitely see the ball well out of his hand but he has had some success as a starter throughout his minor league career.  He throws a low 90s fastball with some sink as well as a curveball around 80 mph which he relies upon heavily.  He leaned heavily on the first two offerings last season and threw a change-up only 5% of the time last season.

Carreno will obviously have to show the change-up more frequently to keep hitters a little more honest.  A common misconception is a pitcher must throw three pitches to have success but there are many examples to the contrary.

Carreno is now 25-year olds and is getting too old for the levels he has pitched in recently.  In 2011 he pitched 134.2 IPs in AA and was highly successful with a 10.1 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a 3.88 FIP.  The walks were definitely a concern but that was the first season he had a walk rate higher than 8.7%.  He was also impressive in a short cameo in the Blue Jays bullpen last season.

The Jays had an unexpected boost from Henderson Alvarez last season and while the situation is similar I don’t think Carreno has anywhere near the fastball (or upside) of Alvarez.  There is no doubt in my mind his future lies in the bullpen for the Jays given his size, delivery and overall repertoire.  However the Blue Jays have a need right now given Brett Cecil’s failure to impress during spring training. 

So why did the Jays select him as the early season starting pitcher replacement for Brett Cecil?  Carreno is an easy pick to fill in and give the Jays innings as he isn’t a highly touted prospect and the Jays won’t fret about his development at his age.  If he falters expect Drew Hutchison or Deck McGuire to possibly get a chance to give the Jays some much needed innings from the rotation.

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