With Roy Halladay gone, who makes up the Blue Jays' rotation?
How hard is it to be a major league manager? Every fifth day, you simply send an ace like Roy Halladay to the mound, knowing full well he's more than likely going to throw a complete game -- not only giving your team a huge chance to win, but also giving your bullpen time to recharge its batteries.
Whether it was Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons or Cito Gaston at the controls, that's pretty much all the Toronto Blue Jays' top dog needed to do. However, with Halladay having been shipped off to the Philadelphia Phillies, things are going to be a bit different in 2010.
Whereas in the past Halladay provided an anchor and veteran leadership to an otherwise inexperienced staff of arms, now Gaston is left staring at an empty Sudoku puzzle. He has plenty of numbers at his disposal, but as to what order to place them in the grid? That's going to take a lot of time to figure out -- and for fantasy owners, perhaps it's best to simply skip over to the comics until he does.
How many candidates are there for the five spots in the Blue Jays' rotation? In no particular order, we've got Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan. That's already seven names, and that's too many even if we choose to ignore potential longshots like David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Bobby Ray and Dana Eveland.
It's like a brand-new reality show for the spring schedule. I can hear Ryan Seacrest already ... "THIS [long pause] is 'Toronto Rotation.'" Let's take a look at each finalist's résumé in order of what we feel to be their chances of winning the open competition. Remember, phone lines will remain open for two hours after the show, and standard text message rates do apply.
Shaun Marcum: He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008, when he underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery. In 2009, he was all set to showcase his stuff late in the season when a combination of back spasms and the birth of his son scuttled those plans at the last minute. He's been cleared by the medical staff, and Marcum says his arm feels better than ever.
Gaston said, "I never got a chance to see the real Shaun ... all I hear is good things."
Randy said, "I don't know. 2009 wasn't your best for you for me, dawg."
But what will you say? If you want to vote for Shaun Marcum, call 555-BLUEJAYS-28.
Ricky Romero: Romero won 13 games as a rookie last season, but there was some concern about the number of walks he allowed (4.0 BB per nine innings) over the course of his 29 starts. In his spring debut against the Houston Astros, he threw 40 pitches, 28 for strikes -- a promising sign that he's at least aware of the problem and attempting to correct it.
Gaston said he likes Romero, but in a perfect world, he'd prefer someone with a bit more experience to anchor his staff.
Ellen said, "Ricky, you look great. I have no doubt you'll make the rotation."
Whom do you agree with? If you want to vote for Ricky Romero, call 555-BLUEJAYS-24.
Brandon Morrow: The newly acquired Morrow bounced between roles in Seattle. Last season, he started 10 games and came out of the bullpen in 16 others. That's probably why he's never been able to truly show the type of stuff that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft. Additionally, Morrow feels most of his arm problems over the years came as a result of his work as a reliever, and as a starter, he expects to be just fine.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said, "Irrespective of what happens, irrespective of performance, we're committed to him as a starter."
Kara said, "You have such a great instrument. All you need is to be confident that you can do it, and you will."
Whom do you agree with? If you want to vote for Brandon Morrow, call 555-BLUEJAYS-23.
Brian Tallet: His strongest asset last season was the fact that he was one of the few pitchers who didn't get hurt. As a result, Tallet started 25 games; but with a 5.41 ERA, it wasn't like he lit the world on fire. Still, he's 32 and far and away the "senior member" of this very young collection of pitchers. That's a trait no other candidate has to offer and the best reason to believe Tallet will be one of the five chosen ones.
Gaston said Tallet was "a lifesaver" for the team in 2009 and deserves this chance to compete for a job in 2010.
Simon said, "You're by no means memorable in any way whatsoever. That being said, I like you -- and I think Toronto will like you."
Is Simon right? If you want to vote for Brian Tallet, call 555-BLUEJAYS-56.
Dustin McGowan: Another pitcher who missed all of 2009, after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery the previous summer, McGowan is currently throwing in simulated games in hopes of being ready to go by April 5. He's out of options, so if he's healthy, he'll definitely be on the big league roster, which is a point in his favor. However, a DL stint is also a very realistic possibility.
Anthopoulos said, "It's more of when his arm is ready to go. If we need to start him on the DL, we would do that ... hopefully he'd be back [with the team] sooner rather than later."
Randy said, "Too pitchy, dawg."
Simon said, "But he's a pitcher ... isn't that a good thing?"
You try to make sense of it. If you want to vote for Dustin McGowan, call 555-BLUEJAYS-29.
Marc Rzepczynski: The youngster was far more comfortable pitching at home than on the road last season -- almost a full run difference in terms of ERA -- but the biggest problem with "Zep" is that he throws too many pitches. If he does make the rotation, it will be the rarity that he makes it through the seventh inning, perhaps making him more suited for a long relief role at this stage of his career. But he'll definitely be on the roster, one way or the other.
Gaston said, "The record didn't show how well he pitched for us last year. ... When we leave [spring training], we leave with him."
Ellen said, "Zippo? Zeppo? I can't pronounce your name, but I do pronounce you incredibly talented."
What is your pronouncement? If you want to vote for Marc Rzepczynski, call 555-BLUEJAYS-34.
Brett Cecil: More than just another southpaw in the mix, Cecil went 7-4 as a rookie in 2009 but with an inflated 5.30 ERA. Unfortunately, his spring has gotten off to a shaky start, as he needed to miss his first scheduled pitching assignment after slicing into his thumb while "chopping up chickens." That's not what anybody meant by "leaving a solid impression."
Gaston said, "It's going to be tough to nail down four and five [in the rotation]. If you look at the candidates we have, we're not going to forget about [Brett] Cecil."
Simon said, "That's the problem. You give me a chicken sandwich when I am hungry for steak ... and you need to work on your curveball more and not be so in love with your slider."
Is he hungry enough to make the rotation? If you want to vote for Brett Cecil, call 555-BLUEJAYS-27.
Join us in April for the results show, and be sure to stay tuned. We'll have a special performance from catcher John Buck, whom the Blue Jays signed due to his terrific ability to bring young pitchers along ... after the break.