As Blue Jays finalize wild card roster, in-game tactics take center stage
TORONTO — Because a three-game streak brings a lot more urgency than a 162-game streak, there may be times when Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider manages this wildcard streak. weekend against the Seattle Mariners a little differently.
Of course, revealing such plans would be foolish because the Mariners are most certainly listening.
“I don’t want to reveal any secrets,” Schneider joked Thursday afternoon at the Rogers Center. “The main theme is to find benefits. Whether it’s defensively, offensively or on the pitching side, we will continue to do so. But at the same time, trust the incredible amount of talent we have.
“If there is a place where we could (gain) a little advantage, we will take it,” added Schneider. “In the game, you watch the game unfold.”
Once the wildcard streak begins at 4:07 p.m. ET on Friday, the Blue Jays must adapt to the demands of the streak ahead of them, which could mean making decisions more proactively than usual. With days off on either side of the series, 12 or 13 pitchers available, and little room for error, there’s no reason to let struggling pitchers stay on the mound for long. At this time of year, it’s often better to retire a pitcher too early than a batter too late.
In that sense, the Blue Jays need to be open to using their pitchers in ways they wouldn’t on May 15 or August 10. For example, could Jordan Romano be asked to register six outs? Could Tim Mayza pitch in the fifth inning? Could Jose Berrios throw in relief? Why not (an even more drastic pitching rollout might be needed later in October, but we’ll save the Alek Manoah-out-of-the-bullpen speculation for then).
Beyond Manoah in Game 1, the Blue Jays haven’t announced their rotation plans, preferring to remain flexible depending on whether Kevin Gausman’s cut to his right middle finger heals and – possibly – the outcome of the match. opening of the series. While using Ross Stripling on Saturday might be tempting if the Blue Jays win Game 1, Gausman might be more likely to pitch after a Game 1 loss.
As Schneider said, “It’s good to have options.”
First step for the Blue Jays? Sending their list of 26 jokers to the commissioner’s office by 10 a.m. ET Friday morning. On that front, significant questions remain, as the status of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Santiago Espinal remains uncertain. As such, their potential replacements also remain in limbo.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Blue Jays were actively considering numerous scenarios, including taking 13 pitchers – the maximum allowed. And while it’s never easy to find room for three receivers, Gabriel Moreno finished the season strong with his first career home run on Wednesday and would provide the Blue Jays with some valuable late-game flexibility.
“Several different scenarios whether it’s hitting or running,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “One of the biggest challenges that I guess stands in the way of adding a third receiver is success and offensive ability (Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen).”
By Friday morning, we’ll know for sure how the Blue Jays will set up their roster. In the meantime, here’s my best guess…
Post players (13)
Danny Jansen, C.
Alejandro Kirk, C.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
Cavan Biggio, 2B
Santiago Espinal, 2B
Matt Chapman, 3B
Bo Bichette, SS
George Springer, CF
Teoscar Hernandez, RF
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
Raimel Tapia, DE
Whit Merrifield, Util
Alek Manoah, RHP
Kevin Gausman, RHP
Ross Stripling, RHP
Jose Berrios, RHP
Jordan Romano, RHP
Yimi Garcia, RHP
Tim Mayza, LHP
Anthony Bass, RHP
Adam Cimber, RHP
Trevor Richards, RHP
David Phelps, RHP
Zach Pop, RHP
Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
Notable omissions: RHP Mitch White (now ineligible after being optioned), RHP Julian Merryweather, RHP Nate Pearson, C Gabriel Moreno, OF Bradley Zimmer
When the Blue Jays used Yusei Kikuchi for just 18 shots on Thursday, it was an indication they didn’t want to overwork him heading into the weekend. The southpaw finished strong, with 10 strikeouts to just two walks and one hit over his last 6.1 innings spanning four appearances. Will it launch high leverage? Probably not if the Blue Jays can help it. But against a Mariners team that has a lot of left-handed hitters and switch hitters, he makes sense.
This version of the list assumes the health of Gurriel Jr. and Espinal, who both appeared relatively comfortable during field practice at Rogers Center on Thursday. Although neither has hit in a game in weeks, Espinal offers late-game defense at second and insurance behind Bo Bichette at shortstop. As for Gurriel Jr., he could be attractive as a pinch option even though his hamstring is still healing.
That would likely push Bradley Zimmer off the roster, limiting Schneider’s defense late in the game, but with Jackie Bradley Jr., the Blue Jays still have a hand to play on that front. Finding room for Moreno would be ideal, but carrying extra arms like Kikuchi and Zach Pop may prove more appealing.
Somehow, however, the Blue Jays have the core of their roster in place. And for all the debate over who belongs on the edges of the roster, it’s likely the core of that team that will determine whether the Blue Jays playoff series can continue next week in Houston.