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Jays' surprising young starters

David Pinto on tonight's intriguing debut:

    Marc Rzepczynski makes his major league debut for the Blue Jays against James Shields and the Rays tonight. I thought he might challenge Javier Vazquez for highest scoring Scrabble name of all time, but falls short. Marc Rzepczynski scores 48 points, while Javier Vazquez is still champion at 53. Of course, if he changed the spelling to Mark Rzepczynzki, he would blow Javy out of the water.
    Rzepczynski rose quickly, playing in the minors for less than two seasons. He couples a high strikeout rate with a ridiculously low home run rate, giving up five homers in 243 1/3 innings. That led to a 19-11 record with a 2.85 ERA combined A and AA.

Some years ago, I memorized the spelling of Krzyzewski, but Rzepczynski is going to be even tougher. Right now, I can imagine every copy editor in every Toronto sports department just praying that this guy doesn't stick in the majors.
He probably will, though. And Rzepczynski is just another reminder of how unpredictable young pitchers can be. Before this season, Baseball America ranked Rzepczynski as the Blue Jays' No. 9 prospect ... one slot ahead of Ricky Romero.

About Romero, BA wrote, "Romero still needs to show more consistency to reach his ceiling as a No. 3 or 4 starter."

About Rzepczynski, BA wrote, "The Blue Jays will have a better idea of what they have in Rzepczynski if he earns a fast promotion to Double-A in 2009."

In a dozen starts with the big club this season, Romero is 7-3 with a 2.96 ERA. It's not clear what his ceiling is.

Rzepczynski opened the season in Double-A before earning a fast promotion to Triple-A, where he struck out 16 hitters in two starts. And now he's arrived in the majors.

Oh, and what about rookie Scott Richmond, who's 6-5 with a 3.69 ERA? Baseball America ranked him No. 20 in the system.

Am I picking on Baseball America? Hardly. My friend John Sickels gave C+ grades to Romero and Rzepczynski, and a straight C to Richmond.

Meanwhile, four of Oakland's rookie starters got better grades (in John's book), and you probably know how they've fared this season (at least before last night). If the A's more highly regarded young pitchers were performing this season as well as the Blue Jays' young pitchers, the A's would be ... well, they might not be contending, exactly. But they wouldn't have the second-worst record in the league.

Anyway, getting back to Rzepczynski ... The home-run thing really is phenomenal, and he seems to somehow be getting better. As a first-year pro in 2007, he gave up two homers in 46 innings. Last year, pitching exclusively in the low-A Midwest League, he gave up two homers in 121 innings. And this year he's given up one homer in 77 Double-A innings, zero homers in 11 Triple-A innings.

Now, just watch: he'll give up a couple of bombs against the Rays tonight. Keep an eye on him, though. And keep an eye on J.P. Ricciardi. If Roy Halladay's really on the block, it's partly because the Jays might soon have more starting pitchers than they can use.