A Poker reference? Sure, why the fuck not?!?! The Jays starting rotation is much like a poker hand. We're sitting at the table holding a pair of #3 starters, a pair of #4 starters and the obligatory black hole that is the #5 starter. You can read all the articles you want on the state of the Blue Jays rotation and it is very possible that nothing will get figured out this year. BUT, not too long ago JP signed the likes of Victor Zambrano and Tomo Ohka to fill in the gaps and the young arms stepped up, hopefully our next generation of young guys can fill the gaps. So here are the list of BONAFIDE #3 and #4 starters the Jays employ:
#24 Ricky Romero. In the grand scheme of things, Ricky is a great #3 starter, but for the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, he'll most likely be on the bump opening day. LL, err, I mean Romero went 13-9 in 2009 with a 4.30 ERA, and an almost 2:1 K to BB ratio. Drafted 6th overall in 2005, the Jays plucked Romero from Cal St Fullerton passing up on cornerstone infielder Troy Tulowitzki, slugging OF Jay Bruce and possible staff ace in Matt Garza, he's got a lot to prove to those who say we should have drafted those guys. Scouts rave about his changeup, he does boast an above average fastball and slider but with Brad Arnsberg being in Houston, can new Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton get the most out of the LL Cool J look-a-alike?
#28 Shawn Marcum. Again, a solid #3 starter. He'll eat up some innings, he won't cost you many games, but can anyone reading this remember when he threw a fastball over 90mph? I know guys like Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux made careers out of throwing the junk, but Marcum is just not in that class of pitchers. He's got 4 pitches (Fastball, slider, changeup and curve) that he can throw for strikes, but he is also coming of Tommy John Surgery which obviously will keep us worried all year.
#27 Brett Cecil. I would actually suggest that Cecil is a borderline #3 or strong #4 starter, he's got a durable build and mixes in 4 pitches (Fastball, changeup, slider and curve). Throws in the low 90's and has the ability to make hitters miss and does get his fair share of ground balls. He'll be just 23 years old at the start of the season and is still building up his arm, as he was a closer at the University of Maryland.
#48 Scott Richmond. I think maybe Scott has some incriminating photos of Cito, because the Jays skipper LOVES this dude, I mean it's a certifiable man-crush. Richmond came out of nowhere after being signed by the Jays out of the always riveting International League, and actually pitched quite well. Going 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in the month of April winning the Rookie of the Month award. He throws 4 pitches (Low 90's fastball, slider, changup and curveball) and has shown the ability to go late in games. The question with Richmond is durability, look at the ERA numbers as the season progressed: April - 2.70, May - 4.11, June - 4.02, July - 12.00, August - 6.00, September - 9.21 and October - 11.25. Wow wow wee wow!
So who is the Jays #5 starter?? No shortage of candidates to choose from, but who does Cito give the ball to? Marc Rzepczynski? Casey Janssen? Jesse Litsch (if healthy)? Or Brian Tallet? I still hold out hope that man with the chops, Dustin McGowan isn't done because I truly believe he has the makings of a great #2 or #3 starter, he is the wildcard in the Jays pitching plans. In the trade for Scott Rolen last year we netted young pitcher Zach Stewart (born in Texas) who Baseball America already ranks as our top prospect, which is kinda scary, no? He should be able to contribute maybe late 2010, but more realistically 2011. And let's not forget about the only pitcher acquired in the Roy Halladay trade, Kyle Drabek (born in Texas, I'm just saying). The Jays have the making of a very good young staff, but it's going to take some time for one of those arms to really step up and make a case for being the number 1 starter. Until then we're stuck with a shitty two pair and a 5 kicker, is that enough to go all in on?