LAS VEGAS -- Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo has at least considered the possibility of bringing the "opener" strategy north of the border as the club looks to get more creative with in-game management next season.
Montoyo was the bench coach for a 2018 Rays team that helped the opener approach become mainstream. Teams used bullpen days plenty of times before, but Tampa Bay arguably was the first professional team to purposely use a so-called reliever in the first inning before turning things over to the starter.
The thinking is that teams use a high-velocity reliever to face the top of the order. A "starter" is then brought into the game with the possibility of getting into the late innings without having to face the heart of the lineup a third time. Montoyo wouldn't say for sure that it's going to happen in Toronto, but he also spoke out in favor of the move.
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"If we had the right pitching to do it, it's going to work," Montoyo said on Tuesday during a media availability on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings. "If you don't have the right pitching -- at the end of the day, you've got to have good pitching. You can use the opener all you want, but if we have guys throwing 98 to open the game, that works pretty good."
The one thing the Blue Jays don't intend to do is purposely schedule bullpen days. They do not want to have one spot in the rotation that requires multiple innings from multiple relievers on a regular basis, and instead the club will focus on coming up with a traditional starting five.
The only debate within that starting five is whether all five will start the game in the first inning or whether some will be brought in a little bit later. Toronto currently projects to have Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki in the rotation with a slew of arms in competition for the final two spots, and more additions likely on the way through free agency.
"We're planning on filling the rotation with guys who are starters and looking to build a pitching staff more in line with what fans are accustomed to," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "Having said that, the season could start, we could have one injury and that could completely change that, performance could completely change that. But we're going to look to acquire as many starters as we can."
Blue Jays players might be able to look forward to getting a little bit more sleep during Spring Training because Montoyo is a major proponent of starting workouts later in the morning. In the past, Toronto's clubhouse opened at 8 a.m. during the spring and players often are there around 7 a.m.
Montoyo appears to favor pushing everything back by a couple of hours. The Rays have taken a similar approach in recent years as the club looked to maximize recovery time and ensure its players weren't overworked early in the season. Now, the Blue Jays might do the same.
"Spring Training is in construction now, so we've got only three fields," Montoyo said in reference to the renovations currently underway in Dunedin, Fla. "So we've got to deal with that. We'll start Spring Training later, later in the day, like 10:00 [a.m.], give the guys more sleep time."
"I just want them to play the right way. If I have guys who have speed, I've got to make an adjustment to whatever team we get. From experience I know that if you get a team that hits three-run homers, I'm not going to be hitting and running. Seems like the team we've got, we could do both. That's pretty cool." -- Montoyo, when asked what style of play he would prefer to see from the Blue Jays
• Montoyo would not commit to a specific batting order next season and he suggested that process won't start until Spring Training, but the new skipper at least likes the potential of his young lineup, which is expected to be filled with young players.
"Yeah, I'm not there yet," Montoyo said when asked about his lineup. "But what this team reminds me a little bit of is Boston five years ago when Mookie Betts was there, and finished last, and look where they are now. So that's my hope, Boston, the team they have now, that all these kids become players like that. That's my hope, and I think that's what's going to happen."
• The same stance was taken when it came to questions about where top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will hit in the lineup when he is eventually promoted to the big leagues.
"That's going to be a talk with all the coaches and stuff, and we're going to decide where to hit him," Montoyo said. "I'm not going to decide that on my own. It's going to be a team deal where we're going to hit him."