Toronto brought in a number of new faces with the hope that its bullpen would turn from a weakness to a strength, but so far, things haven't gone exactly as planned.
For the second straight game Saturday, Toronto's bullpen blew a save and lost when leading after seven innings. In total, Blue Jays relievers have blown four of five save opportunities, the worst mark in the Majors.
Entering Sunday's series finale against the Orioles, the bullpen had issued the most walks (16) in the AL, were tied for the most losses (3), and had the second-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.69).
But manager John Farrell is not about to push the panic button or compare this crop of arms to last year's edition.
"We've put ourselves in a position to win some games late and when we've miss-located some pitches, we've gotten beat," Farrell said. "As a group we are finding our rhythm, and it's a matter of executing in late-inning situations.
"We still view our bullpen as a definite strength of our club, and I think over the course of this season, we'll experience and know that it will be a strength."
The fact that Toronto started the season with back-to-back extra-inning games immediately forced the bullpen to experience a heavy workload and be put to an early test. Blue Jays relievers have thrown 29 1/3 innings, the third-highest mark in the league.
It also meant that they were going to be put under the spotlight, but Farrell doesn't think last year's struggles have contributed to outsiders paying more attention.
"No, but yet we're in every game and every game with a lead late, whether it's one or two runs, and there's been obvious games that we haven't converted completely," Farrell said when asked if he thought this group was under the microscope more because of last year's struggles. "There's always going to be a focal point on late-inning relievers. That's the nature of the beast."