In a season of finality for several veterans, the emergence of Ryan Borucki was a major bright spot for the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays.
The left-handed pitcher went 4-6 with a solid 3.87 ERA through 17 starts in 2018. He was called up to make his MLB debut on June 26 and he learned a lesson that humid night in Houston that he brought to each subsequent start.
“When I first got called up, I was facing the Houston Astros, the defending champions,” Borucki recalled during an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. “The biggest thing I was scared of was letting up a leadoff home run to George Springer. That was my biggest worry.
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“But once I got that first out, and once I figured out they are hitters, they get out too, and not let that get in my head, that’s when my stuff got to work. That was the biggest thing, getting away from the name of the player and just think of them as a really good hitter and you’re going against them.”
The 24-year-old tossed six solid innings that night as he surrendered two runs, six hits and four walks along with three punchouts. In 16 starts afterward, Borucki went at least six innings with two or less earned runs allowed in 11 of them. Prior to his promotion, Borucki went 6-5 in 13 starts, with a 3.27 ERA and 58 strikeouts with Triple-A Buffalo.
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In an AL East division laden with power hitters, Borucki constantly reminded himself that no hitter was prodigious enough to shake his confidence on the mound.
“The big thing for me as a rookie pitcher is getting away from the name,” Borucki noted. “You know what I mean? Okay, I’m facing a Mookie Betts, I’m facing a Giancarlo Stanton. Having that mental edge against those guys because if you go into thinking, ‘Oh man I have to be more careful with those guys, Mookie Betts is up.’ Automatically, your competitive edge is down and you’re giving him the favor.”
All told, the native of Mundelein, Ill., finished with the sixth-best ERA ever posted by a Blue Jays rookie. Borucki’s 11 quality starts were the second most by a Toronto rookie since Marcus Stroman finished with 14 in 2014. Finally, the southpaw finished the season strong thanks to a 2.65 ERA in the month of September.
On Wednesday, Borucki’s season earned him Rookie of the Years from the Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Additionally, first baseman Justin Smoak (Player of the Year), Luke Maile (Most Improved Player), J.A. Happ (Pitcher of the Year) and John Gibbons (John Cerutti Award) were honored.
Of those names, Borucki is the youngest and the only one firmly entrenched in the team’s long-term plans. As the organization moves forward with a new manager, coaching staff and outlook, Borucki maintains the confidence that a successful rookie season earned him.
“I had a couple [of] bumps in the road but I kept making adjustments with our pitching coach Pete Walker,” Borucki said. “We worked every day just on different things I can work on. I just felt like I progressed more and more as the year went on. I was actually really happy with how the year turned out for me.”