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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Ross Atkins talks about the starting rotation and Vlad Jr.

Pitchers and catchers are reporting today! You know what that means? It’s time to get excited because winter is nearing an end and the warm, soothing sights and sounds of baseball are on the way? Nope! It means it’s time to get mad about the Toronto Blue Jays!

We all know that the Jays are going to keep Vald Jr. down for a few weeks at the beginning of the season to ensure the organization can push back his eventual free agency as far as possible. This is a thing everyone does with young players. We saw it last year with Ronald Acuna in Atlanta, we saw it in 2015 with Kris Bryant in Chicago, and we’ll see it again until the MLBPA makes a big stink about it during the inevitable work stoppage in a few years.

Still, there’s no doubt that it’s frustrating, and it’s a great avenue to unleash general angst fans have towards the team right now. With the Jays having a boring off-season in which they’ve completely shrugged at the idea of being even sort of good, fans are agitated.

Ross Atkins ultimately confirmed that Vlad will start the season in Triple-A…

Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it’s going to be a storyline for the next few months. It’ll be a talking point every time Vlad hits a dinger in spring, it’ll be a talking point when he doesn’t crack the roster at the end of March, and it’ll be a talking point as he lights up hopeless Quad-A starters in Buffalo for a few weeks.

Remember when I said Jays fans are agitated and they’re looking for things to get upset about? Well, beyond the Vlad thing, there’s this…

Atkins also spoke about the starting rotation this morning, suggesting that four of the five starters are set. Ryan Borucki, who enjoyed a very good rookie showing with the Jays last season, will apparently be one of the guys fighting for the final starting job, while Clayton Richard and Matt Shoemaker, two underwhelming veterans, have been pencilled into their roles.

It’s a little surprising that Richard has been guaranteed a job as a starter, given the fact he’s 35 years old and he’s coming off a season in which he had a 5.33 ERA. I had thought when he was acquired from the Padres back in December that he would come into spring competing for the fifth spot or a role as a long man out of the ‘pen. Apparently the Jays view him as a sure fire starter at this point.

This really seems like posturing on the part of Atkins. As great as Borucki was last season, it’s difficult to just give a rookie with just 17 big league starts a certain spot in the rotation. You gotta prioritize those veterans who have earned it, ya know! For the sake of optics! Anyways, when it’s all said and done, I’m very confident that, barring injury, Borucki will be one of the five starters travelling north with the Jays at the end of March.

    • Cam Lewis

      I think it’s mostly just your old school Young Lad Has To Earn! it type thing. Borucki would have to fuck up really, really bad in spring to lose his spot, but I don’t think you can tell him he’s earned it based off a handful of starts.

  • El Cabeza

    “…we want to make sure he’s the best possible third baseman and the best possible hitter he can be.”

    It’s going to be fun watching poor Ross have to make up reasons over and over and over again until April whateverthedateis.

    “We have our best baserunning coaches working with him around the clock to get him ready for the show.”

    “Vlad’s Abuela told us he really doesn’t like chilly weather so we’ve decided to keep him down south for the first 3 weeks or so.”

  • Oz Rob

    Ryan is one of the best writers about the Jays period. Please don’t insult him.

    Here’s a few things to consider. Perhaps the Jays don’t like the player (Harper) for reasons that are valid to them. Perhaps they know that the reality of Harper choosing to play in Toronto is zero. Give them a break already.

    Anyone read the latest article on The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal about Charlie Montoyo and Rocco Baldelli? If you are not impressed by Montoyo yet, this should seal the deal. I think Atkins and Shapiro have picked the right person to manage the team during this transition period.

  • Knuckleballs

    In the American League East I have a feeling one of these two veteran pitchers will be gone by June, either due to a case of shittiness, or to a true injury. With eras well north of 4 yikes

    • Cam Lewis

      There’s a lot of decent young depth pushing behind them too. Pannone, Reid-Foley, Thornton, and Waguespack will all push to replace Richard and Shoemaker if they’re bad

      • PastorofMuppets

        That and the (admittedly vague in the case of Richard) possibility that they perform well enough to fetch something at or near the deadline. I would hope that whoever doesn’t win that fifth spot forces the issue earlier than that though.

  • dolsh

    I really hope Vlad forces the issue. Hits .478 in spring with all 8 homeruns coming off Chris Sale. It’s going to be really hard to make excuses then.

    Blue Jay fans have to get really loud about this.

    • El Cabeza

      That would be a good thing? It would just make the inevitable more difficult. There’s a 0% chance he breaks camp on the 25, 0%. The quicker we all come to terms with that, the better it will be for everyone.

    • Barry

      I’m not sure how anything he does in the spring could “force the issue.” It’s of no benefit to the Jays to bring him up for opening day rather than April 12. I’m not sure it’s of significant benefit to the fans, either. I’m not expecting the team to win with or without Vlad, but regardless of expectations for the team, why should fans really have a big issue with having to wait two weeks? I’d rather have an extra year of Vlad in his prime than two weeks of a rookie season, particularly in a year when the Jays are not going to be contenders.

      If the Jays were to start him opening day, but he left as a free agent a year early, do you think we’ll be saying, “But at least we got to see him play on March 28, 2019”?

      It should be almost a non-issue for the fans, really. Last year was a bigger issue than these two weeks. But it’s something for the players to deal with for the next CBA, because this playing around is not about the Jays, it’s about the CBA, and every team does it.

  • Oz Rob

    Yes the rotation seems held together in places by band aids, but so what? We’re not expecting to win much this year let alone reach the playoffs. I think we’ll be seeing some more journeyman come out of the woodwork to keep us going through the year. The front office is full steam ahead for 2021 and this year is just something we need to get through on the pitching front.

  • Naylor01

    I would much rather Vlad be guaranteed to be in a jays uniform for an extra year. Especially when chances are we’ll be competitive in that last year. If that means he stays down in Buffalo for 3 or 4 weeks that’s great for jays fans. Just not for the player.