With Opening Day less than 10 days away, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to have their pitching rotation set in in stone for the 2017 season.
As tweeted by Sportsnet’s Arash Madani, the Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly set the team’s starting rotation and their Opening Day starter.
Marco Estrada is in line to get the ball on Opening Day when the Blue Jays take on the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Monday, April 3 at 3:05 E.T. Following Estrada, the rotation will alternate based on handedness with lefty J.A. Happ, then Marcus Stroman, Francisco Liriano, and Aaron Sanchez.
Estrada’s consistency in the past two seasons is a big reward for the 33-year old who was once sitting in the Blue Jays bullpen to start the season two years ago. Due to injuries, Estrada was pulled into the rotation and hasn’t looked back since.
Even though he battled through back issues last season, his efficient curveball and his performance in the postseason makes another strong case as to why Estrada should be on the mound on Opening Day. He signed a two-year, $26-million contract before the 2016 season, indicating that he will be a free agent this winter.
Happ is entering the second year of his three-year, $36 million contract. He became the first Blue Jays pitcher to earn 11 wins prior to the All-Star break since Roy Halladay last did it in 2008. The lefty became the fifth Blue Jay to earn 20 wins in a season as he finished sixth in voting for the American League Cy Young Award. Happ is also to pitch the Blue Jays Home Opener on Tuesday, April 11 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
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Marcus Stroman had an inconsistent 2016 season. He posted a 7-4 record with 4.89 ERA. His spectacular MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic championship could very well put those inconsistencies behind him. Stroman is looking to rebound this season and with the right attitude and mindset, he’s on his way to do that.
Francisco Liriano is the obvious replacement of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Liriano is another lefty who the Blue Jays acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline on August 1, 2016. Liriano is another pitcher who is looking to rebound after a dismal season. However, since his arrival to Toronto, Liriano’s numbers have drastically improved when he finished with a 2-2 record and a 2.92 ERA as a Blue Jay.
Aaron Sanchez had a breakout of a season. The 24-year old finished with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts, the lowest ERA in the American League. He was so calm and understanding when the Blue Jays optioned him to the minors in August where he finished off the season on a strong and healthy note. Despite being paid the minimum salary and the barking of his agent, Sanchez will look to build off his breakout campaign in 2016.
This appears to be an excellent starting rotation considering they were among the strongest rotations in Major League Baseball last season. The rotation put up 89 wins and 73 losses as the Blue Jays finished with a 3.78 ERA- the sixth lowest in the League and the lowest in the American League.