Blue Jays promote top offseason signing to make MLB debut against Rockies

The time has finally arrived for one of the Jays’ prized offseason signings
Feb 23, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez poses during Photo Day
Feb 23, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez poses during Photo Day / Aaron Cobb/Toronto Blue Jays-USA TODAY

At long last, the time has come for Cuban sensation Yariel Rodríguez to make his big league debut, as he was formally promoted on Saturday to make his first start, according to Jays manager John Schneider. Journeyman Paolo Espino was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Y-Rod on the active roster.

Courted by many teams during the 2023-24 offseason, the Jays managed to win the sweepstakes by signing him to a value five-year, $32M contract. Having not pitched in professional baseball for over a year, the Jays knew that it would take a little time for the 27-year-old to ramp up his activity and get back to 100 percent.

However, when Rodríguez began to experience back issues after a live batting practice session during training camp, it ended up delaying his build-up for the regular season as he managed to get into just two preseason games. Nevertheless, he did make a good first impression in those two starts, giving up a total of just one run on a pair of hits, with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts in 5 innings of work. 

To get Rodríguez up to speed in preparation for his major league debut, the Jays had him workout and begin the year in Triple-A Buffalo. In total, he made two convincing starts with the Bisons in which he held the opposition scoreless, giving up just a single hit with 3 walks and 10 strikeouts in just 6.1 innings pitched. His strong start was enough to convince the Jays’ brass that his time was now, earning him his long-awaited promotion to the big leagues.

His arrival comes at the perfect time with three of the Jays’ starting five struggling to start the 2024 season. Rodríguez will take the place of Bowden Francis, who owned a dismal 12.96 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP after two less-than-stellar outings. Francis will be moved back to a familiar role in the bullpen where the Jays hope he can rediscover his game and excel once again like he did last season.

As for Rodríguez, hopefully he can provide the much-needed spark to help the Jays turn around their recent fortunes and get them back on track following a 12-4 thrashing at the hands of the Rockies on Friday night. 

Espino, 37, signed a minor league contract with the Jays just before spring training began. The right-hander had his contract selected last week and made two multi-inning appearances before being sent back down to Buffalo. He has a long track record of starting and functioning as a long-reliever, so we certainly have not seen the last of him on the Blue Jays.