The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t yet decided who will start against the Oakland Athletics Saturday, but two frontrunners have emerged.
“We’re looking right now at guys like Todd Redmond and Liam Hendriks,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Brady and Walker on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “Those are probably the two leading candidates.”
Anthopoulos watched Hendriks’ most recent Buffalo Bisons start, telling the Buffalo News, “He’s why I came. You want to see the 1.50 ERA for yourself.” The Blue Jays will wait for a few days and see how many relievers they use in their upcoming series against the Boston Red Sox before making a final call.
Hendriks has a 1.48 ERA in 48.2 innings at triple-A with 36 strikeouts against three walks. The 25-year-old is already on Toronto’s 40-man roster, having joined the Blue Jays in a February waiver claim. Meanwhile, Redmond has pitched well in long relief with Toronto, posting a 3.38 ERA with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 24 innings.
It’s safe to say Marcus Stroman won’t return Saturday, since he must spend at least 10 days with the Bisons before the Blue Jays can recall him, barring injuries. Stroman, who was recently optioned back to Buffalo, will resume starting in Buffalo.
“We need to get him back and stretched out to be a starter and be available for us in case someone falters or gets hurt,” Anthopoulos said.
While Stroman was hit hard in his final two relief appearances, Anthopoulos says it’s “always preferable” to break starters in out of the bullpen. “We love the fact that we were able to get his feet wet,” he added.
Stroman’s debut didn’t go as planned, but the Blue Jays are getting more than they could possibly have expected from Juan Francisco, who has eight home runs and a 1.002 OPS entering play Tuesday.
“You basically can’t take him out of the lineup, because you have to continue to ride this thing,” Anthopoulos said.
The GM stopped short of comparing Francisco to late-bloomers such as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, pointing out that the 26-year-old third baseman doesn’t have the same command of the strike zone as his two right-handed hitting teammates. Maybe so, but as Anthopoulos noted, “power’s becoming harder and harder to find” around baseball, which makes Francisco a valuable player even if he’s a slow runner and a below average defender.
Francisco’s power is one of the many reasons Toronto leads the American League with 59 home runs and ranks fourth with 215 runs scored. Now the 23-22 Blue Jays need steady pitching if they intend to create some separation in the tightly-packed American League East.