DUNEDIN, FLA. - Well, that’s it, the Blue Jays' rotation looks set.
Neither John Farrell nor general manager Alex Anthopoulos would spit out the names of the final five on Wednesday, but a reading of the tea leaves suggests it’s all but a done deal.
When the Jays head north on April 3 following their final spring training game, they will likely sport a rotation that consists of Ricky Romeo, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek.
No big surprises there.
The odd men out will be Dustin McGowan, who will likely go on the disabled list due to his bout of plantar fasciitis and lefty Aaron Laffey, who will open the season at triple-A Las Vegas.
The final two spots have been the sticky points this spring and even on Wednesday Farrell didn’t come right out and say that Cecil and Drabek are definitely his guys. But he came close.
Once McGowan is healthy, he’ll become the Jays’ fifth starter and then it will be either Cecil or Drabek who will be heading west to Vegas.
A few days back, the Jays were holding out hope that McGowan’s foot problem would be a minor irritant, that he would get one more start down here and be ready to go either April 10 or 11 when the Jays would need a fifth starter.
But given that he has been shut down from throwing altogether, not even playing catch for the next three days, that hope evaporated.
“At this point, it’s probably unlikely that he’ll be ready to go,” Farrell said. “Looking further into the schedule, we’ll need five starters in those first six games of the season, then we won’t need a fifth starter until April 21. So, we’ll manage that accordingly.”
Cecil, meanwhile, was originally scheduled to go seven innings against the Orioles on Wednesday but the Jays had a change of heart and decided to hide him from the Orioles instead and had him throw in the morning in a minor-league intrasquad game.
That’s as good as a thumbs up from Farrell, given that the Jays face Baltimore in their second home series, April 13-15.
“The injury to Dustin obviously creates a little bit less of a competitive field just in terms of numbers, so we anticipate Brett being one of our starters,” the manager said.
Drabek, meanwhile, was terrific in Tuesday night’s game against the regular Yankees lineup as he blanked New York over five innings, allowing five hits, two walks and striking out five.
In five major-league outings, he has allowed 13 hits in 141/3 innings, walked six and struck out 12. He has held the opposition to a .255 average and sports a 3.14 ERA.
Drabek has done just about all the Jays have asked and with a 96-mph heater, he has weapons that Laffey can only dream about.
“I would say he’s done a very good job and, at the moment, categorize it that he’s on the right path. That is, simplifying his game and maintaining his approach from pitch to pitch, regardless the outcome,” Farrell said. “Last night, he pitched out of a jam in the fourth inning, kept his composure and continued to make pitches and it was a very encouraging outing for him on a number of fronts.”
Who between Drabek and Cecil remains once McGowan returns will be determined by their starts over the first three weeks.
The original game plan may have been to have Cecil start with the Jays and have Drabek do some fine-tuning at triple-A.
But as they say, things change, stuff happens and right now Drabek looks like the better long-term option.
FLIP AND FLOP
For the past five games, Farrell has sported a lineup that featured second baseman Kelly Johnson leading off and shortstop Yunel Escobar batting second.
Against the Orioles, though, he flipped the spots back to his original plan of having the lineup open up Escobar-Johnson.
“Just looking at Johnson in the leadoff spot was an experiment,” Farrell said. “Gave it five days to take a look at it. Kelly was swinging the bat exceptionally well.”
So why change back?
“I think more than anything just to get Yunel back in a spot where he was most comfortable. Maybe he sees a little bit more fastballs. We’re just taking it back to the original alignment.”