Sam Gaviglio joins rotation as Blue Jays continue to search for answers

Blue Jays radio voice Ben Wagner joins Jeff Blair to discuss Kevin Pillar as the biggest bright spot in a Blue Jays offence that has struggled most of the season.

TORONTO – As recently as a couple of months ago, Sam Gaviglio wasn’t anywhere to be found on the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting pitching depth chart.

Far from it, in fact. Gaviglio was in Arizona, in the midst of a frustrating spring that saw him allow more runs than innings pitched as a member of the Royals.

But when the Blue Jays acquired the right-hander from Kansas City in a late-spring trade, he slowed his delivery down, regained his rhythm on the mound and started pitching better.

"The communication was very clear with the Blue Jays when I came over, asking what I need to do to have success, what I need to work on," Gaviglio said. "I needed to throw, I needed to get my innings in. They did a very good job of allowing me to do that."

The progression that started in minor-league spring training has now brought Gaviglio to the Blue Jays’ starting rotation. He’ll face the Athletics Saturday, taking the place of Jaime Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation retroactive to May 16.

While Blue Jays manager John Gibbons described Garcia’s injury as "no big deal," the left-hander will miss at least one start, providing Gaviglio with the chance to continue making an impression on his new team. He has already added value in two relief outings, allowing just one run in 4.1 innings, while striking out six. The transition back to the rotation should be a straightforward one for the 27-year-old, even though he last started May 7.

"I’ve gotten most of my (career) innings as a starter, so that’s what I’m more comfortable with," he said.

Meanwhile, Deck McGuire returns from triple-A to take Garcia’s place on the active roster, and he would be the Blue Jays’ long reliever if needed Friday now that Gaviglio and Joe Biagini are slated to start Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

A fifth round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, Gaviglio spent seven years working his way up through the minor leagues as a starter before debuting at the MLB level last year. He pitched 74.1 total innings for the Mariners and Royals, mostly out of the rotation, and posted a 4.36 ERA with 49 strikeouts compared to 26 walks and 76 hits allowed.

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After acquiring Gaviglio on March 21, the Blue Jays assigned him to triple-A Buffalo, where he impressed over the course of five starts, posting a 1.86 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just four walks allowed in 29 innings. Though he is far from overpowering on the mound, with a fastball that’s averaging just 90 m.p.h. so far this year, he mixes in three off-speed pitches.

When Garcia joined Marcus Stroman on the disabled list, Gaviglio’s experience and recent success made him a logical choice for a start, even if it means the Blue Jays continue leaning heavily on their top affiliate’s starting depth between Gaviglio, Biagini and McGuire.

"Who’s in their rotation down there?" Gibbons asked. "We took three of them."

That’s a problem the Bisons will have to manage. Considering that Blue Jays starters rank 29th in baseball with a combined 5.58 ERA, they can use all the help they can get.

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