Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Resist the temptation to make Trent Thornton a reliever

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Trent Thornton #67 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Trent Thornton #67 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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With the sudden rash of injuries to the Blue Jays’ bullpen, they’ll have to fill out the group another way. Hopefully they’ll leave Trent Thornton as a starter and don’t interrupt his development in that role.

A few days ago it looked like the Blue Jays had the bullpen more or less figured out, with the exception of the last spot, and whether or not they keep Elvis Luciano as a potential 8th receiver as well. Now that the injury bug has bitten the bullpen in a big way, things are a lot less clear.

On Thursday the Blue Jays announced that both John Axford and Ryan Tepera are dealing with elbow issues, and neither will be ready to begin the season with the big league club. In addition, Bud Norris reportedly “didn’t feel right” yesterday while warming up, and he’s now a possibility to begin the year on the injured list as well.

We know that Axford won’t be evaluated for roughly four weeks because of a stress fracture in his elbow, but it’s less certain how long the other two will be sidelined. Regardless, the Blue Jays are probably going to have to fill at least two spaces, if not three, and that makes for a complicated situation when it comes to their 25 and 40 man rosters. It likely also means that Sam Gaviglio will be a lock to make the team now. With both Norris and Axford on MiLB deals it helps a bit, but it’s still going to require some juggling.

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The easiest solution for the Blue Jays would be to look to the arms that are already on their 40 man roster and use them to fill out the bullpen. They could very well do that by including pitchers like David Paulino, and Thomas Pannone, but I hope they leave one arm in particular alone. Trent Thornton has been pretty impressive this spring, and personally I’d really like to see him stay in the depth ranks of their starting pithing. I could say the same for Paulino and Pannone as well, but I understand that someone may have to move at this stage.

For Thornton, he arrived in Toronto over the offseason in a trade that sent Aledmys Diaz back to Houston, and it was a quiet pick up that I think could pay off for the Blue Jays. I don’t expect him to turn into a rotation ace by any means, but some of the data really favours his potential, especially when it comes to “spin rate”, a newer metric that is being focused on all the time, especially over in Houston.

While the Blue Jays might eventually have six starters for five positions with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Clay Buchholz, there is enough injury history with nearly all of them to know that more than the half-dozen arms are going to be required this year. If and when the need arises, that’s when Thornton becomes even more valuable to the team this year, and hopefully he can use it as a building block toward becoming a rotation fixture for the future. The Blue Jays have a ton of exciting prospects on the position player side of the ball, it’s not quite as jam-packed at the top of the pitching ranks.

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I understand they’ll need to fill out the bullpen one way or another, but hopefully they’re able to juggle the 40 man roster enough to find a way to carry someone like Danny Barnes, or Justin Shafer to round things out. With the amount of injuries this team has sustained in the last few days hopefully they can resist the temptation to interrupt Thornton’s development as a starter, even if it’s an easy solution. I have a funny feeling he’s going to be a good one in time, and as we saw with Joe Biagini over the last couple of years, bouncing back and forth between the roles isn’t always the best strategy.

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