Most people will tell you spring training numbers don’t matter much, but for a trio of Blue Jays starters, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s no secret that the presumed weakness of the Blue Jays roster this year is their starting rotation, and it doesn’t help that both Nate Pearson and Thomas Hatch will likely begin the season on the injured list. As of this writing it’s looking like the rotation will consist of Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz, and Ross Stripling, which is an underwhelming group on paper. However, the way they’ve performed during Grapefruit League games the situation might be a lot better than some folks think it is.
Ryu’s strong performance has been no surprise, and the Jays will need him to stay healthy and continue in his role as the staff ace. It’s the rest of the group that has been a pleasant sight in March, and that’s gotta be helping Charlie Montoyo sleep a little better as the skipper looks ahead to a new season.
The pair of left-handers following Ryu have been particularly impressive. Matz pitched again yesterday and now has a 0.90 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP with 12 strikeouts over 10 innings. He spoke to reporters after the game and talked about how comfortable he’s feeling, and how well the transition Toronto has gone. Thankfully it’s been the same story for Robbie Ray, who the Blue Jays re-signed after acquiring him in a trade last summer. The southpaw has been running his fastball up to 98 miles per hour, and has a 1.98 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts over 13.2 innings thus far.
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Roark hasn’t been quite as good as the first two, but his early spring results have been encouraging after a tough first year with the Blue Jays. The veteran has held opponents to a .172 batting average and a 0.84 WHIP over 8.1 innings, and he’ll look to carry that momentum into the regular season. As for Stripling, he’s only thrown 5 innings with a 3.60 ERA, and he will need to get stretched out in advance of next month.
Beyond the five who will likely fill out the big league rotation to start the year, the Blue Jays have to be encouraged by what they’re seeing from their depth arms and big time prospects. Anthony Kay has thrown the ball relatively well (0.86 WHIP, .130 opponent’s batting average), T.J. Zeuch is looking strong, (1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), and the young duo of Simeon Woods Richardson and Alek Manoah have fans excited about the future of the rotation as well by combining for 10 innings of scoreless baseball and 15 strikeouts along the way.
The offence looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse in 2021, so if the Blue Jays can get even above-average production from their pitching staff then they should be in good shape. It’ll help when they can get Pearson back in the fold, and the bullpen should be a strong support this year.
They say that spring numbers don’t matter, but for a team with plenty of question marks about the starting rotation, that’s definitely not the case. Here’s hoping the encouraging early returns can carry into the regular season.