The Blue Jays soon have a decision to make regarding the short-term usage of Marcus Stroman, and Friday night’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles only improved Stroman’s chances of cracking the starting rotation. Drew Hutchison hit a wall early in the sixth inning, and with Stroman likely to be available for the New York Yankees series, the Blue Jays have options.
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Let’s not make the mistake of confusing options with problems. The young right-hander is a bonus asset emerging from a place where nothing was expected, so any contribution will exceed what the Jays could have budgeted for.
At this point, only a blowup start with AAA Buffalo would change the Blue Jays plans, whatever they may be. Six innings of no-hit ball should be treated the same as an “average” outing, and with a plan likely in place already, Stroman’s job is to give the organization no reason to question it. Assuming all goes well, his greatest potential value remains as a starter.
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Hutchison is scheduled to make one more start against the Boston Red Sox before Stroman will be eligible to rejoin the starting rotation, but beyond that, his spot in fair game. Don’t rule out both pitchers playing a starting role of some variety down the stretch, either, with just one off day between now and the end of the season.
Mark Buehrle has already been flipped with David Price this weekend to allow him an extra day of rest, which is something that a hybrid six-man rotation could produce more of. R.A. Dickey is getting no younger, and it’s important to remember that Marco Estrada does not have a lengthy track record of high innings pitched.
Doing this would allow the Blue Jays to maximize their flexibility with David Price, who the Blue Jays may want to align with a potential one-game Wild Card playoff game or first game of an ALDS. The Yankees, somehow, remain just half a game back of the Jays in the AL East, so we can’t plan the pennant parade just yet.
Of course, if Stroman struggles or the rotation settles into a proper order without him, he could provide the ultimate long man out of the bullpen. If Hutchison struggles early in a start or Dickey has an “off” night with the knuckleball, Stroman would represent a quick-trigger parachute to keep the Blue Jays involved through the middle innings. There’s a multitude of options here, all of them positive, but Stroman’s first job in AAA is to just look normal.