Marco Estrada so far is not a fan of the six-man rotation, should that in itself be enough reason to go back to five? (Photo courtesy of Arturo Pardavila)
When it was announced that Ross Atkins was flying down mid-series to Houston to discuss with John Gibbons, Pete Walker, and Aaron Sanchez the role their star pitcher would play for the remainder of the season, I thought to myself, “hmmm, this is different.” For weeks Atkins had been standing by his comments that Sanchez was heading to the bullpen. But as can be expected, Atkins ended up having a change of heart after most of the baseball world, including Russell Martin and Gibbons commented that the Blue Jays would be crazy to make such a move.
As great as it was to see Sanchez remain in the rotation, the Blue Jays have begun a silly trend of making decisions that go against everything that is considered the norm with a major league baseball team. In case it hasn’t set-in for the individuals making the calls of who’s on the roster and where to play them, Toronto is in the middle of one of the tightest races for the division in team history, and now is definitely not the time to be getting cute with their decision making. And by cute, I’m referring to the 6-man rotation.
Considering how poorly Marco Estrada pitched earlier this week, against Tampa Bay of all teams, I think it might have almost been better if Toronto had moved Sanchez to the bullpen rather than go with a 6-man rotation. It’s wonderful the team decided to keep Sanchez as a starter, but the Blue Jays now need to take into serious consideration how this decision may negatively impact it’s starting pitchers. Apparently it was a group decision that each of the six starters supported, but if this experiment proves to be a failure, at what time does Toronto decide to nix this backwards plan? It’s been only a week since the new rotation was implemented, but already Toronto has seen one of it’s best starters, Estrada, have one of his worst performances of the season. During his post-game interview, Estrada was quoted as saying…
“I think it was a week ago I pitched the last time. I’ve got to do a better job I guess of getting ready.”
So many people have been the voice of reason when it comes to speaking up about all the unusual ways the Blue Jays have been going about their business lately…and one of the most practical has been Francisco Liriano. Liriano is a team guy, and knowing all too well what a special season Sanchez is having, had no interest displacing him in the rotation. For one, it would put an unnecessary amount of pressure on himself to replace arguably the hottest pitcher in the American League; and two, he didn’t want to join a new team only to take someone’s job. Especially when the pitcher to be replaced had no business losing their role in the first place. The decision to keep Sanchez in the rotation was the right move, unfortunately, by substituting his move to the bullpen with having a 6-man rotation, all the Blue Jays ended up doing was swap one dumb decision for another.
The Blue Jays unfortunately don’t have the luxury to play around with these type of decisions either. Not only are they neck and neck with both Baltimore and Boston for the division, but Detroit, Seattle, and Houston are all making a push for the wild card and only seem to be getting stronger. Now is not the time for Toronto to be dilly-dallying with an unorthodox rotation that goes against everything these pitchers have been accustomed to their entire professional career. The added pressure of being in a playoff drive is one thing, don’t make it any harder on the starting pitchers by forcing them to pitch ever six days. Stalling to make a decision on this sort of thing, even if it only ends up costing the Blue Jays one game, may be the difference maker come the end of the season when so many teams will more than likely be in contention.
When he arrived in Toronto, Liriano said he’d do whatever it takes to help the team. Whether he start or go to the bullpen, it didn’t matter to him. The Blue Jays could use another good left handed arm in the bullpen, and although Cecil seems to be coming around, having a guy like Liriano would be a huge boost to the bullpen and would also allow the rotation to revert back to the standard five pitchers.
Sometimes the Blue Jays can be far too loyal to the veteran players (this in a lot of ways can be a nice thing at times), but at this time of year, with the standings as tight as they are, Toronto needs to have a 5-man rotation and it’s best players on the field. There’s no time to get cute with the decision making now, that kind of thinking is only going to end up hurting Toronto’s chances of making the post-season. Stop worrying about hurting guys feelings and do what’s best for the team already, because before you know it, the season will be over and you’ll be wondering why in the world you ever went to a 6-man rotation!