Blue Jays: Does Yusei Kikuchi now have the inside track for the fifth starter job?

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

As the Blue Jays head into Spring Training, one of the biggest questions looming for the team, and the fans, is who will fill the fifth starter role when the season gets underway.

The job is up for grabs, and has been since Yusei Kikuchi was demoted to the bullpen in mid-August last season.

The other contender in camp is Mitch White, who filled in after being acquired from the Dodgers at the trade deadline.

But in an interesting turn of events, it looks like Kikuchi has the edge in the competition, at least early on. Keegan Matheson of reports that White dealt with a right shoulder impingement earlier in the offseason.

While Matheson notes that White is now fine and has moved past the issue, the problem delayed his preparation and build-up leading into camp. So with Kikuchi being on schedule, as far as we know, he may get the first look at the fifth spot by default.

Who will end up as the no. 5 starter?

Kikuchi began last season as the fifth starter after signing a three-year, $36M contract. But he quickly found himself in hot water with the fanbase after struggling mightily. He finished his time in the rotation with an ugly 5.25 ERA through 20 starts. Aside from a couple of solid six-inning outings, he never looked comfortable or sure of himself on the mound.

White didn't fare much better. In his 10 appearances, he posted a 7.74 ERA and never seemed to get his footing as a Blue Jay in 2022. If Kikicuhi has a lousy camp, the door may open for White to grab the reigns and take the job.

And, of course, über-prospect Ricky Tiedemann is waiting in the wings. Fans would love to see the team's number one prospect be given a shot this year. Despite being a non-roster invitee to camp, it would be a surprise to see him land a starting role in the majors out of the gate.

By virtue of his contract and the team's willingness to give him every chance last season, it's safe to assume that Kikuchi will be given first dibs at the role this spring.

Whether he impresses enough to secure the job is another matter.

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