Blue Jays: Who starts on Opening Day if Marcus Stroman can’t go?
Before his injury set back, it was looking to be Marcus Stroman who would take the mound when the Toronto Blue Jays host the New York Yankees on March 29th. Stroman’s Opening Day assignment is very much in jeopardy as he experiences shoulder inflammation and has been backed off for now in spring training. That leaves the honour of starting Opening Day wide open, but if I were to pick, it would be J.A Happ.
The Blue Jays will open their season in less than four weeks, as Opening Day draws closer. While a lot has gone right for the team this offseason, they did have a minor set back with shoulder inflammation for their anticipated team ace in Marcus Stroman, who may have to delay the start of his season, if only just by a short time. Stroman made it clear earlier this winter that he wanted the Opening Day nod, but that may not be an option on March 29th against the New York Yankees after all.
The Yankees offense is set to be one of the best, if not the best in all of baseball in 2018 and a majority of those big bats are right handed. Regardless, J.A. Happ would have had to throw in the first series, but as a lefty it still does seem like a bad idea to start against the Yankees. Think again when it comes to J.A. Happ. Happ had the best wOBA against right handed hitters in 2017, and that was better than even Marcus Stroman.
Since returning to the Blue Jays in the off-season heading into 2016, Happ has been nothing short of great. He won 20 games in 2016 with a 3.18 ERA and 3.2 fWAR. In 2017, despite missing about a full month, Happ almost replicated his 2016 season with a 2.9 fWAR.
The re-signing of the former first rounder was met with lots of angry fans based on his first tour of duty with the Blue Jays, but he’s silenced those critics, and he did it quickly.
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Heading into 2017, Happ was a candidate to start on Opening Day. With the Blue Jays wanting to delay the start of Aaron Sanchez‘s season by having his turn 5th in the rotation, as well as the struggles of Stroman, it was between Happ and Estrada to start last year at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. Marco Estrada got the honour and Happ followed him him in the second game of the series. Happ was likely to go the 2nd turn after Stroman to start the Yankees series, but it’s very possible now that he will go on Opening Day instead, and he should.
Opening Day is a pretty big honour for any big league starting pitcher. After the first game, the order of the rotation always tends to get jumbled as the season goes along. Pitchers do love the honour of kicking off the season, and if Marcus Stroman can’t make the Yankees series, J.A Happ deserves the honour.