The upside of an injury laden season can be the exposure and emergence of minor league players. Many believed the Toronto Blue Jays biggest bright spot heading into the season would be their starting rotation. This rotation boasted Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Jaime Garcia; a starting rotation that mixed youthful swagger with proven veteran experience. However, Toronto’s pitching corps have been hammered by injury this season emphatically deflating that promising rotations effectiveness. But for the Blue Jays there has been a silver lining in this scenario, the emergence of both Sam Gaviglio and Ryan Borucki. First, lets see how these two starters got their shot.
After a 2017 season focused around the word “blister” Aaron Sanchez was sent to the disabled list on June 23rd. Thankfully this injury was not reported as a blister related injury, however it was on his right index finger which is suspicious to say the least. Sanzhez underwent an X-Ray which should have dispelled the idea of this being a blister injury, but the scary thought still remains. Sanchez has missed 16 days on the DL and has just began throwing again with no timetable for a return.
Former BFF of Sanchez, Marcus Stroman has also spent time on the DL for a much more precarious reason than his old pal. Stroman was struggling consistently for quality starts this season. Some blame a nagging shoulder injury that shortened his spring training for the rocky start but when his form wouldn’t round out, Storman was headed to the 10-day DL with “shoulder discomfort.” I’ve hypothesized that this was more of a mental break for Stroman, but regardless of the reason he has looked settled and more technically sound since returning.
Jamie Garcia, the depth fifth starter in the Jays rotation was been underwhelming in his young Blue Jays career. Garcia’s ongoing left shoulder injury (inflammation) has stripped the most basic necessity for a starting pitcher – inning eating ability. Without playing Garcia is allowing his 6.16 ERA sit stagnant and while it isn’t growing, Garcia is losing time in the season to shrink that number down. Gibbons is flirting with the idea of a bullpen demotion for him when he returns.
With adversity comes opportunity, and for two Blue Jays pitchers that has happened at differing positions in their careers – first Sam Gaviglio.
Sam the winning record man, as he was so affectionately called, is now in search of a new nickname since falling to 2-2. Despite his record evening out, Sam Gaviglio has been a pitching positive in the struggling rotation for the Blue Jays. Gaviglio is currently sporting a 3.81 ERA with a WHIP of 1.231. These numbers are not elite, however Gaviglio is showing better stuff than he has in his previous stints with the Royals and Mariners. Gaviglio is leaning into his skill, mixing speeds well, and gets tricky movement on his fastball. He isn’t trying to overwhelm batters with speed, but is getting strikeouts (51SO in 52IP) with his deceptive pitch selection and execution.
At 28 years old Gaviglio is more so looking for MLB stability than his ‘big break’ into the league. The shakiness of Toronto’ starting pitching has been a blessing for him, affording him opportunity without any mounting pressure to perform. If he can keep it on the right track Gaviglio could be a solid bottom rotation pitcher for the Jays this season and into next year.
Recent call up from the AAA Buffalo Bisons, leftie Ryan Borucki is turning heads in the major leagues. The 24 year old has a terribly unjust record at 0-1 in three games played, as he has pitched 20 innings in the majors with just 19 hits and 5 earned runs to his name. Borucki has not been given an easy ride either having his major league debut against the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros, followed by games against the Detroit Lions and New York Yankees.
With only two runs supporting him across all three starts COMBINED, Borucki’s record should be ignored. Instead his 2.25 ERA, 20IP, and 16SO should be the focus. Like Gaviglio, Borucki has a deceptive delivery allowing him to get solid results from a low 90’s fastball. In a Buerhle-esque style Borucki works quickly and mixes pitches well, focusing on location with both his fastball and cheeky change up.
He has yet to face a lot of adversity, but with the elite competition he has faced that is not a strike against him, but rather a credit to him. As is the case with a lot of new pitchers, it can take major league hitters some time to adapt to unfamiliar faces. For Borucki, his delivery offers some reprieve from the eventual catch up. Low hands, high leg kick, a 6’4″ frame, all from a left handed pitcher keeps his pitch selection hidden and should keep batters guessing.
Both Gaviglio and Borucki have benefitted from the injuries that have plagued the once believed to be elite starting rotation of the Blue Jays, but in different ways. Gaviglio is seizing the opportunity to reestablsih himself as a depth pitcher who can eat innings and get results. While Borucki is looking for a a more Teoscar Hernandez style stay in the majors – get your opportunity and run with it. For both they seem to be better options than the pitchers they are replacing, and with Marco Estrada leaving his last start with back discomfort (a long nagging injury) there could be more opportunity in the near future for these two pitchers.