Yariel Rodriguez may start for Blue Jays this weekend following stellar Buffalo start

Pitcher's return would be a welcomed development as Blue Jays deal with lack of mound depth
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals. / Cole Burston/GettyImages

Yariel Rodriguez may return to the Blue Jays rotation as soon as this weekend, following a 10-strikeout rehab start in Buffalo.

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet tweeted the Blue Jays want Rodriguez to pitch with a regular turn in the rotation upon his return. That may come as soon as Saturday or Sunday in Toronto against the Cleveland Guardians.

Toronto manager John Schneider said Rodriguez's progress was driving how the team will fill the fifth starter's spot in the rotation. The spot opened up when Alek Manoah's season came to an end, with the announcement Manoah will have season-ending UCL surgery this month. Manoah's regular turn in the rotation would be Saturday.

Rodriguez made his fifth rehab start Tuesday in Buffalo, which means he would be pitching on short rest Saturday. Jose Berrios could be moved up a day to start without losing any regular rest, which means Rodriguez start Sunday with regular rest, thanks to the Blue Jays' off day on Thursday. But Schneider said the team doesn't want to take the extra rest away from Berrios.

Rodriguez struck out 10 in Tuesday's start, a 3-2 walk-off win for the Buffalo Bisons over the Worchester Red Sox. He was dominant, striking out five of the first six hitters he faced, which included striking out the side in the second inning. Rodriguez threw 67 pitches (46 for strikes) over his four shutout innings of work, facing only 15 Worchester batters and allowing just three hits and a walk. One of the hits was erased in the third inning, when Bisons catcher Brian Serven nailed Red Sox outfielder Corey Rosier trying to steal third base.

With a fastball that touched 95 mph and averaged 92.3 mph, Rodriguez allowed batters to make contact on just 12 of his pitches. Eight pitches were hit foul and only three were hit hard in fair territory, according to Baseball Savant.

Currently on the 15-Day Injured List with thoracic spine inflammation, Rodriguez has made five rehab starts with Triple-A Buffalo. This season, Rodriguez has appeared in seven games with Buffalo, striking out 26 with a 0.52 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 17.1 innings. With Toronto, Rodriguez made four starts, striking out 16 over 15.1 innings, with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP.

Rodriguez's return would be welcome news for the Blue Jays. The team has been dealing with a serious lack of rotation depth recently, made worse when Manoah landed on the IL in May.

Toronto's starting pitching depth was already a concern when Rodriguez landed on the IL in April. Ricky Tiedemann and Bowden Francis were hurt at that time, although Francis has since returned. Mitch White and Wes Parsons were supposed to provide some depth, but both pitchers were on different teams by the end of April. Manoah was called up from Buffalo in early May and made five starts for the Blue Jays before his injury.