Oh boy, more Sanchez confusion! (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the (temporary) six-man rotation)

Aaron Sanchez
Inverted double-what? Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

“At some point he’s not going to start anymore this year. He will not run 230 innings and pitch through October,” said Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, rather emphatically, about young ace pitcher Aaron Sanchez, during an interview with Bob McCown on the Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports on Tuesday. “That’s not going to happen. That can’t happen.”

Then here on Wednesday in Houston, John Gibbons laid this one on reporters on the very same subject: “Truthfully, we’re still debating what’s actually going to happen, you know?”

That’s… uh… confusing. But maybe not quite as much as it seems. Let’s think about this for a second.

The follow-up question to Gibbons was, “he’s definitely not going to the ‘pen?” The skipper replied, “I have no info for you at this moment.” Then, when pressed if he just meant about the timing of it, Gibbons added, “The total plan, you know? Nothing’s locked in stone yet.”

This seems like an oddly-timed reversal indeed. Or at the very least the re-opening of a door most suspected had already been shut (though, in that post of my hit on the radio in Winnipeg you’ll hear that I did say exactly that earlier this afternoon *COUGH*). But a closer look at Shapiro’s words suggest that maybe it’s not.

Consider what he said immediately preceding the emphatic quote at the top of the post:

“Regardless of what the number is, does he get shut down and not contribute any more at all past that point? Does that squelch the emotions of the moment, but create a bigger loss when that happens? Or do you not shut him down, but reallocate his impact — his ability to leverage his talent and the game in the highest, crucial moments, and pitch him out of the bullpen? And we haven’t determined yet now what the right time is, what the right approach is, or even definitively,” he said. Dot dot dot. Then he switched his thought, never specifying “or even definitively” what. At which point he broke into the quote that you see above. 

The plan is for Sanchez to now start Saturday in Kansas City, while newcomer Francisco Liriano bumps Aaron back a day and gets the Friday start. Beyond that the Blue Jays have said nothing.

Does that mean they might actually still keep Sanchez in the rotation? While I don’t think it’s likely, yes, I think that it technically does. 

One potential way to move forward — and I know this is going make a lot of people groan — is to continue on with six starters, at least for a little bit.

No, really.

I assure you, I’m no fan of the six man rotation ideas that get floated literally every year because, in addition to upsetting a starter’s regular rhythm, they end up taking a whole bunch of innings that would have gone to better pitchers and giving them to worse ones. The math is pretty simple: 162 games divided by five starters is 32.4 starts each, and divided between six is 27 starts each.

Do you really want to take away five or six Roy Halladay starts just so you can really see if David Purcey will finally take the ball and run with it as the sixth guy in your rotation? Holy piss no! But the situation is a little different here, and not only because we’re not talking about doing it over the course of a full season.

Right now Marco Estrada is hurting. Right now Aaron Sanchez is staring at the possibility of being moved to the bullpen as his innings count escalates. Right now Francisco Liriano, who unlike Drew Hutchison isn’t about to be sent packing for Buffalo, is badly struggling and the Jays need to find out what they’ve got there, if anything.

I’m not saying do it forever, and I’m not even saying do it for more than a short while, but though it will mean a few fewer innings for J.A. Happ –who has mostly been brilliant this season and over the past 365 days, as I outlined in this week’s Weekend Wrap — and R.A. Dickey, it will mean more rest for the two who really need it (at least theoretically, in Sanchez’s case, or at least according to the way the Jays think about year-over-year innings increases for young arms), and an actual opportunity to look at Liriano that doesn’t come at the immediate expense of Sanchez.

Also: it’s totally exactly what they’re doing, isn’t it?

And honestly, I think that’s OK. Unless they’re 100% certain that Sanchez won’t be making playoff starts, in which case I guess it would be sort of pointless.

But what I think this says is that maybe they’re not quite 100% certain about that. And with the way they’ve left the door open a hair for him to maybe stay in the rotation longer than they’ve been trying to make us assume, how is it not worth it, at least for a little while? It definitely seems like that’s what is indeed happening, even if it’s not quite being announced. And to that I say… what the hell, go for it!

Come at me, Bur-ow.