* Given JA Happ's struggles, is there a chance both Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman could open the season in the Jays rotation behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle? .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
FORT MYERS -- If the season started tomorrow -- which it doesn’t, as Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams used to say -- who makes up the Blue Jays rotation?
Well, after three starting candidates, including one incumbent, allowed 11 runs in 2 2/3 innings on seven hits and eight walks the picture is as murky and muddy as dredging day on the nearby Caloosahatchee River.
“We were allergic to the strike zone,” said manager John Gibbons.
Starter JA Happ faced seven men and retired one.
Dustin McGowan allowed three runs in an inning of work.
And Kyle Drabek allowed four runs, three when Kenny Wilson lost a fly ball third out in the sun.
Is there a chance both Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman could open the season in the Jays rotation behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle?
Yep. There’s a chance.
There’s a chance of rain and a chance Jays fans will stop fretting about their team’s rotation ... not so fast.
“We need to believe in JA Happ,” said Edwin Encarnacion. “He’s started for us before. He’s done a good job for us before.
“If I was picking the five guys, Hutchison would be in there for sure. Hutchison throws the ball wherever he wants, has a good release point and was 92-to-94 MPH. It’s way too early to even be answering those questions, but I like Hutchison.”
Happ allowed a line single to Aaron Hicks, and Brian Dozier doubled down the left field line. Shortstop Macier Izturis took the relay from Kevin Pillar, double pumped, and threw the ball into the dirt at the plate trying to nab Hicks.
A liner by Tampa Bay Rays Desmond Jennings struck Happ in the face, and the lefty injured his knee as well last May which cost him three months after he won the fifth starter’s job from Ricky Romero in the spring. There were recent whispers in Dunedin recently that Happ had been bothered by a bad back.
The ball kicked off catcher Dioner Navarro toward the Jays dugout allowing Dozier to score too. Happ, who made 18 starts for the Jays last season, walked four of the next five hitters and was lifted.
“I need to be more aggressive in the strike zone, a lot of the pitches I made were just off the plate, said Happ. “It doesn’t matter where you feel you are at, you want to take steps forward.”
This not a step forward for Happ.
Ditto for McGowan, clocked at 96-to-98 MPH.
“The disturbing part is I feel so good,” said McGowan. “It’s spring training and I’m healthy ... that’s all you can ask for.”
McGowan, who made four starts for the 2011 Jays, has had three shoulder surgeries as well as a Tommy John procedure (he said recovering from the “Tommy John surgery was a breeze for me”).
Drabek has had two elbow surgeries. Only Chris Capuano comes to mind as someone who had two Tommy John surgeries and returned to the rotation.
“It’s more difficult to be a reliever,” said Drabek. “I’ve been a starter my whole career. I know my routine. My elbow feels different (than after my first surgery). It feels better.”
Had Wilson not lost the ball in the sun, Drabek would have allowed one run rather than four.
“Today I was 100 times better, I felt like normal compared to the Phillies,” said Drabek. “My fastball command was better.”
Ladies and gentlemen, time for the Pick Five.
Windows remain open, 23 games, 26 days ... place your wagers and avoid being shut out.
It’s early, but I’ll take Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle, Hutchison and Happ.
Take it to the horse barn.
OK, and our back-up pick is Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle, Hutchison and Stroman.