Blue Jays: Expect a bit of a revolving door roster to start the year
The Blue Jays should have an improved roster to work with in 2021, but you can still expect to see plenty of players coming and going, especially near the beginning of the season.
Plenty of teams go through some roster shuffles over the first few weeks of the regular season schedule, and it won’t be a surprise if the Blue Jays experience a bit of the same.
As long as their position players can stay healthy to start the year, there should be some consistency on that side of the things. However, the pitching staff is an entirely different situation.
In fact, TSN’s Scott Mitchell included some quotes from Ross Atkins in his article from yesterday, pretty much saying exactly that.
"“We’ll be thinking about those first couple of series knowing that our 26-man roster could look differently for the third of fourth series based on having to get through that, and maybe our starting pitchers won’t be stretched out quite as far as they will be at that point. So much of it will depend upon us continuing to have a pretty good camp from a health and performance standpoint and at that point just see where those final decisions rest.”"
Atkins obviously makes a fair point when it comes to the health and performance standpoint this spring, especially with the former. We’ve already watched Nate Pearson hit the sidelines and now suffer a setback with a groin injury, and it didn’t look good when Thomas Hatch left the game on Wednesday with what they’re calling elbow/forearm discomfort. That’s rarely a good sign.
Those injuries have likely already pushed Ross Stripling into the projected rotation to start the year, and that would theoretically open up a bullpen spot for someone else. There has also been plenty of discussion this winter about the proper use of guys like Striping, Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz and others, with the idea of piggy-back starters being thrown around a bit.
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While the first few games of a schedule won’t make or break a season, the Blue Jays start things off against the Yankees with a three game series in New York from Apr 1-4. I’m sure Hyun Jin Ryu will get the ball on Opening Day, but after that the Blue Jays could choose to get creative, with their 26-man and/or their 40-man rosters. With the Yankees being stocked with premium right-handed hitters, it might not be the best way for Ray or Matz to start their season. For example, maybe that means someone like Trent Thornton makes a short start in the opening series, and then heads back to Buffalo to keep building up his own arm strength.
The biggest key will be the 40-man roster, and how the Blue Jays will be able to use it to their best advantage. My guess is in addition to Thornton, the Jays could look to use other arms with minor league options in the same way, which could include Julian Merryweather, T.J. Zeuch, and southpaw Anthony Kay. Hopefully Pearson will be able to get healthy and factor into the equation by mid-late April as well, which will further add to the roster shuffle.
It will likely be a bit of a fluid situation with the pitching staff, and that could make it difficult for those in camp on MiLB contracts to make the team. For veterans like Francisco Liriano, A.J. Cole, and Tommy Milone, they’ll not only have to perform well enough to make the team, but also for the Blue Jays to justify giving them a spot on the 40-man roster.
It’s likely the most interesting part of what remains of the spring schedule for the Blue Jays, and we’ll see how Charlie Montoyo sorts things out by Opening Day.