The Blue Jays were the American League's most effective rotation in 2008 but will have many holes to fill this year as their starting pitching staff has been decimated by the signing of A.J. Burnett by the Yankees, Shaun Marcum’s elbow surgery, and Dustin McGowan’s shoulder injury.
With these players gone, Cito Gaston has to find replacements for 78 starts, 484 innings and 33 wins which will be no easy task even with ace Roy Halladay returning and Jesse Litsch proving to be a great starter, going 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA over his final nine starts.
One of the biggest holes in the rotation was created when Burnett signed with the Yankees, after going 18-10 last season and providing 34 of the 40 starts that didn't come from products of the Toronto farm system.
Another huge lose is Marcum, whose 3.39 ERA last season was only topped by the Doc’s 2.78, and is expected to miss the 2009 season after elbow surgery.
Plus, McGowan will be out until at least May after shoulder surgery.
Toronto's starters led the majors with 1,021 innings, an average of 6 1/3 innings per start and it’s the Blue Jays farm system that has been responsible for the team's rise to the top of the American League in pitching. Homegrown pitchers started 122 of the team's games last season, a number that will probably increase in 2009.
Some of these prospects include David Purcey, who got his first 12 major league starts last season and is almost a sure thing for a rotation spot. Casey Janssen, who has been a starter and a reliever, missed last season because of a shoulder injury, but has healed and should battle for a starting position at spring training.
Another potential outside addition to the rotation is Matt Clement, who signed a minor league contract after being out of the majors the last two seasons because of shoulder problems.
Other prospects include their top two pitchers in the system, Brett Cecil and Brad Mills, and also lefty Ricky Romero, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft. There is also British Columbia-native Scott Richmond, who had five big-league starts last season.
A deep bullpen has been the Jays' strength for several seasons and should remain strong as long as they don't borrow relievers for the rotation. The bullpen had a 2.94 ERA last season, best in the majors and more than half a run better than any other AL team.
B.J. Ryan was ready much sooner than expected after Tommy John surgery and converted 32-of-36 save opportunities. Jeremy Accardo, who had 30 saves with Ryan out in 2007, was limited to 16 games with elbow and forearm problems, but is throwing again and hopes to be ready for camp.
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