Monday, February 13, 2023

Who is new Astro reliever Matt Gage?

The Astros claimed lefthanded reliever Matt Gage off waivers Monday, a week after he was let loose by the Blue Jays. Gage broke in with Toronto last June, but despite posting a 1.38 ERA over 11 appearances, he spent most of the season in Triple-A. Here's the full entry on Gage from Major League Debuts.

Matt Gage, LHP, Blue Jays

B-T: L-L HT: 6-3 WT: 265 Born: Feb. 11, 1993, Johnstown, N.Y.

Debut Age: 29

Debut: June 6. After waiting eight years to reach the big leagues, Gage was forced to hold tight for an additional two hours and five minutes when Toronto’s contest in Kansas City didn’t start on time due to inclement weather. It was nearly midnight when the lefthander came on in the bottom of the ninth with Toronto comfortably ahead of Kansas City 8-0. He set down all three batters he faced, retiring Whit Merrifield on a grounder to short and striking out Kyle Isbel and Bobby Witt Jr., both on cutters, to finish off the win.

Background: Gage struck out 138 batters in 85 innings over his final two seasons at Broadalbin-Perth HS in Upstate New York, and earned Class B fifth-team all-state honors as a senior in 2011. After breaking in at Siena in a variety of roles his freshman year, he was a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference first-team pick as a sophomore, when he went 6-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 97.1 innings. Gage spent the summer of 2013 with Chatham, and was named a Cape Cod League All-Star after going 4-2 in seven starts with a 3.89 ERA. He helped Siena reach the NCAA Regionals in 2014, capping his career with a 10-inning, 130-pitch effort against host Texas Christian. Gage allowed only one run in the contest, which TCU won 2-1 in 11 innings, and was named to the Fort Worth Regional All-Tournament Team. Later that week, he was selected by the Giants in the 10th round of the draft. He profiled as a workhorse who threw strikes and kept hitters guessing with a variety of pitches, none of which were particularly outstanding. Gage reached Double-A the year after he signed, and Triple-A the following season. But he struggled to make an impact in two shots with the Giants’ top affiliate, surrendering 182 hits in 120.1 innings, leading to his release in July 2018. Gage hooked on with the Mets for the remainder of the season, after which his journey began to wind off course. He spent 2019 in Mexico, winning 10 games for the Diablos Rojos despite a 5.57 ERA. He enjoyed the experience enough that he was planning to return before COVID hit in 2020. It was during the shutdown that Gage’s fortunes turned. After watching White Sox starter Lucas Giolito throw with a short-arm delivery, Gage decided to experiment with his own mechanics. Suddenly his fastball was up to 94 mph, faster than ever before. All of his pitches had more life. He tested his new delivery out in the independent Constellation Energy League that summer, then worked on it further yet in the Mexican Pacific League that offseason. The Diamondbacks were impressed enough to offer a minor league deal for 2021. He struck out 58 in 45.1 innings at two stops, working exclusively as a reliever for the first time, and heard from several teams intrigued by his pitch metrics when the minor league free agency window opened that fall.

2022 Season: Gage signed with the Blue Jays, who sold him on how they could help him develop. He reported to training camp in January and altered the grip on his slider to give it more horizontal movement. Toronto had him attack the center of the zone and allow the movement on his pitches to locate the ball for him. With a fastball, cutter, slider arsenal, he carved up batters at Triple-A Buffalo, logging a 1.08 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over the first two months of the season to finally earn that big-league callup. He did everything Toronto could have hoped for and more, limiting hitters to a .146 average in 11 outings. Lefthanded batters went 0-for-9 against him. Despite all that, he was squeezed back down to Buffalo in early July and finished out the year in the International League.

Outlook: If the Blue Jays can’t find room for Gage, someone else will. He has turned himself into a legit bullpen option, particularly against lefthanded batters.

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