I hate to be a bringer of concern. However, a potential question we would probably all like to collectively avoid, as the Jays are about to enter Dunedin for camp, is our rotation health, and more specifically, Marco Estrada‘s acknowledged recurring back problems.
Despite the pain, last year the hurler who is entering his age-34 season, ended up being pretty resilient and managed to throw 176 innings.
On the surface, the potential impact of Estrada’s uncertain lumbar/vertebrae situation to the rotation should be manageable, with hopefully a spot-start here and there from the likes of Gavin Floyd or possibly more likely Joe Biagini, after some stretching out in camp.
They’re both big and resilient and able to handle a decent workload as a spot-starter if either were called upon to take the ball. After all, before Floyd rebuilt his shoulder, more than once, and re-established his career as a bullpen piece, he made a name for himself in the show as a starter (at one point, 2008, he went 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA as a member of the White Sox).
Floyd ended up putting up some respectable relief appearances last season for the Jays before he went down for the season due to injury, and one can expect enters camp with the expectation of earning that role again with the hopes of being called upon to start if necessary.
Thinking about the rotation, though, last year Estrada was able to mostly weather the storm when encountering pains, reliant on a repertoire and pitch sequencing built on his centerpiece; his unique ++ change-up, known to make major league hitters look silly.
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The point is, the prospect of throwing out a well-oiled machine of a 5-man rotation becomes less of a certainty upon further reflection, taking Estrada’s back into consideration, but also by the impact of losing R.A. Dickey of all people: there is the small matter of losing the 200 innings Dickey could guarantee you out of his rubber arm.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “not so fast, commentator, we still have Francisco Liriano.” And thank heavens we do, but beyond him, and maybe Biagini and/or Floyd, our starting pitching does run thin real fast.
The perfect 25-man roster and 40-man even are impossible to have and every organization will have sources of weakness and areas in need of upgrades. It’s part of the game and building a winning club. Ideally, Estrada’s back will be fine and he can pitch unencumbered by any discomfort or pain.
As for the rest of the question, the Jays 5th starter will be established during camp and seems like Liriano’s to lose, given he has the advantage of pitching to his old battery-mate Russell Martin. Worth noting, however, is that he will have to wait to be reunited with Martin this spring due to Martin’s choice to play for Canada during the World Baseball Classic (as a shortstop no less).
Although we’ve been seeing some nice additions to our bullpen recently, let us not forget the adage my colleague Clayton Richer recently reminded us of: “you can never have too many arms.”
And that goes (arguably even more so) for the starting staff too.