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Blue Jays in deep when starting pitchers go down: Griffin

ANAHEIM, CALIF.—The Blue Jays have maintained from day one this season that they needed the rotation to remain healthy, just like it did in 2016 when the top five pitchers began 152 games and the two others, Francisco Liriano and Drew Hutchison, were traded for each other. That is a recipe for success.But this situation, with J.A. Happ on the DL with an elbow strain and Aaron Sanchez with a debilitating blister on his middle finger, is already reminding fans more of manager John Gibbons’ team in 2013, when Las Vegas established them as off-season AL favourites. That team needed 12 starting pitchers and won 74 games.Sure, they overcame injury problems two years ago to reach the playoffs. Back at that time, with five reliable starters in the majors and a slew of talented prospects at Class-A and Double-A not quite ready for the majors, the Jays were saying exactly the same thing about needing a healthy rotation, and yet when Marcus Stroman went down with his “season-ending” knee injury early in camp, they were able to overcome that injury and win the AL East. But there were significant differences.In 2015, Stroman was not in fact gone for the season. He battled back with intense rehab at Duke University and was a key starter in September. Also, the Jays had enough young starting pitching to cobble together a significant package to obtain free-agent-to-be David Price from Detroit for the final two months. This year, they don’t have anywhere close to that same luxury in terms of prospects who can be bundled at the trade deadline.The 3-12 Jays opened a four-game series at Angel Stadium on Friday night with Mat Latos making his first regular-season start in a Jay uniform, while Casey Lawrence makes his debut Saturday.Article Continued BelowLatos had some success in the NL in a four-year stretch from 2010-13, making 30-plus starts each season, but he had bone-chip repair to his right elbow prior to 2014 and has had a variety of knee issues ever since. His 71 MLB wins rank second to Happ on the current Jays’ staff, but success has been a while.The Jays always knew they would need minor-league depth to fill in for injuries. That’s why when Latos did not make the opening-day roster, he sat down with GM Ross Atkins and was willing to pitch at Triple-A Buffalo even though he had an opt-out clause. Now he gets his opportunity.As for Lawrence, he was the Jays’ best minor-league starter by the end of last season and continued to show his increased velocity and 29-year-old maturity at the start of 2017. Mechanical adjustments made while working with coaches, including Vince Horsman, added velocity to his fastball, combined with good command of a sinker. He was always perceived as the next candidate after Latos.

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