3/18/2013 3:17 P.M. ET
Inbox: Should Happ, not Romero, be in rotation?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm fields questions from Blue Jays fans
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
If John Gibbons is stating the truth about fielding the best team he can, why doesn't J.A. Happ start instead of Ricky Romero, knowing that right now, he's the better pitcher?
-- Adam N., Kingston, Nova Scotia
What's important to note here is that it's virtually impossible to read anything into stats from Spring Training. For example, before the 2011 season, Romero couldn't locate anything and posted a 7.91 ERA in five spring starts. Once the season began, he was nearly flawless and went on to enjoy an All-Star campaign while posting career bests in almost every category.
The following spring, Romero looked dominant and appeared as though he was in store for a repeat season. He didn't allow a run in four spring starts, but once the regular season began, everything fell apart in remarkable fashion. The point here isn't to suggest that the Romero from 2011 is back, but rather the Blue Jays need to wait and see how the start of the season unfolds.
Romero's earned the benefit of the doubt, considering how well he performed from 2009-11. The leash won't be as long this year, but he'll still receive an opportunity in April to prove he can solidify his rotation spot. If it doesn't work, then the club will turn to someone like Happ, but for now, there is simply no chance Romero doesn't begin the year as a member of the starting staff.
If Romero doesn't start improving, I would say put Happ as the fifth starter and then Romero can work out of the bullpen until he improves. Agree or disagree?
-- Mike M., Calgary, Alberta
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I disagree for the reasons stated above, but also because I don't think a bullpen stint would do Romero much good. He's always posted better numbers against righties compared to lefties during his career, and therefore wouldn't have much use as a specialist out of the bullpen.
The only bullpen role Romero could slide into would be that of a long reliever, and the work would be too sporadic to be of any real benefit. A better solution would be sending him to the Minor Leagues, where he could continue working on things as a starter and hopefully solve some of the control issues which have plagued him for the past year.
That's the absolute worst-case scenario, though. Romero will begin the year as the fifth starter, and while there's no guarantee he'll return to form, it's not exactly unheard of, either. Boston's Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz suffered thoroughly similarly disappointing 2012 seasons and most people are predicting big bounce-backs in '13.
The main issue with this team on offense is the lack of a power-hitting, run-producing, left-handed bat. What do you think the chances are for the Jays making a move to acquire Justin Morneau from the Twins?
-- Derrick R., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
This could be something the Blue Jays would look at closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline but there isn't much of a chance for something to happen now. Toronto remains committed to giving Adam Lind regular at-bats in one last shot at reclaiming his previous value around the league.
Lind is about to embark on a very important season in his career. He's owed $5 million this season and has the potential to earn an additional $22.5 million from '14-16, but all of those years are club options. Lind will be extra motivated to produce as a way of guaranteeing some of that extra money, because if he struggles again, then he'll face a lot of uncertainty heading into free agency.
With the $5 million in salary owed this year and an already high payroll, Toronto will wait and see what it can get from Lind during the early stages of the season before making a decision on possible upgrades. If Lind struggles, then Morneau could become an option, but a lot could change between now and July 31.
Given the way Anthony Gose is playing right now, is there a chance he comes north as the fourth outfielder instead of Rajai Davis?
-- Peter S., Delta, British Columbia
No, because the Blue Jays want Gose to receive everyday at-bats, and with Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista firmly entrenched in the outfield, that can't happen in Toronto. The more realistic scenario is that Gose begins the year at Triple-A Buffalo and then gets called up if any of the starting three gets hurt.
That news likely came as a disappointment to Gose, but the fact is he could benefit from additional seasoning in the Minor Leagues. Gose possesses well-above-average defense and blistering speed on the basepaths, but he's still a work in progress at the plate. He needs to improve his plate discipline and ability to consistently hit offspeed pitches before his potential can be reached.
Toronto will have an interesting decision to make after the year about whether to stick with Ramsus or hand the job over to Gose. But for now, it's clear that Gose will get plenty of at-bats in the Minors and continue working on the holes in his game. His time will come soon, it's just not yet.
Where does a healthy Dustin McGowan fit into the picture? It seems that he's getting better and better.
-- Ian D., Victoria, British Columbia
There isn't really anywhere for a healthy McGowan to fit into the current picture. The rotation is set in stone, while the bullpen only has a pair of vacant jobs, with numerous candidates that have already lined up for the positions.
There was some talk earlier this spring that McGowan could be on the Opening Day roster, but that speculation was premature at best. A more realistic scenario is that McGowan begins the year on the disabled list and patiently works through a rehab assignment or two and waits for an opportunity.
It's impossible to know whether McGowan will be able to get through that work without any setbacks, but if he can, then he'll be a candidate for a promotion if someone on the staff goes down with an injury. Any appearances in the Minors would have to take place on an official rehab assignment because McGowan does not have any options remaining on his contract.
If Brett Lawrie is not ready for Opening Day, could we see some action from either Edwin Encarnacion or Bautista at third base?
-- Ken L., Calgary, Alberta
Something will have gone seriously wrong with the Blue Jays' season if either Encarnacion or Bautista receive any playing time at third. Gibbons hasn't completely ruled out the possibility of using Bautista there, but it's also something he's understandably reluctant to do.
If Lawrie isn't ready to go by Opening Day -- and the Blue Jays insist he will be -- then the third-base job likely will be shared by Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis. Both are capable of handling the position and this would open up additional playing time for Emilio Bonifacio at second base.
Bautista wouldn't be used at third unless both of those backup options fall through. The same could be said for Encarnacion, although it's possible that he will be considered for that spot during Interleague Play if Lawrie was on the disabled list at the time.
How much can the Jays' depth help them overcome the adversity of a 162-game season better than in prior seasons?
-- Ben B., Barrie, Ontario
The Blue Jays are in a much better position to handle adversity this season, and in reality, this team has as much depth as any Toronto ballclub in recent memory. The outfield is stacked with possible replacements in Davis and Gose, while Bonifacio also has the ability to play center field.
The infield appears deep as well, with either Izturis or Bonifacio serving as the main backup, while DeRosa provides additional versatility and a veteran presence. Even behind the plate, the Blue Jays seem relatively OK considering their ability to stash Josh Thole in the Minors at the start of the year.
The biggest question surrounding this team is its overall pitching depth, but there are some suitable options there as well. Happ represents the first line of defense for the starters, but the list of backups also includes Chad Jenkins, Justin Germano and perhaps Brad Lincoln or prospect Sean Nolin.
Last year, the club had to piece together a group of backups and was ill-prepared to handle injuries. The hope is that this year the Blue Jays will remain healthy, but even if they don't, there should be enough talent to weather the storm -- at least for awhile.