Blue Jays have Yariel Rodríguez on a pitch limit, could shift to bullpen when Alek Manoah is ready to return from injury

Photo credit:Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
4 days ago
The start to Yariel Rodríguez’s Major League career has been electric.
The Blue Jays inked the hard-throwing Cuban righty to a five-year, $32 million deal in the off-season, which was the largest contract that they handed out this winter.
After a slow start to Spring Training, Rodríguez was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to begin the season. He struck out 13 batters and allowed only two runs over his first two appearances with the Bisons and was promptly called up to the big-league club.
In his debut with the Blue Jays, Rodríguez went three-and-two-thirds against the Colorado Rockies and allowed one earned run while striking out six batters. In his second outing, he allowed one earned run over four innings of work against the San Diego Padres and struck out seven batters.
Coming into the game after Rodríguez in both of those starts was Bowden Francis, who wound up with his first two wins of the season against the Rockies and Padres. The piggyback of Rodríguez and Francis has been successful thus far, but it doesn’t seem like the Blue Jays are planning to keep the duo in the fifth spot in their starting rotation.
As Kaitlyn McGrath noted in an article about Toronto’s rotation at The Athletic, the Blue Jays have Rodríguez on a pitch limit this season, as the righty didn’t pitch professionally in 2023 and served as a late-inning reliever in Japan during the 2022 season.
While the Blue Jays view Rodríguez as a starter long-term and are trying to build him up to that level, they aren’t going to risk having him get injured because he took on too many innings in his first season with the organization.
McGrath also noted that the Blue Jays still have Alek Manoah in their plans as a starting pitcher rather than as a possible option for the bullpen. The big righty started the season on the Injured List because of shoulder inflammation that showed up during Spring Training. He had two rough rehab outings in Dunedin and Buffalo but pitched well in his third start, allowing two earned runs over five-and-two-thirds innings pitched with five strikeouts and zero walks.
When Manoah is ready to return to the Blue Jays, it seems like Rodríguez will be shifted into a multi-inning bullpen role. Though that might seem like a demotion considering his strong start, Rodríguez will continue to be a very valuable arm for the Blue Jays, one who could be the first name up if Manoah isn’t able to hack it.
The hope for the Blue Jays is that Manoah can go back to being the innings-eating workhorse that he was during his first two seasons in the Majors. Manoah was named Toronto’s Opening Day starter last season following an All-Star showing in 2022 that saw him finish third in American League Cy Young voting. He struggled to a 5.87 ERA over 87 1/3 innings in 2023 and was optioned to the minors two different times.

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