Blue Jays: A good pitching problem to have for Charlie Montoyo

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 25: ManagerCharlie Montoyo of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 25, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 25: ManagerCharlie Montoyo of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 25, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays have been getting great performances from their starters lately, and with six arms available to Charlie Montoyo, he’ll have some tough decisions to make over the last two months of the season.

It’s an enviable spot to be in for the third-year skipper, and one made possible by the acquisition of Jose Berrios just ahead of the trade deadline. It didn’t feel like a guarantee that the Blue Jays would upgrade their rotation, especially because their own five starters have been performing quite well, but it’s an addition that will move the needle in a number of different ways.

All that being said, at some point Montoyo is likely going to have a tough choice to make as far as which of his starters to send to the bullpen. He won’t have to make an immediate call this week, as the Blue Jays have a double-header on Saturday against the Red Sox, and another vs. the Angels on Tuesday, so the extra arm is a big help right now.

It’s possible that the Blue Jays will find a way to utilize all six starters in that role for the bulk of the rest of the regular season. They won’t have a double-header to manage every week, but they do have a couple of situations that might warrant keeping the status quo.

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For example, Alek Manoah is in his rookie season and has now thrown 65.1 innings between his time in Triple-A and with the Blue Jays. That’s not a big workload by any means, but you have to remember that Manoah didn’t get to pitch in real game action last year, and his career high for innings was 125.1 in 2019 between his time at West Virginia, and then a short stint in Vancouver after he was drafted. The big right-hander prides himself on being a “workhorse”, but I’m sure the Blue Jays will prioritize protecting such a valuable asset.

With 56 games remaining, let’s say that Manoah has 11 starts left to make. If throws an average of 6.0 innings per outing that will take him up to 131.1 IP on the season. That doesn’t feel like too much of a jump from his previous career high, but it’s hard to say how much the Blue Jays will factor in the inactivity of the 2020 campaign. At any rate, it wouldn’t shock me if they skipped him for one start, especially if they’re looking like a playoff team that could give him a few more outings in the postseason.

Secondly, and I’ve talked about this before here at Jays Journal, but it’s no secret that Hyun Jin Ryu occasionally likes some extra rest in order to be at his best. It would be a luxury if they could skip a start for their ace down the stretch, but that will likely come down to how they perform over the next few weeks. It’s going to be difficult to sacrifice a turn for Ryu with such a tight race for the Wild Card, but if Ross Stripling and Steven Matz keep throwing the ball the way they did this week then it’s worth considering.

Speaking of Stripling and Matz, I think the writing is on the wall that if Montoyo moves a starter to the ‘pen then it’ll likely be one of the two veterans. They didn’t make the situation any easier for their skipper this week, as Matz delivered 6.0 of shutout baseball against Cleveland on Wednesday and allowed just six hits and one walk while striking out eight. As for Stripling, he followed that up with 6.0 shutout frames of his own, giving up just three hits and a walk while fanning six.

Both Stripling and Matz are capable of being an asset to the Blue Jays in the rotation, but also have experience and success in the bullpen as well. I’m sure that they’ll try to keep both pitchers stretched out as much as possible, and if they’re able to use them based on match-ups and recent performance, that could make a difference at a time when the playoff margins are very tight.

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We’ll see how Montoyo manages his pitching staff over the coming weeks, especially after they get through these next two double-headers, but fortunately it’s a good problem to have for the Blue Jays.