So I've been trying to get to this for a couple of days now and the longer I'm delayed the more stuff that keeps accumulating. Today was the best stuff since Monday - news about Marcus Stroman!
As basically everyone is reporting via Twitter today, Marcus Stroman will throw off a mound at Duke next week [correction: Stroman tweeets today that he's headed for Florida on Saturday so apparently his mound work will be in Dunedin] and if all goes well is tentatively scheduled to start a rehab assignment Aug. 21 which gives him up to 17 days before the end of the MiLB regular season (and if he still needs time they can assign him to a team that made the playoffs and Lansing already qualified in the first half). An ideal schedule given off days would have hi throw maybe twice in the GCL, then step over to the Dunedin team for probably three outings on either the second or third day after an appearance, then to Buffalo for the last week of their season. If he's ready at that point he'd join the Blue Jays.
John Gibbons says he envisions a relief role but if you'll recall, Gibby was pretty sure Sanchez would start off in low leverage situations when he came back from injury. But there's the potential that Drew Hutchinson is increasingly becoming an issue that's going to need to be addressed. Which brings me to a brainstorm that I apparently shared with Matt Gwin at BlueJaysPlus - tandem starts. About 4:30 CDT today I tweeted in reply to a question from Charlie Caskey about where Stroman fit into the pen thus:
I have no idea when Gwin posted his column but I sure didn't see it before I made the suggestion. There's a good reason why we both suggested it though, it makes great sense. Hutch, as most know by now, goes from mediocre to disastrous when he gets to the third turn through the opposing order.
He has a high ERA in the first inning too, but there's only one solution to that. So my proposal is to line Stroman up with Hutchinson's first or second start in September. Pull Hutch in theory before the lead-off hitter gets to the plate for the 3rd time unless he is having an amazing game (unless of course he get's waxed but you could figure that out). This should be somewhere around the 5th inning. Let's say he makes it through five. Then bring on Stroman. For two innings the first time. Then treat them both as the "5th starter" in terms of their routine. You'll get 5 or 6 outings to build Stroman up slowly while lowering the potential for Hutch to melt-down and, just maybe, still giving him innings to try and figure out what's gone wrong. When October rolls around Stroman will be well prepared to be the go-to long reliever to bail out any starter that gets in trouble early.
Assuming of course that he's got his mojo back.
Other items that came to my attention this week....
Item - After David Price's royal entrance on Monday, Gibbons told the scrum that they would try to keep Price on a 5th day rotation, rather than 5th game - but he also indicated that Price would likely start in NY on the 14th (5th game), rather than Oakland on the 13th (5th day). The reason that a lot of paid observers were originally buzzing about the 5th day idea was the notion of getting an extra start out of him - but once they choose the 14th (which they should, IMO) that option is lost. With the several off days coming up, schedule manipulation is possible. For example, you can't skip Hutch's turn the next two times through, but after his outing on 8/16, you can use 4 starters until 8/29 (if they were bold they would send him to Buffalo for a couple of weeks and use the roster spot for another need). After that the 5th day choice makes little difference except that you get him into the Baltimore series on Labor Day weekend. Until the next-to-last weekend of the season. If you skip Hutchison that weekend you can again get Price into a Baltimore series instead of a TB series - so you can adjust there based on the standings and who you need to beat the most.
Either way, f you go 5th day throughout (where possible) Price lines up as available for any potential WC game - if you go 5th game he doesn't.
Speaking of Price, as irrational as it is to hope, there definitely seems to be a subtle feeling building up that the Blue Jays would have the opportunity to sign Price to an extension if they are willing to be competitive. He commented specifically that his priority is to go to a place with the best chance of winning, more so than the highest contract. If he's sincere, putting a ring on that finger would be a convncing argument. The whole intrigue about Dave Dombrowski's availability just compounds the feeling.
Far be it for me to waste too much space speculating about the future during this magic but it's kind of how I think. Consider a $3 mil signing bonus, $26 per for 7, and a $5 mil buy-out of a $15 mil option at the end would give you a deal worth $190 or $205 depending on the option. That may sound like a burden but $26 million will be considerably less money in the baseball economy 5-7 years down the road than it is now. There are a massive ton of "ifs" o overcome though.
Item - The rumor first bandied by Jeff Blair on Monday that the team was discussing bring Josh Thole up to give Russ martin a break from the rigors of catching RA Dickey is on hold for a bit. Thole hit the 7 day DL in buffalo today with a minor infection of some sort. If he was better in 7 days he could n theory be activated for Dickey's start vs Oakland on the 13th. Speculation is that this would be when you drop the 'pen to 7 men. But there's still the problem of Chris Colabello being your 4th outfielder (or Kawasaki!). Here's my suggestion, assuming we don't learn more in the mean time about Devon Travis., who can't be activated before the 13th anyway
Thole for Schultz on the 13th - he's the obvious choice unless they want to run with 1 lefty, either way the stay will be short enough no option will be burned;
Pompey for Hutch on the 17th - don't need him until the 29th
Hutch back on the 29th for Loup (only be without him for 3 games, could do Pompey here too)
On September 1 you bring back Loup and Schultz, along with Delebar, Tepera, Carrera and Travis if he's not already back. When Buffalo's season ends you might select Matt Hague and (so Wilneer believes) Roemon Fields. Along with Stroman of course.
Item - The Blue Jays came into Wednesday's game with the best team ERA, best Starter's ERA, and best bullpen ERA in the league since the break. At least one of those is certainly still intact. Readers here (both of you) are not entirely surprised as you're aware that the teams' pitching, in the stat lines, has been fine since mid-May. The Blue Jays runs allowed per game since May 18 is (again, not counting tonight's game) is 3.84 in 53 games - which compares favorably to the top teams in the league in that category (#1 KC at 3.72 as of 8/4, #5 Oakland at 3.80). It's been even better since the break (3.12) but the last 11 before the break, bloated by Boyd's unfortunate adventure and the Doubront game in KC, balance it out a bit. Which is to say their are peaks and valleys with any team but the pitching staff has been fine in the aggregate for a while as previously discussed here.
Item - the Blue Jays hold the second wild card, are a game back of the Angels for the first position, and now only 4.5 back of the Yankees for the division, with 6 of the next 10 games against them. It's going to be insane.
Coming up - it's time for the last in-season minor league review in a day or two but I may hesitate a bit to let the potential promotions happen. I'd been expecting Shane Dawson to move up to Dunedin since the PAG finished, and he finally has as well as pegging Clinton Hollon to move into his Lansing turn from Vancouver. Both pitchers had their first start with their respective new teams tonight and both pitched quite well. Additionally I'd had my eye on Juliandry Higura as a potential promotion from Bluefield into Hollon's spot but he's had a couple of setbacks and Angel Perdomo has clearly edged in front of him - though I still think both deserve a promotion, plus the Bluefield squad needs room for Justin Maese and Jose Espada who need out of the rain-soaked GCL which is playing merry hob with their pitching rotation. Another promotion I'd been precdicting is Jon Harris from Vancouver but the expected move towards domination hasn't come and he may be feeling the effects of fatigue. Right now he's just not forcing their hand. I'll look at all the promotions, the players that have made serious progress in the last month, and my tentative revised prospect list with 10 pitchers removed from the discussion.