The Toronto Blue Jays have announced their early pitchers to kick off Spring Training 2017 and they represent some stories to watch
We are about to get some real baseball for the first time in months! The Toronto Blue Jays are set to begin their Spring Training schedule and they’ve announced who will get the “starting” nods to kick things off in 2017
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) February 23, 2017
Using the term “start” in this context has to be prefaced with the obvious remark that at this point in 2017, you will not see anyone make a full start. They’ll get an inning, maybe two and then hit the showers. Basically, it is a chance for pitchers to face live batters and vice versa with the more competitive edge than facing their teammates. Coaches will be watching for mechanics, pitch usage, and most of all, health. But, still! Baseball!
Casey Lawrence starting will face Atlanta on Saturday. The 29 yr old seemed to have been floundering in the Blue Jays system, but made some adjustments to his delivery last season and has seen a revival of sorts. The adjustments allowed him to increase his velocity a bit and now he is being talked about as part of the group of pitching depth for the big league club should something go wrong. Him starting on Saturday will allow the team to get a good, long look at him. Moving forward, the Blue Jays will need to put quite a bit of focus on the starting depth just below the major league team and Lawrence is a key part of that.
On Sunday, Joe Biagini will get the nod against the Phillies. There has been quite a bit of talk around Biagini stretching out as a starter to provide that much more depth. The conversation hasn’t quite been on the “Aaron Sanchez: Starter or Reliever” level, but it is something that many will be paying attention to. Again, this outing on Sunday will not be nearly as long as a regular start would, but it does give the club the opportunity to see how he might take to the approach of starting a game.
As well, it will allow him to get some early work in to prepare for the event of increasing his innings total in 2017. If something should happen to one of the regular 5, Biagini will have plenty of time to increase his workload incrementally if he begins now. Spring Training is long, but you don’t want to have to try and stretch him out a month from now. Or, if they decide that they want him in a bullpen role, this is just an opportunity to get some work in. But, we should be following how the Blue Jays use Biagini this spring.
After Biagini, Mat Latos will take the mound for the Blue Jays. This will be an interesting story to follow. If he can reclaim something resembling his effective form from a few years ago, he could add a very interesting layer to the Blue Jays pitching depth. The 29 yr old saw 12 starts last season and couldn’t quite return to his impressive self.
Taking a flyer on Latos will not hurt the Blue Jays at all, but could add some much needed depth in 2017. Getting him some action early on will provide ample time for the club to assess what they have. And, should he impress, the club can weigh the value he presents as a starter (in AAA) or even as a reliever. Though, for his career, he’s only tossed 10 innings out of the bullpen, and it didn’t go well as he allowed 9 earned runs. Last season, he had 5.1 of those innings and allowed 6 ER. So, one has to think that if the Blue Jays are going to find use for Latos, it will be as a starter.
Every year, Spring Training provides a whole boat load of stories to follow. When a team like the Toronto Blue Jays has a roster full of knowns, the story lines are fewer. That does not mean that they are not there. For those interested, there are a bounty of stories waiting for you as baseball’s preseason begins. These are but a few.
*Featured Image Credit: jcsullivan24 UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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