Blue Jays: No more bullpen days, let’s see some young starters
The Blue Jays have had to be creative with their pitching staff recently, but hopefully they’ll lean on some young starters for the remainder of the year.
This year we’ve watched big league teams employ the dreaded “bullpen day” as much as I can ever remember. In particular we’ve watched the Tampa Bay Rays utilize this strategy with regularity. Heck, after the trade deadline they didn’t have a starter left on their roster for a short time.
The same circumstance has come up in Toronto recently, and John Gibbons has had to get pretty creative to get through nine innings some days. Last week we watched John Axford get his first career start for the Blue Jays before he was traded to Los Angeles, and last night Tyler Clippard took the mound to start the game. It was Clippard’s first start since 2008, and not a role that anyone anticipated he would be in.
In the absence of J.A. Happ (traded to the Yankees), Aaron Sanchez (finger contusion), Marco Estrada (glute) and Jaime Garcia (relegated to the bullpen), the Blue Jays have been pretty lucky to get the production they have some arms like Ryan Borucki and Sam Gaviglio. The newly signed Mike Hauschild could get an extended look after his performance on Thursday night, and it’s even possible Garcia could be shuffled back to the rotation, although it doesn’t seem like the Blue Jays want to do that.
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Given the circumstances and the fact that there are still 54 games left in the regular season, they’re going to need some extra starters to get through the year, especially if Estrada gets traded in August, as it’s expected the team will make every effort to do. Hopefully Sanchez can return sooner than later and provide some of those starts, joining Borucki, Gaviglio, and Marcus Stroman. If not, there will a couple spots that need to be filled, as they can’t count on a bullpen day once every turn through the rotation.
The Blue Jays should realistically look to their minor league system and start seeing what they’ve got on the pitching side. Their offensively gifted minor league cupboard is well documented, but there is also quite a bit of talent from a pitching standpoint as well, even if it’s not the “top prospect in all of baseball” type of high-end quality.
Looking at the 40 man roster, the Blue Jays have two possible options that would be easy enough to call to the highest level. Oddly enough they have one significant thing in common: they’ve both been suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. The Blue Jays got the disappointing news about their own Thomas Pannone earlier this spring, and he served an 80 game suspension before his recent return to Triple-A. He hasn’t been spectacular with the Bisons by any means, but I have a hard time believing he’s a worse choice than Clippard to start a game, with all due respect to the veteran reliever.
The second player coming off suspension is the newly acquired David Paulino, who came to the Blue Jays in the trade that sent Roberto Osuna to Houston last week. Paulino was also suspended for 80 games in July of 2017, but has made seven starts in Houston’s minor league system this year. Again, probably not a high end option as a starter here, but he could help the team get through the second half.
Moving beyond the 40 man roster, I’d like the Blue Jays to entertain a couple other pitchers who have had great seasons with their junior clubs. Sean Reid-Foley has finally started to harness the potential that the Blue Jays have always seen in him, and has made a successful 14 starts with Buffalo this year, pitching to a 3.49 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 77.1 innings. His relatively new teammate, Jordan Romano, was pitching so well in Double-A this year that he was promoted to the next level recently as well. Between the two levels he’s 11-4 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, although just 5.0 of those innings have come in Triple-A so far.
Beyond that there is also the potential for another arm to be added to the organization, whether through a short term signing, or even with an August trade. The Blue Jays could dig a little deep into their starting stable, and they may even have to if they continue to battle injuries, but I hope they’re willing to do so if that need comes along. Guys like Gaviglio, Borucki, and others like Reid-Foley, Romano, and even the new acquisition Jacob Waguespack could all benefit from the opportunity, and the experience.
Whatever it takes, I hope that Clippard’s start was the last time we see the Blue Jays go with a bullpen day for awhile.