Gone But Not Forgotten: David Bush

Thursday, December 15 2005 @ 12:00 PM EST

Contributed by: Jonny German

The second player drafted under the J.P. Ricciardi regime was the first to reach The Show. With all due respect to other prospects who have been drafted and moved up and moved on, Dave Bush is the first of “Ricciardi’s own” that this Jays fan is pained to see gone. In a move that signals the organisational shift from rebuilding mode to the future is now, Dave Bush was dealt along with Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson to the Brewers for Lyle Overbay on December 8.

Bush was selected 55th overall in the 2002 draft, Toronto’s second-rounder. The former Wake Forest closer made his pro debut at short-season Auburn, and encountering no difficulty there while collecting 10 saves, he was promoted to High-A Dunedin, where he again had no problem with the opposition in a handful of innings. In 2003 the Jays challenged him with transitioning to the starting rotation. Bush didn’t miss a beat, going 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 14 starts at Dunedin, striking out 75 in 77 innings and walking a measly 9. Not content with that impressive performance, he spent the second half of the season posting a virtually identical line for Double-A New Haven, all the while keeping in lockstep with Dustin McGowan.

Starting 2004 at Triple-A Syracuse, Bush saw his ERA go over 4 for the first time in his pro career, but he maintained his strong strikeout and walk rates. With Pat Hentgen's Toronto swan song turning out to be a dirge, Dave was promoted to the majors one out shy of 100 AAA innings and made his debut July 2, 2004. Facing the Expos in steamy San Juan, Bush surrendered just 1 run on 4 hits and a walk through 6-2/3, but was saddled with the loss as Livan Hernandez tossed a shut out. Dave was very solid in holding a place in the Blue Jay rotation through the end of the year, putting an exclamation mark on his season by shutting out the Yankees on two hits October 1st, punching out 11.

The early part of the 2005 season saw the end of the fairy tale, as a bipolar Bush struggled through April. The bad outings gradually began to outnumber the good ones, and manager John Gibbons seemed to develop a quick hook for his young righty. On May 28 Bush was pulled from his start against the Twins in the 5th inning, having given up back-to-back solo homers. Much has been made of his evident displeasure at being lifted. The next day, he was optioned down to Syracuse along with his unflattering 0-5 record and 4.89 ERA. The Box was unimpressed.

Back in AAA, Dave's walk rate went back to his normal excellent levels but the disturbing erosion of his strikeout rate continued and he was more prone to the long ball than he'd ever been in the minors. 55 unremarkable innings later, Bush was back in the majors. He finished out the year quite well, going 5-6 with a 4.32 ERA over 83 innings following his recall with a 1.23 WHIP.

The signings of B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett following the season gave the Jays seven capable starters, so someone had to go. Objectively, I can't make a strong argument that Bush is likely to be significantly better than any of the other six candidates in 2006, and possible contributions beyond that are devalued by the push to win now and by the number of talented young arms percolating through the farm system. Subjectively, I'd grown attached to Bush from following his ascent through the minors and enjoying his bulldog approach. My most vivid memory of him is of his April 23, 2005 start in which he limited the then high-flying Orioles to just 1 run on 5 hits through 8 innings. As was his luck in the 2005 season, he was assigned the loss as the Blue Jay bats went missing.

Here is Dave Bush's statistical record as a member of the Toronto Blue Jay organisation:

Year  Age Lev  W   L   ERA     IP    H/9  HR/9  BB/9    K/9  WHIP
2002  22  A-   1   1  2.82   22.3   5.24  0.40  2.82  15.72  0.90
          A+   0   1  2.03   13.3   6.75  0.68  1.35   6.08  0.90
2003  23  A+   7   3  2.81   77.0   7.48  0.70  1.05   8.77  0.95
          AA   7   3  2.78   81.0   8.11  0.44  2.11   8.11  1.14
2004  24  AAA  6   6  4.06   99.7   9.75  0.63  1.81   7.95  1.28
          MLB  5   4  3.69   97.7   8.75  1.01  2.30   5.90  1.23
2005  25  AAA  2   2  4.42   55.0  10.64  0.98  1.47   6.55  1.35
          MLB  5  11  4.49  136.3   9.37  1.32  1.91   4.95  1.25
On behalf of Batter's Box, I wish him every success as a member of the Milwaukee Brewer rotation. Please share your memories of Dave Bush in this thread.

Photo courtesy of MLB.com.