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Photo Credit: Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

Navigating the injuries to the starting rotation

The Blue Jays’ sweep of the Oakland Athletics over the weekend was overshadowed by the fact two of their starting pitchers went down with injuries.

In 2012-esque fashion when Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison had their seasons ended within days of one another, Matt Shoemaker was shut down for the year with a torn ACL and Aaron Sanchez’s finger issues flares up again. We don’t yet know the severity of Sanchez’s broken middle fingernail, but, given the way things have gone for him the past two seasons, there’s some reason for worry.

In the short term, Clay Buchholz and Trent Thornton are slated to start Tuesday and Wednesday against San Fransisco. The Jays then have an off-day on Thursday before a three-game weekend series against Oakland. Marcus Stroman would be scheduled for the Friday game, then Saturday and Sunday are Shoemaker and Sanchez’s turns in the rotation. The Jays have three off days coming up in the next week, so they could feasibly use Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio on those two days, giving Sanchez a full week off to heal his finger before they open up a road series in Anaheim on Tuesday, April 30th.

Assuming Sanchez’s finger issue is minor, the only hole the team has to fill in the starting rotation is the one left by Shoemaker’s season-ending injury. Ryan Borucki is on the 60-day Injured List and isn’t eligible to return until May 27th. Clayton Richard resumed throwing a couple of weeks ago but we don’t know when he’ll be ready to return. Sean Reid-Foley is having a rough time in Triple-A so far.

That would leave Sam Gaviglio and Thomas Pannone as the obvious internal options to replace Shoemaker for now in the rotation. Sammy G has been excellent in his role as a multi-inning long reliever but, as we saw last year, struggles once he’s been through the order once. Pannone has also had a few good multi-inning appearances, but he’s one of only two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, and their top lefty, Tim Mayza, has been struggling.

Does this situation warrant going outside of the organization for starting pitching help? The obvious option, if that were the case, would be Gio Gonzalez, who just opted out of his minor league deal with the Yankees. Gonzalez inked an incentive-laden deal with the Yankees that effectively paid him for every big league start that he made, but he pulled out after the team didn’t add him to their roster over the weekend.

It might not be the worst idea to add another reinforcement like Gonzalez. Toronto’s starting rotation has been incredible thus far, but there are still quite a few question marks. Sanchez’s finger is obviously a concern, Clay Buchholz has some major injury history, Trent Thornton has had a couple of rough starts in back-to-back outings, and pulling Pannone and/or Sammy G into the rotation would result in the bullpen taking a major hit.

If Richard comes back soon that would make life a lot easier. You could either throw him in as the replacement to Shoemaker or use him as the long guy out of the ‘pen and throw either Sammy G or Pannone into that role. But if he isn’t coming back any time soon, the Jays might want to add some external starting pitching depth to protect their arms.