Last year the Blue Jays used all of seven starting pitchers (including Drew Hutchison who only had two starts) all season long. So far, after 38 games in 2017, it’s been a completely different story altogether, as Toronto has used 9 starting pitchers and 12 different relievers. For any pitcher in the Blue Jays organization with something to prove, there’s probably never been a better time than right now to show what they’re capable of.
Already, some pitchers have failed to step-up in their increased role (i.e. Mat Latos, Casey Lawrence), while others have excelled, and been able to take full advantage of this rare opportunity to pitch at the big league level with more regularity than they’ve ever been used to before.
With J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano both on the DL (along with Aaron Sanchez who just recently returned to play), it’s opened the door in the starting rotation for Latos, Lawrence, Joe Biagini, and Mike Bolsinger who never would have had such an opportunity this season without such injuries. Not only that, but with Biagini’s move from the bullpen to the starting rotation, it’s led to an increased responsibility for almost every Toronto reliever who now find themselves being elevated one place on the teams depth chart. Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Aaron Loup have become three of the most important relievers on the Blue Jays…hard to believe considering that there were doubts Tepera and Loup would even make the squad out of spring training, and that Barnes began the year pitching in Triple A Buffalo.
When a ball club suffers as many injuries as the Blue Jays are currently dealing with, you learn real quick which unproven players have what it takes, and which don’t. That old saying “sink or swim” rings so true with respect to the players who now find themselves playing a role they probably had no inkling they’d be doing so early in the season. It’s a comforting feeling knowing that so many of these players have really stepped up in such an increased role and haven’t been scared off by such new and daunting responsibilities.
I’m always a little disappointed when I feel a player is ready for a shot in the big leagues but is stuck toiling away down in the minors. With the great players Toronto has on it’s roster, there are many others in the organization who are probably more than deserving of a look at the big league level, but who are stuck in the minors simply because there’s no room for them on a Toronto team with so much talent. With the recent rash of injuries, that’s changed everything, and for pitchers like Tepera, Barnes, Bolsinger, and Dominic Leone, they may never get another opportunity as good as the one they now have. So why not make the absolute most of it, because in the end it may make all the difference between earning a place as an everyday big leaguer versus being sent back to the minors and not knowing when or if they might get such a golden opportunity again.