TORONTO – Marcus Stroman is rejoining the Toronto Blue Jays to start on Saturday, and that may be it, or there may be more to come, with what happens to Liam Hendriks all part of things that are apparently yet to be determined.
What is certain right now is that the blue-chip prospect is getting a chance to show what he can do, providing general manager Alex Anthopoulos with a chance to assess what the 23-year-old might contribute as a starter right now.
“He’s been really good down there (at triple-A Buffalo) this year and this is his opportunity,” manager John Gibbons said after a 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Friday. “When we sent him out when we were down in Texas, we told him to go down there and get a couple starts under your belt and we’ll see what happens. Stretch him out a little bit. So here it is.”
Stroman’s recall – Bobby Korecky, up for a day, was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot – isn’t only about the young right-hander, it’s also a way to carve out some extra rest for the rest of the rotation, in particular Drew Hutchison, who was pushed back from Saturday to Tuesday.
Hutchison’s velocity dipped an average of roughly three m.p.h. in his last start and given that he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, the Blue Jays want to be extra careful with him. The idea isn’t new, they had kicked around using a sixth starter earlier this month to build in some extra rest for Hutchison along with Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan while they were still in the rotation.
His last outing appears to have accelerated things and with the team nearing the end of a stretch of 33 games in 34 days, and with a run of 26 games in 27 days starting Tuesday in Detroit, there are merits to the strategy, even if it isn’t a popular one.
"He wasn't real happy about it," Gibbons said of Hutchison, "but you know, executive decision. … The whole thing is, he’s coming off Tommy John, so we’ve got to be careful with him. We’ve got to think about his future too. We think it’ll do him some good."
How the rest of the rotation shakes out wasn’t immediately clear.
Mark Buehrle starts Sunday’s series finale against the Royals and Gibbons didn’t say who follows Hutchison on Wednesday against the Tigers. Hendriks was supposed to pitch Tuesday with R.A Dickey and J.A. Happ behind him.
Hendriks allowed just two runs over six innings in his last start but the Tampa Bay Rays hit lasers all over the field against him.
"He’ll pitch some time at the end of next week," said Gibbons. "We’re not sure how it’s all going to play out."
Stroman posted a 12.79 ERA in five relief appearances with the Blue Jays before being dispatched to the minors to get stretched out again. He’s made two starts since returning to the Bisons, throwing 83 pitches over four innings in his last outing against Louisville.
Overall in triple-A, Stroman is 2-4 with a 3.03 ERA in seven starts and 45 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work. Erik Kratz, who caught several of those starts in Buffalo, says to expect "tons of aggressiveness" from Stroman as a starter.
"I think he sees that his stuff plays when he's on," said Kratz. "When his stuff is on there are very few as good as he is. There's a reason he's a prospect or whatever it is, and that he's being asked to come and start in the rotation.
"I expect to see a guy that's going to come out and give everything he’s got and have a lot of success."