Blue Jays: The damage is done, so Ryan Borucki should take his time

TORONTO, ON - JULY 22: Ryan Borucki #56 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre on July 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 22: Ryan Borucki #56 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre on July 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

With a recent setback, Ryan Borucki won’t be ready by the time Opening Day rolls around. With that already determined, the southpaw should take his time to make sure he’s 100% healthy before returning to the mound.

Back at the beginning of the 2018 season, the Blue Jays didn’t have the same depth of talent in their minor league pitching ranks that they do today. Even more problematic, most of the top-end arms like Eric Pardinho, or the freshly drafted Nate Pearson were still years away from being able to help the big league team.

That’s why Ryan Borucki‘s emergence as a viable MLB starter later that season was so exciting. Frankly, the Blue Jays needed what he brought to the table that year, and hoped he’d be able to do it again, or maybe even improve in 2019 and beyond.

The former 15th round pick in 2012 ended up going 4-6 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.321 WHIP across 17 starts and 97.2 innings pitched. And other than J.A. Happ, who was traded to the Yankees that July, Borucki was probably the Blue Jays’ best starter that season. With a hard rebuild in store for 2019, things looked like they were well set up for the Illinois native, who was all but guaranteed a job in the rotation to begin last season.

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Unfortunately, Borucki just hasn’t been able to stay healthy since that successful rookie effort, dealing with a variety of forearm and elbow issues that all but washed away his 2019 campaign, and threaten to compromise the season ahead as well. Last year he made just two MLB starts, throwing 6.2 innings before being shut down again to end the year. He only made four appearances and threw 18 innings during his rehab stint as well, so his time spent on the mound last season was very limited.

Now that Borucki has faced another hiccup at the beginning of camp, the team has already announced that he won’t be ready in time for Opening Day. That also means that he’s no longer a candidate for the fifth job in the starting rotation, which looks to be Trent Thornton‘s to lose. And now that things have already unfolded this way, there is zero reason for Borucki to rush back.

That could change if something were to happen to the Blue Jays’ top four of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker (knock on wood), but otherwise those four spots are locked in. That fifth job will come down to a battle between Thornton, Anthony Kay, and maybe Shun Yamaguchi, with others on the fringe like Jacob Waguespack, or T.J. Zeuch on the fringe looking in. Then there’s arguably the most exciting arm in camp, belonging to Nate Pearson.

The problem for Borucki is that he really needed to win the job out of Spring Training this year in order to have a chance to stick at the highest level as long as everyone else is healthy. Thornton is going to be difficult to knock out of that fifth starter’s role, as he finished strong last season after an important year of learning and gaining experience, and he looks poised to put forth an improved effort. There’s a solid argument that Kay is more than ready to take a MLB role as well, and it won’t be long until Pearson comes and grabs a job in the rotation, regardless of how many healthy starters there are.

As things stand now, Borucki and the training staff should focus on getting him ready so than when an opportunity comes, he doesn’t face another setback. With most MLB teams needing at least 10 starters throughout the course of a 162 game season, that day will come for Borucki at some point, but it doesn’t matter if he’s not physically ready. Unfortunately, it’s also now too late for it to matter if he’s healthy for week two of the season, as this will likely knock him down the depth chart in a way, at least in terms of the first opportunity.

Unlike a year ago, the Blue Jays should have several other places to turn as he does get healthy, and Pearson could make his debut as early as May, depending on how the organization wants to handle his season. That means that Borucki should no longer worry about winning or even having a MLB job at this point. Realistically, he could be as far down as 8th on the depth chart by the time he returns, so being healthy at that point won’t be as important. Instead, the soon to be 26-year-old needs to focus on getting back on the field when he’s 100% ready to go, and avoiding the type of injury label that could really derail his career.

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Hopefully this is just a small bump in the road for Borucki as he enters the 2020 campaign, but because of the timing of the quality of the rest of the roster, it should mean that he takes a little extra time to make sure he’s healthy this time around.