TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are shifting to a four-man rotation for their upcoming stretch of eight games over the next 10 days, and on Monday optioned right-hander Drew Hutchison to triple-A Buffalo to bolster their bench until a fifth starter is next needed Aug. 29, industry sources told Sportsnet.
Corner infielder Matt Hague and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera are on their way up from the Bisons, one of them as the corresponding move for Aaron Loup, who was optioned after Sunday’s 3-1 win over the New York Yankees.
Listen: Bison broadcaster Ben Wagner breaks down Matt Hague
Both will give manager John Gibbons more offensive options during a two-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies played under National League rules starting Tuesday, and during the three-game series that follow when the road trip takes them to the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers.
The moves come just as Hutchison delivered consecutive strong outings, including 6.2 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts against the Yankees on Sunday. But with three off-days in such close proximity, Monday included, going down to a four-man rotation will keep the other starters from working with too much rest.
As things stand now, David Price, for instance, will pitch Friday’s opener against the Angels on six days of rest.
R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are scheduled to start the games against Philadelphia, with Price, Marco Estrada and Dickey next in line to face the Angels. Next Monday’s off-day gives Buehrle an extra day of rest before he starts the opener against Texas, followed by Price and Estrada.
Dickey would then be in line to pitch the Aug. 28 series opener at home versus the Detroit Tigers, with a fifth starter needed the next day.
Hague, a corner infielder who turns 30 this week, leads triple‒A with a .348 average and a .427 on‒base percentage for a .909 OPS. He has six more hits (161) than anyone else in affiliated baseball, including 10 home runs and 30 doubles.
The Blue Jays initially claimed Hague from the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 18, 2014. Exactly one year later he'll join Toronto's big league team for the first time when the Blue Jays open their series against the Phillies Tuesday.
Hague, a right‒handed hitter who can play first or third base, was initially selected by the Pirates in the ninth round of the 2008 draft. He had stints with Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2014, posting a .513 OPS at the MLB level.
Carrera appeared in 70 games for the Blue Jays earlier this season, batting .279 with a .701 OPS while playing all three outfield positions. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment August 1.
The Blue Jays optioned Loup to triple‒A Sunday with the intention of getting the struggling left‒hander regular work.
“He's been the forgotten man down there," manager John Gibbons said. "That's just the way it is. We picked up a couple guys (at the trade deadline) and he's had his struggles this year. The tough part about it is he's really been one of the go-to guys the last couple of years."
The Blue Jays will have a full 40-man roster once they officially promote Carrera, but they could move Michael Saunders to the 60-day disabled list to create another spot.
With files from Ben Nicholson-Smith.