Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence to start for Blue Jays this weekend

Blue Jays voice Dan Shulman joins Sportsnet's Starting Lineup to discuss the relief after beating the Red Sox, and what to do with a struggling Jose Bautista in order to get him going.

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays needed just seven starters to make it through the entire 2016 season. Less than three weeks into the 2017 campaign, they’ll match their total from a year ago.

Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence will join the Blue Jays’ starting rotation this weekend in Los Angeles to replace injured starters Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, manager John Gibbons announced before Thursday’s series finale against the Boston Red Sox.

Both Latos and Lawrence are right-handers, which could play in their favour against a righty-heavy Los Angeles lineup featuring Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Gibbons said Latos would then line up for a second start when the Blue Jays travel to St. Louis following their trip to Anaheim.

Lawrence made his MLB debut earlier this month, walking in a run in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Rays. The resulting loss was a tough one, but Gibbons liked that the right-hander struck out Evan Longoria and stayed composed on the mound before issuing an ill-fated free pass to Brad Miller.

“Overall I actually thought he looked pretty good,” Gibbons said. “He looked confident doing what he does. A lot of times you see those guys, first time opportunity and they’re too juiced up and they come out there and over-throw balls up. For the most part, I thought his pitches were doing what they do. He looked like he belonged.”

The Blue Jays will have to create 40-man roster space for Latos, who signed a minor-league deal with the team in February. They don’t have an open spot now, which means they may have to designate someone for assignment.

The 29-year-old Latos pitched 70 innings at the MLB last year, posting a 4.89 ERA for the White Sox and Nationals. In two starts for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, he has completed nine innings, allowing three earned runs with six walks and nine strikeouts.

Lawrence, meanwhile, will only need a 25-man roster spot, since he’s already on the team’s 40-man roster. The Blue Jays now have an eight-man bullpen and a wide range of utility types on the bench, so they’ll have plenty of ways to create active roster space for the two starters.

The Blue Jays are hopeful that both Sanchez and Happ will return from the 10-day disabled list shortly after they’re eligible. The team placed Sanchez on the DL Sunday, and Happ followed Tuesday.