Top 5 Blue Jays storylines to monitor this spring training

What are the things to keep an eye on for the Jays this spring?

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Yariel Rodríguez’s role

One of the major offseason signings by the Jays included Cuban phenom Yariel Rodríguez. He is an intriguing addition to the team’s pitching staff because he has a ton of potential and could excel both as a starter and as a reliever given his track record.

Having pitched mainly in the Cuban and Japanese leagues in the eight seasons prior to last year, Rodríguez has collectively compiled a 48-38 record with a stellar 3.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, with 645 strikeouts in 731.1 innings pitched. More impressively, he has registered 14 complete games including 4 shutouts in just 76 career starts. In the last season that he pitched two years ago, he put together one of his best seasons of his career with the Chunichi Dragons by posting a 6-2 record with a minuscule 1.15 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, giving up just 7 earned runs along with 60 strikeouts in just 54.2 innings of work.

However, the Jays and their fans will need to temper their expectations, at least in the early going, as Rodríguez recently indicated that his pitching arm was only at 75% after not pitching at all in 2023. As a result, he will need some time to get back up to game speed and to ultimately regain his effectiveness that he had established prior to coming to North America. This spring, if he manages to progress more rapidly than predicted, he could challenge for a spot in the starting rotation, putting the pressure on Manoah and the incumbent Yusei Kikuchi to perform right out of the gate. However, as a safety precaution due to the long layoff, starting Rodríguez in the bullpen would likely make the most sense to build up his arm strength once again.