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A Look at the Blue Jays Starting Pitchers Halfway Through Spring Training

DUNEDIN, FL - MARCH 6:  Pitcher Ricky Romero #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays starts against the Philadelphia Phillies March 6, 2012 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, FL - MARCH 6: Pitcher Ricky Romero #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays starts against the Philadelphia Phillies March 6, 2012 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Pitching is 80% of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding - Mickey Rivers

I figure we are far enough along in spring training to take a look at how the guys who will make up our starting rotation are doing. Last year, the rotation wasn't a strong point, for our Jays, but I'm hopeful this year will be better.

Ricky Romero: Ricky has made 3 starts, so far this spring, and he pitched in an inter-squad game the day before the regular spring training schedule got going. He's looked great. 9 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts and no earned runs. He's also keeping the ball on the ground, with a 5 to 1 fly out to ground out ratio. He said to Pat Hentgen, during yesterday's broadcast, that he was working on pitching to both sides of the plate. Can't really complain at all about how he has pitched.

Brandon Morrow: He's pitched in 3 spring games as well as the inter-squad game. In his 8.1 innings, he's allowed 7 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 1 earned run. The run was a lead off home run in the game Saturday that was on MLB TV. He's also, amazingly enough, getting ground balls, 2 ground outs to each fly out and had a double play turned behind him Saturday. He didn't have the greatest control Saturday, running into a number of full counts. He said that he didn't have great control of his fastball, but that he was happy with the curve and changeup. I thought he bounced a couple of curves but then, maybe that was the plan on those. In the start before Saturday's he threw 33 pitches and 27 of them were strikes.

Henderson Alvarez: He's made 3 starts as well throwing 6 innings, with 5 hits, 2 earned (the most runs allowed of any of our expected starting five), 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. He's had 6 ground outs and 5 fly outs. He is pitching today, in a minor league game, to keep him on schedule. He had a nice start, last Wednesday, against the Yankees, who played most of their regulars, pitching 3 innings, giving up a run on 4 hits. He also got 4 ground outs and 4 strikeouts.

Dustin McGowan: Dustin started slightly behind the others, he's had 2 starts and 5 innings, so far. 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 unearned run and 4 strikeouts. 8 ground outs and 3 fly outs. Keith Law wasn't terribly impressed with his last start:

McGowan started very poorly, walking the first batter and missing his targets by a decent margin while pitching at 90-91. By pitch eight or nine he was bumping 92 and up, and sat mostly 92-93 for his three-inning stint, touching 94 a few times but showing little life on the pitch; his primary off-speed pitch was a soft-breaking slider that you can see pretty early out of his hand. By the end of his third inning, he found some more velocity, hitting 95 and 96 on my gun for his final batter, but he'll need to show he can pitch there to remain a starter, or that he can ramp up to that level faster to be an effective reliever.

I don't know, I'm not against him coming out a bit on the gentle side, for his first few batters, in a spring game. He's had enough arm troubles that being careful seems like a good idea, if throwing at 91 mph can be considered being careful. Farrell has been talking him up a lot. I'm hopeful.

Brett Cecil: We saw him on TV yesterday. He left some pitches up, but had good results. In the TV interview, after he was done, and before sunflower seeds were dumped on him, he seemed happy with how he pitched. He's thrown 10 innings, 6 hits, 1 earned, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts. He's had 12 ground outs and 12 fly outs, so we'd like to see more balls on the ground. Everyone is talking about, worried about, his velocity, but if he is hitting his spots, it won't matter so much. Course, if he could throw 98 mph he could afford to miss his spots, on occasion. I'll admit to having some thoughts that we might be better off with Drabek in the rotation, but I think the Jays will give him a month or two to see if he can be effective. By then they should know which of a half dozen, or so, prospects would be the one to try in his place, if he isn't effective.

In total, our 5 probable starters have thrown 38.1 innings and allowed 4 earned runs, for a 0.94 ERA, 23 hits, 9 walks and 31 strikeouts. All in meaningless games, but still, it looks good.

A quick look at how some of our prospects and potential fill in starters have done this spring:

Kyle Drabek: 3 games (one of his starts was rained out), 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 earned, 2 walks, 1 home run and 4 strikeouts. In the piece where he talked about McGowan, Keith Law said this about Drabek:

(he) looked solid with a new, more controlled delivery and increased use of a two-seamer with sharp sinking action.

Drew Hutchison: 3 games, 7 innings, 7 hits, 3 earned, 1 home run, 1 walk, 5 k. We saw him on MLB TV Saturday. He has a nice easy motion. Looked pretty good.

Aaron Laffey: 2 games, 5 innings, 6 hits, 1 earned, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Chad Jenkins: 3 games, 8 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Deck McGuire: 3 games, 7 innings, 8 hits, 2 earned, 0 walks, 1 homer, 5 strikeouts. Was hit pretty hard in the game Saturday, which, unfortunately was the first time I have had a chance to see him.