Mar 19, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker (40) removes starting pitcher J.A. Happ (48) from the game during third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Morning Brew: Aces, Walks, And Spring Debuts

It is just me or does there seem to be a lot of talking about pitching around the Toronto Blue Jays? Maybe it’s the 79 free passes (4th most) Blue Jays pitchers have given up this spring. Maybe it’s the 24 home runs Jays arms have surrendered (2nd most). Or maybe it is the 1.59 team WHIP (3rd highest) this spring.

Regardless, Blue Jays beat writers and bloggers alike are talking about the state of the team’s pitching staff and it isn’t likely to go away until things improve.

Take for instance this piece by Mike Rutsey at the Toronto Sun, who equates John Gibbons‘ search for a final member of the rotation to an absurdist play that centers around two men who wait endlessly and in vain for a third. J.A. Happ was the latest to take his stab at the spot, and despite basically being handed the keys, keeps doing everything he can to have the car taken away from him. The lefty made it through just 2.2 innings of work, throwing 71 pitches (34 strikes) and staking the Phillies to a 3-0 lead before exiting. 2 home runs and 4 RBI by Jose Bautista bailed him out, but this doesn’t look like a guy that should be a favorite for a roster spot, let alone a role in the rotation.

That moves us to a post by Callum Hughson at Mop Up Duty, who wonders if the Blue Jays have an ace in the hole in Dustin McGowan. Hughson cites the old comments by Alex Anthopoulos about McGowan having the stuff to be a great pitcher, but we all know the health issues that have plagued Dustin throughout his career. He did pitch well as a reliever last season, but he hasn’t really been stretched out much this spring (4.0 innings, 3 runs, 3 walks, 2 K’s), so he’d have to approve a minor league assignment and be put through waivers so he can stretch out further in the minors if he’s going to become a starter at any point this season. I personally would leave well enough alone and use his stuff as another solid bullpen arm and let it be done with that.

Speaking of the bullpen, earlier this week I discussed why it may be in Toronto’s best interest to start Casey Janssen on the DL to begin the season. However, as Gregor Chisholm notes, Janssen is ready to make him spring game debut on Friday against the Rays. From there, he expects to be ready for the season with just a few outings, similarly to how to did last year when he made just 2 spring appearances. For now, the plan is for him to get three or four appearances in, and we’ll see from there if he is truly ready.

On a non-pitching note, and one is welcome trust me, we head over to our neighbors at Bluebird Banter, where Nick Ashbourne takes a look at the Dioner Navarro / Eric Kratz tandem and determines how much of an upgrade they will really be over the J.P. Arencibia / Josh Thole pair we suffered through last season. Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays will see a moderate upgrade offensively, but on the defensive side of the ball, not so much, despite how maligned Arencibia was for his defense. I guess we’ll wait and see.

Tags: Toronto Blue Jays

  • Madhav

    I tweeted Chrisholm yesterday about McGowan being able to accept a minor league assignment to stretch out and he said in McGowan’s case it’s not possible. Even if McGowan accepted, he’d still have to be put through waivers… Happ’s situation is different because Happ has an option, but can refuse being optioned because of service time.

    • Michael Wray

      Nice catch, you are absolutely correct. They could still try to stretch him out during the season, similar to the way they did with Esmil last year, but that’s definitely not an ideal situation to start a season. But at the same time, if the Jays are insistent on carrying eight relievers, you would think it would give them the possibility to try it. Given McGowan’s track record, I don’t have much confidence he would be ready to be put in the rotation to start the season but if the end of April comes around and the Jays are still looking for a rotation arm they might be tempted to try McGowan in order to keep Stroman down until he’s ready or at least will avoid starting his arbitration clock, which I’m sure is a high priority for the suddenly penny-pinching Jays’ FO.

  • Hussein Mire

    Radical idea! Why Don’t the Jays piggyback McGowan and Happ until Dustin is up to speed in terms of being stretched out. Than the Jays can either put Happ in the pen, or send him to the minors, or trade/release him.

  • SM

    All the news initially seemed to suggest McGowan was going to be given a shot at the starting rotation. Given our glaring weaknesses and expecting Hail Mary’s all over the place, what was the risk in given Dustin a legitimate chance to contend? Yes he could get injured – so can everyone else. Yes he’s more prone than others, but the weighted ball program seems to work for him. But he’s had really bad history – that’s to our advantage now – we’ve evolved as a team without him being around, we can do that again.

    The bottom line was that Dustin himself volunteered for a starting role, he knows his body better than we do and we should’ve trusted him on that.