With the friendly April Schedule where they have enjoyed four off days almost behind them, the Jays are looking at the prospect of having to play 20 straight days when they start play in Kansas City next Tuesday night. With the starting pitching struggling now to go deep into games, especially Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan, John Gibbons is floating the idea of using J.A Happ to make a few spot starts over the 20 day stretch as a way to give the rotation an extra day here and there to help them out.
“We’ve thought of creating our own off-day in there by maybe spot-starting somebody in there, like a Happ, just for that extra day [of rest for the other starters] … We haven’t committed to that yet, but we’ve talked about that,” John Gibbons told the National Post’s John Lott
The news of the idea of spot starting Happ comes a day after McGowan made some concerning comments about how his arm feels great but that he starts to feel a “little bit” tired after 60 pitches. McGowan last started in 2008 and the fact that he was exclusively used out of the pen last year, is it really a surprise that he is having a hard time getting over the hump getting back into the groove of pitching in the starting rotation.
When Gibbons’ was asked about McGowan’s comments he said, “Does that bother me, worry me? Yeah, a little bit, no question.” Gibby then said that he thinks that McGowan was being brutally honest with the comments and that he kinda liked that and that there is no plans to skip his next start.
But it does bring up the question that needs to be asked, how much longer are the Blue Jays’ going to try this experiment? At some point McGowan has to be able to show that he can be durable enough in the rotation to give you 100 pitches and six innings a start. So far this season McGowan has only averaged 79 pitches a start, with his longest outing being his second start of the season in Baltimore when he pitched into the seventh inning and only made 90 pitches in that outing. McGowan has followed up that outing by failing to record an out in the fifth inning in his last two starts.
I’m to the point already in the season where I’d be completely in favour of switching McGowan back to the bullpen where he was an important part of a good pen last year and slide Happ into the rotation. Happ wasn’t that bad last year when he started, you could argue that before he got hurt he was having the best start out of the guys in the rotation, and he had a good September last season. Let’s face it, putting McGowan back in the pen would also give Gibby another option in a tight game, which the Jays’ could really use with the heavy workload that they have had so far this year.
It also points out yet again the failure of Alex Anthopoulos’ inability to improve the rotation in the offseason. Had they been able to acquire a veteran arm for the rotation they wouldn’t have been forced at the last-minute to speed up stretching out McGowan, and they could have left him in the bullpen. But since they couldn’t make an upgrade happen, they are currently left with the rotation that is struggling to go deep into games, with the exception of Mark Buerhle, and keeping their fingers crossed that the bullpen isn’t burned out by the All-Star break.