John Gibbons leaning towards using sixth starter soon
Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons may soon insert a sixth starting pitcher into his rotation for a single game, a move that was made several times throughout the summer of 2015 with some encouraging results.
Gibbons told the media ahead of Wednesday night’s game in Baltimore that this decision would come with a focus on protecting the younger arms in the rotation, most notably Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman who are coming off limited innings last season.
The Blue Jays are currently in the middle of a 16-game block without a day off. After finishing up with the Orioles on Thursday night, Toronto returns home this weekend for three game sets against the Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox. Following the April 28th off day, the team travels to Tampa Bay.
An offseason focus on improving Toronto’s pitching depth will allow for Gibbons to make this move a little more freely, given the talent level of the potential candidates available for these spot starts.
The first name in any conversation outside of the 25-man roster is likely to be Drew Hutchison, who went from the Blue Jays opening day starter in 2015 to the triple-A Buffalo Bisons opening day starter this year. The right-hander owns 4.11 ERA through his first three starts covering 15.1 innings and is coming off a rough outing, but has struck out 20 batters over that span.
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Beyond Hutchison in Buffalo, Scott Diamond has pitched well in the early going with a 3.24 ERA and just two walks over 16.2 innings pitched (12 Ks).
At the Major League level, Toronto would be looking at three candidates in Gavin Floyd, Joe Biagini, and Jesse Chavez (though it seems that Chavez is being used closer to the back end of the ‘pen than the other two).
Floyd was in competition with Aaron Sanchez for the final spot in the rotation up to the closing days of spring training, and with the way he pitched in March, he’d easily have a starting job on several other teams across the league. He’s pitched 6.1 innings in five outings thus far, though, so would the endurance he built this spring still allow for him to push into the fifth and beyond? (He did look excellent in his two innings against Baltimore on Wednesday night).
This brings us back to Biagini, the goofball Rule 5 pick from San Francisco who is quickly winning fans on and off the field. Admittedly, he’ll be facing the same problem as Floyd in regards to being stretched out, but he does seem to be the current long man.
The right-hander has been working as a relief pitcher all year and has thrown only four innings in three games, but he did work exclusively as a starter over the past few seasons with the Giants. Last season with the double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, Biagini threw 130.1 innings with a 2.42 ERA.
Regardless of who gets the nod, having a wealth of options who are at the very least “legitimate” makes this an easier play for Gibbons and his staff. Adding the odd stutter-step to the rotation will pay off down the road, too, when Toronto’s current starters remain fresh.