Chris Bassitt is ‘confident’ Blue Jays’ starting rotation can recover from rough start to 2024 season

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
18 days ago
Beyond José Berríos, the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation has been somewhat troubling early on this season. But as Chris Bassitt displayed Tuesday night against the Seattle Mariners, this group is more than capable of finding its footing as one of baseball’s most reliable pitching staffs.
It had been a struggle for Bassitt out of the gate, though, as he surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on 15 hits and five walks over his first two starts versus the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, resulting in a pair of defeats. He struck out nine hitters in that span, providing a reason for optimism, but could only log 9.1 combined innings due to elevated pitch counts.
As such, the 35-year-old righty entered his third start of the season with an inflated 7.71 ERA and an 0-2 record — and he was determined to improve both figures in his first home outing of 2024. So, the 6-foot-5 starter did precisely that while facing a struggling Mariners lineup.
Despite issuing four walks, tied for second-most of his Blue Jays career, Bassitt looked more like himself a night ago as he held Seattle’s offence to just one run on five hits while fanning eight across 6.2 innings.
With the help of a recently surging offence, powered by Bo Bichette’s first home run on the campaign, Toronto earned a 5-3 victory, winning consecutive games for the first time during the young season. By improving to 6-6, they find themselves back at .500, a mark that’s eluded them since departing their season-opening series at Tropicana Field with a 2-2 split.
It was a step in the right direction, especially for a starting rotation that ranked 27th in ERA (5.57) and 30th in FIP (5.63) prior to Tuesday’s contest.
“To be honest with you, I’ve been pretty disappointed in our starters so far,” Bassitt told reporters post-game, including the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley. “Obviously, this is my third start and two of my starts were terrible, in my opinion. I’m no help to the problem.
“The biggest thing for us is getting our starters going. I’m so confident in all the guys we have. The first 10-11 games have been pretty rough for us outside of Berrios.”
Bassitt hasn’t been shy about expressing his belief that Toronto’s starting staff can be just as effective as last season — or perhaps even a step above. Improving upon a year in which this group placed top five in innings pitched (894.2), ERA (3.85) and K-BB rate difference (16.7 per cent) while also finishing sixth in fWAR (13.5) will be challenging, although not impossible.
Replicating those results won’t be easy. But there’s no denying the talent level that lies within the Blue Jays’ rotation, which includes two of the most consistent starters in the sport — Bassitt and Berríos — as well as a true ace in Kevin Gausman and one of the game’s hardest throwing left-handed starters, Yusei Kikuchi.
That leaves Bowden Francis, who, despite being 0-2 with a 12.96 ERA in his first taste as a big-league starting pitcher, has a top-notch support system to help him overcome his early-season woes.
“It’s trust and belief. I don’t have any problem thinking Kevin Gausman is going to be really good this year and the same thing with [Bowden] Francis and the same about myself. I know it’s going to fix itself, but the bullpen has had to wear it,” Bassitt said.
Toronto’s bullpen has, indeed, felt the weight of a struggling rotation out of the gate, recording the seventh-most innings pitched (39) in the majors ahead of this three-game series against Seattle. But following strong performances from Berríos and Bassitt, that ranking has fallen five spots to 12th place thanks to a lightened workload.
“You stay the course,” pitching coach Pete Walker said. “They all have a plan of attack and there’s no panic with the guys who are maybe not getting off to as good a start as they might have hoped. They know the numbers will be there.
“So now it’s really a matter of getting into a routine. For the most part, we just have to continue to attack the strike zone. We have the stuff to navigate good teams.”
Navigating the Mariners’ offence wasn’t much of an issue for Bassitt, at least until the end, where a solo blast from Dominic Canzone and a Josh Rojas single ended his night with two outs in the seventh inning. But not before he threw 115 pitches, one shy of his career-high set in 2019.
The veteran starter appeared to add a new wrinkle to his arsenal, registering three of his eight punchouts via his splitter, which also induced three whiffs on four swings — both finishing as career highs.
That increase could’ve resulted from facing five left-handed batters, who slashed .265/.337/.504 against him and blasted 21 home runs last season. If so, it’ll be interesting to see how he approaches lefties in his next start, currently scheduled for next Monday versus Juan Soto and the AL East Division-leading New York Yankees.


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