Fighting for a job
Obviously there are several names still in the mix beyond the four I’ve already mentioned, especially because Ray and Pearson haven’t made a regular season appearance yet. Here’s how I see the next tier at the moment.
5- Ross Stripling
6- TJ Zeuch
7- Thomas Hatch
8- Anthony Kay
9- Trent Thornton
Once Pearson is able to return to the rotation it’ll be interesting to see whether it’ll be Zeuch or Stripling that moves to the bullpen to make room for him. It’ll likely be based on which right-hander is performing better at the time, but the fact that Zeuch still has minor league options remaining could make him the odd man out anyway. Stripling will have to improve his production, although he has pitched better than the story his numbers would tell you.
I’m a little surprised that Kay hasn’t had a big league opportunity just yet this season, but his time will come. The Blue Jays obviously preferred to keep him stretched out as a starter rather than use him as a reliever, and that’s the right call. I don’t think it’ll be long before he overtakes Zeuch on the depth chart, and the same goes for Hatch if and when he can get healthy. In fact, a month from now I wouldn’t be surprised if Thornton passed him too, but the start of the year has been kind to Zeuch as far as opportunities, and even his early production.
Over the last few years the Blue Jays have routinely needed 12-14 starters to get through a full 162 game season. After a shortened 60-game campaign in 2020, they might even need more arms to get through this year’s schedule. Having said that, all five of these pitchers are going to have the opportunity to make an important contribution at some point.