CHICAGO – The Toronto Blue Jays have been making adjustments on the fly to their starting rotation pretty much all season, so when a massive storm led to the postponement of their series finale against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, they decided to leave well enough alone.
Esmil Rogers will take the mound Thursday in the opener of a four-game set at the Texas Rangers as manager John Gibbons decided to push the entire rotation back a day rather than skipping someone.
The 27-year-old right-hander is set to make his third start since being promoted from the bullpen and now that he’s getting closer to being fully stretched out, the Blue Jays don’t want to mess with things.
Already this year they’ve used 12 different starting pitchers, and with Chien-Ming Wang showing some promise by chewing up innings in his debut Tuesday, maintaining some stability makes sense.
“He’s part of our five-man rotation now so we’ll just keep everyone in line,” Gibbons said of Rogers.
The Blue Jays are also carrying eight relievers and sticking Rogers back in the bullpen for a turn of the staff would push the relief corps into overkill territory.
Plus, he’s been impressive through his first two starts, a 62-pitch effort against the Atlanta Braves and 73-pitch performance against the very-same Rangers last week in Toronto, when he allowed one run over four innings with six strikeouts.
Asked how long he can go this time, he replied, “We’ll see. I think we can go 90, 95, so I hope it can be like that. It’s not about pitches, it’s about what I can do to help the team win.”
Rogers, a laid-back sort, fluffed off the notion of having to make a mental adjustment in readying for a new opponent, saying: I can take one day to prepare for the next team, it doesn’t matter.”
“I got already in my mind how I’m going to pitch these guys, how I’m pitching already,” he added. “This team is an aggressive team, I have to have all my pitches ready.”
Rogers will be followed by Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey in Texas, with Wang now scheduled to pitch the opener of a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Rogers Centre on Monday.
Wang allowed five runs over 7.1 innings in Tuesday’s 7-5, 10-inning win, but impressed with his competitiveness and resiliency.
Surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder in 2009, among other injuries, derailed a promising career in which he twice won 19 games for the New York Yankees and sapped the mid-90s velocity that made his sinker such a pain for opposing batters.
That’s why Gibbons urged him to use his secondary pitches more midway through Tuesday’s outing and after surrendering four runs in the fourth and loading the bases with none out in the fifth, Wang turned to his splitter to strike out Paul Konerko and induce a soft lineout double play from Adam Dunn.
The 33-year-old from Tainan City, Taiwan cruised into the eighth from there.
“He started pitching really well when he started using his breaking ball,” Gibbons said. “Early in the game he was a one-pitch guy, I even told him, ‘When you were back with the Yankees, you were throwing in the mid-90s, and it’s a different look. Now you’ve got to pitch a little more.’
“When he started doing that with the curveball and the changeup, totally different guy. He looked like a pitcher and that’s how he’s going to get guys out. For his first time here, I thought he did a tremendous job.”
Wang, signed to a US$500,000, one-year deal Tuesday after opting out of his contract with the Yankees, thanked the Blue Jays for the opportunity to pitch in the majors again.
After his 2009 surgery, he didn’t pitch in 2010 while recovering before spending the past two seasons with the Washington Nationals, pitching in a total of 21 big-league games. But his arm wasn’t right, at least not the way it is this season.
“After the surgery, it pinched and hurt every time I throw,” Wang said. “This year is much better, I feel healthy. Last year, late season, it felt much better. This year is normal.”
There were times during his road to recovery that Wang worried his days on the mound were through. But once he started pitching again, he made sure to try and relish the opportunity, even as he mucked his way through batters at triple-A this season.
“I just tried to be happy playing baseball,” he said.
The weather didn’t give the Blue Jays and White Sox a chance to do that Wednesday, and no immediate makeup date was announced.
The teams have no more series scheduled, but share common off-days Aug. 8, 19, 29 and Sept. 23. The Blue Jays play a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 20 to make up a previous postponement, so that option is likely out.
In the interim, as Brandon Morrow, along with Jose Reyes, head off to Florida to prepare for a rehab assignment, the Blue Jays plan to keep riding the five-man rotation they have now.
To get on any extended run, the starters must consistently give the offence a chance to do damage.
“Hopefully they’re the guys,” Gibbons said, and until Morrow is healthy, they’ll probably have to be.