By Michael DiStefano
Canadian Baseball Network
The Toronto Blue Jays vowed that the organization was going to add depth to the pitching staff in 2018 and the team kicked off free agency by bringing back its former top pitching prospect Deck McGuire.
There were many skeptics when the Jays announced the signing. The public perception of the former first-rounder was not a good one based on his prior results with the club.
McGuire, a Richmond, Va., native was selected 11th overall in the 2010 MLB Amateur Baseball Draft by Toronto and never lived up to the hype his high draft slot suggested.
After struggling to establish himself in the minor leagues with the Blue Jays, he was traded to Oakland in 2014. McGuire spent the following three seasons bouncing from organization to organization trying to keep his baseball career alive.
“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for myself,” McGuire said of his career.
But that all changed in 2017 when something seemingly clicked for the 28-year-old pitcher.
McGuire pitched marvelously in double-A Pensacola and earned a mid-September call-up with the Cincinnati Reds. He would finish his first major league stint with 13 2/3 innings pitched, a 2.63 earned-run-average, and a career low 1.9 walks-per-nine-innings.
With the Blue Jays looking to add depth to the team’ pitching ranks, McGuire stood out to the organization and they opted to bring back the former first-rounder for a second tour of duty with the club.
With this, McGuire was given a chance to change the narrative of his Blue Jays career.
“There’s a big part of me that feels like I let this organization down the first time by just not pitching well,” he said. “So when they gave me the chance to come back, I felt like I could come back and right some of those wrongs on the field.”
McGuire isn’t the same pitcher he was in his first stint with the blue birds and he attributes a change in mentality as a reason for his newfound success.
“A lot of times early in my career I felt like I would make one bad start and feel the need to make wholesale changes. I kind of wrestled a lot with what I was trying to do as a pitcher every day,” he said.
McGuire’s mentality change came through maturity and learning how to grow with the game.
“I’m at a different point in my life from just a mental and maturity standpoint,” McGuire said. “How I pitch. How I attack. How I use my stuff against the hitters. It wasn’t anything specific, it was kind of just learning how to use the whole [repertoire] to get people out,” he said.
Using his full pitching arsenal certainly helped him with his game. But even more importantly, he learned how to deploy those pitches to tantalize opposing batters.
“I attacked way better than I ever have with all four pitches. I think I learned more about how I should use [them].”
He was rewarded for this shift in mentality, racking up a career-high 183 strikeouts in 2017 between double-A and the majors.
The former first-rounder continued his success with the Blue Jays with a strong spring. McGuire dished out 10 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in the Grapefruit League while fanning 13 and surrendering just five hits (0.56 WHIP) en route to a 2-0 spring record.
Unfortunately, with a full rotation in Toronto already, McGuire didn’t make the big league team out of camp and was optioned to triple-A Buffalo.
McGuire is no stranger to adversity at this point in his career and will have to wait a little longer to make his official Jays debut. But he believes his versatility is an attractive option for the parent club should injuries start to pile up.
“I can kind of be a Swiss Army knife. I have always been a starter, so taking that starting mentality into a long guy role or into the starting rotation or if they need [me for] just one inning at a time,” McGuire said. “I think I’ve shown that I can do all three.”
It has certainly been a windier road to the Rogers Centre than McGuire and the organization envisioned back in June of 2010.
But if last season’s injury woes are any indication, McGuire shouldn’t have to wait too long to make his prolonged Blue Jays debut.
“I really do feel like I have unfinished business here [in Toronto].”