After hearing all spring that the starting rotation was pretty much set, suddenly, in the last week of spring, it is a horse race again. The Jays are telling us now that only two guys are locks, Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero. And this is right after Marcum has his first poor outing of the spring to make us all worry just a little bit. That leaves Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil and Dana Eveland looking for the last three spots. Let's look at each of them:
After the Jump...
- Brandon Morrow: to be fair he'd be a lock if it wasn't for the sore shoulder that held him back. Because of the shoulder he's only pitched 5 innings in spring A games. He has pitched in other games, but he would have to 'ramp up' a little quicker than you would like, in this last week, to get up to where he could throw a few innings in a start. Being fair, I felt, since he's been a reliever most of his MLB career that we shouldn't be hoping for more than 5 or 6 innings a start for the first while anyway. The Jays have a few options; they could put him to the back of the rotation to give him a few extra days. If his shoulder is still sore, they could put him on the DL and have throw 2 or 3 rehab games in the minors. Or he has an option year left, they could start him in the minors, with the play to bring him up within a month. If I'm Alex Anthopoulos, I'd really want to have someone from one of my big trades to be on the team to start the year with the team. I guess we'll see how the week goes.
- Marc Rzepczynski started the spring off great, the last couple of times out there haven't been as good. Quite possibly a little arm fatigue, most pitchers get it at some point of the spring. He is just 24 so there is no great rush to get him to the major, other than there are a dozen or so other arms just behind him in the organization. If he is going to be a starter for us, it would be best if he established himself this year and some major league experience. Of course, he's a favorite of mine, I like ground ball pitchers that can strike guys out. He had 60 strikeouts in 61.1 innings with the Jays last year. I'd love him to make the rotation.
- Brian Tallet, the old man of the group, 32 this year. Had a couple of bad outings at the start of camp but the last 2 times out he was very good. Not a strikeout pitcher. Cito talked about 'owing' him a spot in the rotation for his efforts last year, but seems to be coming off that a bit now. He has been a good middle reliever. Clearly, almost all of us in the Jays Blogosphere would prefer the Jays give the rotation spot to a younger pitcher, because we'll like to look at the guys that will be here in the future. There's some thought that he'd just be holding a rotation spot until someone (Dustin McGowan?) is ready to take it, but Cito wasn't talking about him like he would be the fifth starter. I'd rather him in long relief; we are going to need good arms doing that. It is great to see him pitching well, best to see everyone show well and make the decisions tougher on management. There is an argument that he would bring a veteran presence to the rotation, I'd buy that more if he was a veteran start, but he's been a reliever most of his career. Not that he wouldn't have things to share with the younger pitchers, but no more than Scott Downs or Jason Frasor would have. His name is mentioned in trade rumors, if they can get something for him that would be the best outcome.
- Brett Cecil was slowed when he cut his thumb at the start of spring and everyone seemed to write off his chances, but he pitched 5 really strong innings against a good Boston team, on Friday, and seems to have forced his name back in there. He is just 23 this year but has the talent. If it is a rebuilding year, I'd like to see the guys we are rebuilding with. Like Scrabble, he is young enough that this won't be his only shot but there are a lot of arms just behind him in the system, gaining experience and even if the others pass him next year, a decent season in the majors would build trade value.
- Dana Eveland has thrown the most innings in A games of any Jay pitcher and has been terrific. 22 innings, 21 hits, 6 walks, 19 strikeouts and a 1.23 ERA. He was great yesterday against the Tigers, 6 innings, 8 k, 1 walk, 4 hits. He is just 26. He wasn't good last year with the A's but in 2008 he was 9 and 9 with a 4.34 ERA. His walk rate has been too high in the past, it seems he is working on that this spring; he has only walked 6 in 22 innings. Lefties often take a couple of years to find themselves in the majors (unlike most people in their early 20's they can't go backpacking in Europe to find themselves). He is out of options, I'm sure if the Jays tried to slip him through waivers someone would pick him up. I'd love to see him get a shot with the team, at very least to build up some trade value. With how good he's been in camp, I can't see how he doesn't at least make the bullpen.
I really don't envy the ones that have to make the final choice. Oh heck, who's kidding, I envy the hell out of them, who wouldn't want job like that in baseball. There really doesn't seem like any wrong choices, I have my favorites but any three could do a find job in our rotation. It is such a change from last year when he seemed like if you could spell fastball you were in the running for a rotation spot.