Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Time to re-shuffle the rotation for the stretch run

Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Robbie Ray (38) allows pitcher Alek Manoah (6) to put on the home run jacket in front of a standing ovation of fans during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Robbie Ray (38) allows pitcher Alek Manoah (6) to put on the home run jacket in front of a standing ovation of fans during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /
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With an off day on Thursday and just 16 games left in their regular season schedule, the Blue Jays should consider shuffling their starting rotation a bit.

It won’t require any drastic changes, but there is a solid argument that Charlie Montoyo and the Jays’ coaching staff should consider a few of their options as they both look to secure a Wild Card spot in the postseason race, and also may need to manage who pitches some of their most important games over the last 2.5 weeks.

As of now, their probable pitchers listed for the first two games of their series with the Twins are Hyun Jin Ryu and Steven Matz, which makes sense given the pattern they’ve been on as of late. After that would typically be Alek Manoah, but it’s possible that we could see a slight tweak in the plans ahead of their next three-game series with Tampa Bay. Thursday’s off day gives them some flexibility, as does another rest day on September 27.

If the Blue Jays followed their current pattern, here’s how the rest of the schedule would shake out:

Sept 17 vs. Twins– Ryu
Sept 18 vs. Twins– Matz
Sept 19 vs. Twins– Manoah (Berrios)

Sept 20 @ Rays– Berrios (Ray)
Sept 21 @ Rays– Ray (Manoah)
Sept 22 @ Rays– Ryu

Sept 23 @ Twins– Matz
Sept 24 @ Twins– Manoah (Berrios)
Sept 25 @ Twins– Berrios (Ray)
Sept 26 @ Twins– Ray (Manoah)

Sept 28 vs. NYY– Ryu
Sept 29 vs. NYY– Matz (Berrios)
Sept 30 vs. NYY– Manoah (Ray)

Oct 1 vs. Orioles– Berrios (Manoah)
Oct 2 vs. Orioles– Ray (Matz)
Oct 3 vs. Orioles– Ryu

While the Blue Jays have had mostly excellent performances from all five of their starting pitchers lately, there are a few problems with how this is lined up to finish up in the rotation.

First of all, if the Blue Jays qualify as one of the Wild Card teams then that means they’d be on schedule to hand the ball to either Matz or Manoah in a one-game playoff. They can’t think too far ahead of course, but you know that’s not how the Jays are going to want to line things up if they can help it. Step one will be making sure they make the playoffs, and they might need to use their best starters against the Orioles just to clinch their spot. However, that’s why an earlier adjustment could also be in the cards.

The other important factor I can see right away is that the Jays might want to use their best against the Yankees in their second to last series of the regular season. Those games could turn out to be the difference between postseason baseball or not for either team. As of this writing the Blue Jays and Yankees are tied with identical 82-64 records, and those head to head match-ups are going to be critical.

So what should the Blue Jays do about it? I have a suggestion or two that I think could work pretty well without disrupting things too heavily.

The first thing I would do is move Manoah’s next start back by a couple days, and move up both Berrios and Ray. The two veterans would still be working on regular rest thanks to Thursday’s off day, and Manoah would get a bit of a late season blow for a rookie that’s had a fairly big workload considering he didn’t get to pitch in live games last year. It also provides the first important shift that they might need to make things work at the end.

The other thing I would do is use the second off day on Sept 27 in the exact same way by bumping Matz against the Yankees on the 29th and using Berrios instead, followed by Ray on the 30th. Once again you would still be keeping both Berrios and Ray on their regular four days of rest, so it’s not as if you’re putting any undue stress on them. You’d also be making sure that the top two starters in the rotation are pitching during a crucial series with the Yankees. This is how that change would look:

Sept 28 vs. NYY– Ryu
Sept 29 vs. NYY– Matz (Berrios)
Sept 30 vs. NYY– Manoah (Ray)

Oct 1 vs. Orioles– Berrios (Manoah)
Oct 2 vs. Orioles– Ray (Matz)
Oct 3 vs. Orioles– Ryu

By doing things this way, the Blue Jays would be set up to use their Cy Young contender in Robbie Ray on his regular four days rest in the Wild Card game on Oct 5th, or they could use Berrios on six days rest if that felt like the better option at the time. In an ideal world, this is exactly how I imagine the Blue Jays are hoping things will go.

In a less than ideal world, the Jays could forget about the second tweak that I described in the event that they need to sweep the Orioles to qualify for the postseason. They may not know that ahead of their series with the Yankees from Sept 28-30, but they’ll have a much better idea by then anyway. Without that second tweak they would line up Ray for the series opener with Baltimore, and could use the hotter two of the trio between Manoah, Ryu, and Matz in the last two games, or even bring Berrios back on short rest for the last game of the season if that’s necessary.

Next. Looking ahead at the money coming off the books. dark

This is all just my speculation of course, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this is the game plan that Montoyo and the Blue Jays use for their last 16 games of the regular season. It’s nice to be in a position to have five strong starters, but in the biggest games you always wanna have your best on the mound. With a few adjustments over the final couple of weeks, they have the flexibility to do just that.

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