As it currently stands, the Toronto Blue Jays have tabbed Trent Thornton as their fifth starter. However, that is subject to change.
It is amazing as to what a difference a year can make. At the close of the 2019 campaign, Trent Thornton was the Toronto Blue Jays nominal ace, having pitched the most innings of anyone on the roster. While his 4.84 ERA and 1.406 WHiP were not exactly stellar, they were amongst the best marks of those pitchers remaining in the Blue Jays rotation.
Fast forward to the present day. The Blue Jays completely overhauled their rotation, either in free agency or in trades. Those upgrades leave Thornton battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Japanese pitcher Shun Yamaguchi as his main rival.
For now, Thornton is the favorite for that spot. In fact, according to TSN’s Scott Mitchell, the final place in the rotation is Thornton’s to lose. Yamaguchi has experience in the bullpen, with 337 of his career appearances coming as a reliever.
That had been the plan since Toronto inked Yamaguchi to a two year contract this offseason. Armed with his devastating splitter, the thought is that he will serve as either the Blue Jays primary eighth inning arm, or serve in a multi-inning capacity. Yamaguchi could even end up as an opener on occasion, potentially able to pitch longer into a game than the typical relief arm.
Likewise, as it comes to Thornton, the Blue Jays are loathe to put him in the bullpen. Should he fail to be able to command a spot in the rotation, Thornton is far more likely to be ticketed to AAA. This, obviously, is not what Toronto wants from their innings leader in 2019.
However, if that is the end result, it speaks volumes to what the Blue Jays have done with their roster. The rotation, which was so often a disaster last season, has dramatically improved. While Toronto may not yet be ready to contend, they have a stronger team than they did at the end of 2019.
That can be seen with Trent Thornton. The Toronto Blue Jays leader in innings last season, he is now battling for the fifth spot in the rotation.