BOSTON — Over the last four games, the Toronto Blue Jays have gotten only 15.1 innings from their starting pitchers, leaving an already-stretched bullpen to clean up the remaining 18.2 frames. And with Sam Gaviglio starting Saturday’s contest on two day’s rest after throwing 48 pitches Wednesday night, it wasn’t particularly likely that imbalance would improve.
And so, the Blue Jays bullpen will be busy with comings and goings over the final two days before the all-star break. Right-hander Chris Rowley was added to the group Saturday, recalled from triple-A Buffalo where he was pitching as a starter. And it’s likely that Jaime Garcia, who joined the club Saturday in Boston but wasn’t yet added to the roster, will be activated from the disabled list Sunday.
The Blue Jays transferred Rhiner Cruz to the 60-day disabled list to give Rowley a spot on the club’s 40-man roster, while Ryan Borucki was optioned to the minors — most likely to high-A Dunedin, although the club has yet to confirm the location — to make room on the 25-man roster. If Garcia is activated Sunday, someone else will have to go.
For Borucki, the optioning is purely procedural. He started Friday’s game — lasting only three innings in the first rough outing of his major-league career — and won’t be needed again until after the all-star break. He’ll spend the required 10 days in the minors before rejoining the Blue Jays rotation and starting the club’s fifth game following the break. He won’t pitch in a game while in the minors, throwing a pair of side sessions instead to keep active.
If all goes according to plan, here’s how the Blue Jays will line up their rotation out of the all-star break:
Of course, that could change if Estrada doesn’t recover from his left glute strain in time to start the opener versus Minnesota, or if something happens to Gaviglio in Sunday’s game or to J.A. Happ in the all-star game. But that’s the plan for now.
When Garcia’s activated from the disabled list — he threw only one inning on a rehab assignment with the Dunedin Blue Jays this week — he’ll assume a bullpen role for the foreseeable future. He’s been a starter for practically his entire career, making only two relief appearances since his first full season in 2010.
But Garcia pitched to a 6.16 ERA over his first 13 starts for the Blue Jays this season, allowing 42 earned runs over 61.1 innings while posting a 4.5 BB/9. Both Gaviglio and Borucki have been more dependable, as has Aaron Sanchez when healthy. So, for now, Garcia will pitch as a reliever.
“He’s all for it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I’m sure he’ll go sinker-slider, basically. The occasional change-up. I think he could be a weapon out there. And, of course, relievers get away with a little more than starters if they’re wild. And you can cover him a little bit too if things go a little haywire.”
There’s a good chance Garcia will make his first relief appearance Sunday. John Axford has thrown in three consecutive games, while Aaron Loup and Seunghwan Oh have both pitched three of the last four. None of those three were available to pitch Saturday, and, if the Blue Jays have their druthers, they’ll likely sit out Sunday’s finale as well.
Meanwhile, Jake Petricka threw 56 pitches between a pair of outings Wednesday and Friday, which rendered him an in-case-of-extreme-emergency option for Saturday’s game. Tim Mayza had also pitched in two of Toronto’s last three, including a 41-pitch outing Wednesday.
And the moves will continue following the all-star break. Ryan Tepera is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with double-A New Hampshire Sunday, pitching an inning. He could rejoin the Blue Jays shortly after the regular season resumes. Meanwhile, Danny Barnes has thrown a pair of bullpens in Dunedin as he continues to recover from left knee tendinitis.