Blue Jays notes: Ricky Tiedemann scratched from spring start; Don Mattingly on new role

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Ricky Tiedemann was scratched from his start in the Grapefruit League opener on Saturday with left hamstring discomfort, Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Friday.

Tiedemann, who is the Blue Jays’ top-ranked prospect, felt the injury while he was running during his conditioning work at the team’s player development complex. For now, Schneider called the decision to scratch Tiedemann “precautionary,” but the 21-year-old left-hander is expected to go for imaging and the Blue Jays hope to know more on Saturday.

“I don’t want to put a timeline on it, but we’ll know more tomorrow,” Schneider said.

Right-hander Chad Dallas will start in Tiedemann’s place against the Philadelphia Phillies at TD Ballpark.

Tiedemann is one of the most highly regarded prospects in the Blue Jays system and he came into camp noticeably bigger and stronger. A hard-throwing lefty, Tiedemann has quickly risen up the Blue Jays system since he was drafted in the third round in 2021. He is ranked 52nd on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list and looks poised to jump to the major leagues at some point this season.

The only thing that has slowed Tiedemann down thus far are injuries. He missed time last season with shoulder soreness in the spring and a biceps injury during the year, managing to throw just 44 innings, mostly in Double A and Triple A. When he was healthy, however, he struck out 44 percent of batters he faced and finished with a combined 3.68 ERA.

With a mostly set major-league rotation, the Blue Jays aren’t in a position where they need to rush Tiedemann — the expectation is he’ll begin his season in Triple-A Buffalo — and careful attention will need to be applied to Tiedemann’s workload after so much missed time last year. Schneider said the team has “a goal in mind” for Tiedemann’s innings this year, “but at the same time, it’s very, very fluid, so you don’t want to cap it anywhere. You don’t want to hold him back if we don’t need to. I think just trusting what we’ve done, up and down the organization, especially at the major-league level and following that.”

The Blue Jays’ choice to give Tiedemann the first Grapefruit League game signalled their belief in the left-hander and while his first spring training start will have to wait, there is still a lot to look forward to about the young pitcher.

“I do love his stuff,” Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said. “And I love his presence and his work ethic and his focus. He has all the intangibles to be a great major-league starter and it’s just a matter of when that time is.”

Don Mattingly will have new responsibilities for the offence this season. (G Fiume / Getty Images)

Don Mattingly talks new offensive coordinator role

In his newly created role as offensive coordinator, Don Mattingly aims for a more consistent Blue Jays’ lineup after last year’s team fell far short of what the club believes was their offensive potential.

One year after joining the Blue Jays as a bench coach, Mattingly has now been tasked to lead the hitting group, which includes coaches Guillermo Martinez, Hunter Mense and Matt Hague, who was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo over the offseason. The goal for the group, according to Mattingly, is to provide clear, consistent and united messaging.

“We have discussions daily, about different guys or different thoughts on hitting and things like that,” Mattingly said. “But we want to make sure as we are talking to players, that our message is consistent with what they need individually, but also our group — how we look at ourselves as an offence, how we go about it.”

The Blue Jays offence lacked consistently last year and as a result, they struggled to score runs at the clip they believed they were capable of. On the coaching end, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins explained last week that Martinez and Dave Hudgens — who has since been reassigned to a player development role — split the responsibilities of leading hitting fundamentals and strategy. With two voices, there was an opportunity for the message to get muddled. Now, with Mattingly in charge, the aim is to streamline the communication.

Of course, it’ll also require the hitters to take in that message and execute the outlined plan. The Blue Jays are banking heavily on an offensive resurgence from some of their top hitters including Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., George Springer, Alejandro Kirk and Daulton Varsho.

“It doesn’t matter what happened last year, honestly,” Mattingly said. “When I get to do this role, it’s about uniting and making sure it’s consistent. And having conversations with our players. They have a big voice, right? They have to let you know what they’re hunting and what they’re trying to do so you can actually help them and make sure we’re helping them plan for what they want to do that night.”

In the offseason, Atkins and Schneider went searching for someone to take over this role and when they didn’t find anyone they liked, they turned to Mattingly. Asked what he liked about the role, Mattingly said: “Well, I love hitting — that starts there.”

The former Yankees first baseman played 14 years in the majors. He was an MVP, a three-time Silver Slugger and won the AL batting title in 1984. Mattingly finished with a career slash line of .307/.358/.471. Mattingly’s status as a hitting legend in the game is well-earned, but that said, he has never forgotten “hitting’s tough.”

Mattingly described building an “individual team approach” where players will approach their at-bats in a certain way, but everyone is doing his part in the collective battle against the opposing pitcher. Regarding what a competitive at-bat looks like to Mattingly, he said “a guy having his plan and executing that plan and staying with it.”

As for what he believes this offence is capable of, Mattingly is optimistic that the Blue Jays will be able to perform to their full potential this year.

“I do think we’re capable of having the at-bats we talk about, being those competitive at-bats up and down the lineup or we’re tough outs, making guys work,” he said. “Fight to get us out and just let the ability come out.”

With Kevin Gausman, some strings are attached

Spotted during Gausman’s recent bullpen sessions was an interesting contraption.

Set up in front of the catcher was a system of strings pulled taut between two rods. There are two strings, spaced about a baseball-width apart, located just above the top of what would be considered the strike zone and an identical set of strings set up below the zone.

Gausman was the only pitcher — at least the assembled media saw — using the strings. That’s because Gausman, who primarily uses his diving splitter and his fastball against hitters, is focused on throwing up and down in the zone as opposed to side to side like other pitchers who spin the ball. Gausman aims to throw his high and low fastball between the set of the strings which function as “a good visual,” he said.

“I first started doing them in San Francisco watching Johnny Cueto do it,” Gausman explained. “Watching him be as great as he is at his craft, different pitches in different spots and really just trying to be perfect in his bullpen. I took that and started doing it myself. And I definitely saw a difference since I’ve started doing it.”

(Top photo of Tiedemann: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

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