Blue Jays: Will they use a six-man bullpen?

Jul 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays are going to experiment with a six-man rotation for awhile, which was announced by GM Ross Atkins on Thursday.

Back and forth the discussion has gone regarding Aaron Sanchez and whether or not he should be moved to the bullpen before the end of the 2016 season. At the beginning of the season, the now- Cy Young candidate wasn’t even a sure thing to be included in the rotation at all.

Fast forward to the summer and we all know what the 24 year old has provided. Going into his start on Saturday he currently has an 11-1 record, 2.71 ERA and a WHIP of 1.134 over 21 starts. He was selected to the All-Star game and has legitimately been the Blue Jays best starter. He’s first in the AL in ERA, 8th in Wins (11), 10th in WHIP (1.13), 6th in WAR (3.2), 10th in IP, and tied for 18th in strikeouts.

All along the plan has been to transition him to the bullpen when his innings reached a critical point. That was before he performed like this and made it nearly impossible for the Jays to stop running him out as a starter. The club kept insisting that he was going to move eventually, until Thursday….

Like many Blue Jays fans, this news came like the sound of a rejoicing Sunday choir! Sanchez is staying in the rotation! But wait… who moves then?

A six-man rotation indeed. There are plenty of reasons to question this move, and even more reasons to like it, which we’ll discuss on another day.

The part that gets extra interesting for now though, is how the Jays decide to fill out their 25 man roster. They’ve had plenty of points throughout the season where they’ve played with a three-man bench, but if the Jays choose to keep four position players as reserves, can they get away with a six-man bullpen instead of 7, or sometimes even 8?

Let’s take a look at who is currently down there:

On paper, things look as strong as they have for the Jays’ pen all year long. They could use another lefty in the above group, and could very well choose to use the 7th spot that way later on.

The only other thing missing from this group might be the ability to cover innings. Feldman has arrived as the long man, and is expected to provide an upgrade over Jesse Chavez‘s production in that position this year.

Beyond Feldman though, the rest of the bullpen isn’t exactly full of multi-inning relievers. Biagini has pitched at least 2.0 innings in 10 appearances of his 39, but has never gone beyond that in a single appearance. Benoit has pitched more than an inning just once this season, and Grilli hasn’t gone beyond more than one inning.

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The onus is obviously on the starters to go deeper into games if this were going to work, and the Blue Jays will likely have to use their 4th bench spot at times throughout the season as well.

It may be unorthodox, but I think I can speak for the majority (I didn’t say all) of Jays’ fans when I say it’s worth a shot. Keeping our best starter in the rotation feels like the right thing to do, and giving him extra rest by utilizing 6 starters may be all he needs to stay strong through the playoffs.