Blue Jays option top offseason pitching acquisition to Triple-A to start 2024

Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez (29) throws a pitch
Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez (29) throws a pitch / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report by Francys Romero, RHP Yariel Rodriguez has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

Rodriguez, a Cuban pitcher who spent the last few years pitching professionally in Japan, signed a five-year pact with the Blue Jays this past offseason. The talented hurler was expected to provide considerable impact to an already solid pitching staff, but the exact fit wasn't perfectly clear.

Having spent his last full season as a closer, Rodriguez has since expressed a desire to start games in the big leagues. He did just that as recently as last years World Baseball Classic, after which he took the year off to prepare for a jump to MLB in 2024.

Back spasms early on limited Rodriguez to just five innings this spring, and lowered his chances of breaking camp with the squad. It's worth wondering about what would've happened had he been healthy, as after Alek Manoah's injury there was a clear battle for the last spot in the rotation. This spot would be won by Bowden Francis, but the story could have been different had Rodriguez been healthy for more of the spring.

This optioning to Buffalo seemingly allows Rodriguez to continue his build up as a starter. Romero's report also states Rodriguez is expected to start two to three games, after which the Blue Jays could choose to call him up.

There's no clear path to a spot in the rotation for Rodriguez at this point in time, a circumstance that no doubt has been discussed between Rodriguez and Blue Jays staff. The Cuban righty could fit well into the bullpen in any role, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding the situations of Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano. With his experience closing in NPB, Rodriguez could be an asset as a high-leverage reliever.

With a wealth of professional experience and a soon to be built up arm, expect Rodriguez to play a role on the Blue Jays at some point after those starts. Should something happen and the Blue Jays need a starter, Rodriguez is being put in a position physically where he could handle that. At the very least, he could be in line for innings out of an already talented bullpen.