As opening day approaches closer I can’t help but look at our roster and trying to pick it apart. The further and further I dive into the stats and players doing my homework on the team I can’t help but draw some fun conclusions and comparisons to our historic success in the late 80’s early 90’s teams. Hey I am bored there’s no hockey as you all know! I look at our start rotation and can’t help but jump for joy every time I look at it. Come on we have our previous ace Brandon Morrow as our 3 rd or 4th starter going into the season. Someone with Morrow’s stuff that late in the rotation is just crazy and unheard of in recent years not to mention we also have Rickey Ro as a 5th starter. If he bounces back to even half of what he was in 2011 he could win 10 games and have a middle of the range ERA.
Getting to the depth in our organization I have been digging and love the way our pitching looks. It might be safe to say I have a small high school crush going on. Out of the Blue Jays history the years we have finished above .500 we have always had a swing man that bridge the gap between starter and reliever. During the glory years we had guys like Duane Ward, Mike Timlin, Pat Hentgen, and Al Leiter. These guys were young and were not known if they would end up in the rotation or in the pen. The guys ate up innings those years dancing on the line between starter/pen and ball parked about 100 IP each. Having a guy like this is key to having a good run I believe. A guy that can be rested and be ready to pitch a spot start or give you a few strong innings late in a game is clutch. Recent years we have had this also, since the World Series rings we have had guys like Paul Quantrill, Kelvim Escobar, Scott Downs, and Carlos Villanueva. Those guys helped us to above .500 seasons but it was not quite enough obviously.
Going into this season check this out, to go with our starting tirade of talent (Dickey, Johnson, Morrow, Buehrle, Romero) we also have guys like J.A. Happ, Brett Cecil, Esmil Rogers, and Chad Jenkins. Plus we have the added bonus of getting back Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, and Dustin McGowan from their injuries they suffered after decent starts to last season. I see J.A. Happ having a good year as a swing man with the added bonus of him being left handed he could be very Scott Downs like. After a lot of bouncing around and velocity issues Brett Cecil might be a long shot but hopefully he will figure something out with all the new coaches around. Esmil Rogers might be the best bet. After leaving the thin air of Coors Field and landing in Cleveland last season he got a lot better. His number of walks went down and his strike out rates went up. As a result he went 3-1 with 6 holds, 54 K’s, and a 3.06 ERA in Cleveland. This is a very solid line for 53 IP and he should be fun to watch this season.
Now we get to the injury guys Drabek, Hutchison, and McGowan. These three guys have all the tools to be great pitchers. All high end draft picks and have been just bitten by the bad luck bug. Drabek and Hutchison have had some control issues and have been inconsistent but you can see the raw stuff they have. They have shown that they can both be masterful when things go right. No one in Jay’s history has had worse luck then McGowan I think. I was at the game where he almost no hit the at the time very good Colorado Rockies. He was starting to string a few good seasons together when the injury’s started to settle in. The story continues as such and just when we thought we would have him back last spring again arm troubles happen. If he gets healthy and hits the spring hard Gibby would love having him ready to go out of the pen.
Here’s hoping that a couple of these guys step up to go with our good front and back end of the pitching staff. Our starting rotation is solid and our bullpen should be great. We have Janssen, Santos, and the newly reinvented Steve (what a story he is) Delabar to close the doors. Now we just need some help getting the ball from out incredible starting staff to our solid closers. Some of these swing guys might be the unsung heroes of our squad this year and we will need the contribution to make it to the promise land.
By Craig Borden
Go Jays Go! Twitter @Craigers1221