Another day, another question mark regarding Toronto’s starting rotation.
After surprise last-minute choice Dustin McGowan was sent to the pen over the weekend, predictions swirled about Marcus Stroman, Todd Redmond and even, for a second, Esmil Rogers’ candidacy for that notorious fifth spot, which I have written about far too many times so early in a season for a team contending in the American League East.
McGowan noticeably struggled as a starter in 2014. From soreness in his throwing arm for days after his starts, which consequently lead to zero side bullpen sessions this season, to testing an insulin pump to monitor his blood-sugar levels on the mound and adding a sixth starter to give him more time to rest, a mutual decision was reached, which admittedly lifted a weight off of the 32-year-old’s shoulders: McGowan will go back to his former role as a long-term reliever where he most likely excel in this much needed role, not to mention that it will most likely prolong his playing years.
More questions continued when word came out that Stroman’s next starting gig was announced … in Buffalo. The top prospect struggled in his call-up role as a relief pitcher, where he posted a 12.79 ERA in 6.1 IP. The choice was made to send the him back to triple-A to stretch him out as a starter, with the hope he will take over a spot in the rotation in the near future.
Talk then quickly shifted to Redmond, favored by fans and skipper John Gibbons, who was a top choice for the spot back in spring training, as well as earlier in May when J.A. Happ made a few cringe-worthy appearances.
But GM Alex Anthopoulos had another arm in mind when he made a trip to Buffalo on Saturday: Liam Hendriks and his 1.50 ERA, which dropped down to 1.48 that day.
Hendriks, originally from Perth, Australia, was picked up off waivers from the Minnesota Twins last February, and he has earned significant buzz within the organization ever since. The right-hander, who has always been credited with outstanding minor league numbers, has had six starts in a Bisons jersey this season and has made waves with an arsenal of off-speed pitches to complement his strong fastball command.
Many see this as another Anthopoulos grasping-at-straws move, though. Liam Hendriks’ current minor league stats are just what a shaky starting rotation needs, but that is exactly what they are: minor league stats. There’s no denying Hendriks can get outs, but so far he has not been able to achieve this at a major league level. When it comes to the show, Liam Hendriks has proven disappointing to say the least. In 30 big-league outings with the Twins, he was just 2-13 with a 6.10 ERA. Needless to say, he might just be a very good minor league player; but Anthopoulos is clearly willing to take a chance on him.
On the flip-side, however, Redmond started 14 games last season. With 11 appearances out of the pen this year, a few lasting four-plus innings, he could adjust to a starting role quickly. If his name keeps coming up, you would think he deserves the same shot that McGowan, Happ and now, possibly, Hendriks have received.