TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are expected to have at least a couple of spots up for grabs in their starting rotation next season, and it appears as though right-hander Sam Gaviglio will have the next two months to audition for the job.Prior to Friday night's 8-7 victory over the
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are expected to have at least a couple of spots up for grabs in their starting rotation next season, and it appears as though right-hander Sam Gaviglio will have the next two months to audition for the job.
Prior to Friday night's 8-7 victory over the Orioles in 10 innings, Toronto manager John Gibbons said his rotation for the foreseeable future will be J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Ryan Borucki and Gaviglio. There are no guarantees beyond this season, but right now Gaviglio has some job security, and it will be up to him to seize the opportunity.
Gaviglio left a positive impression in the series opener as he pitched into the eighth inning and set a career high with eight strikeouts before some late-inning drama from both sides somewhat overshadowed his strong start. The outing, when combined with a trio of Blue Jays home runs and a couple of late defensive miscues was enough to snap Toronto's mini two-game losing streak.
"I think he has done a tremendous job since he got here," Gibbons said of Gaviglio's first two seasons in the Majors. "He's had a couple of starts where he got hit around a little bit, that happens to them all. But you look at the overall time that he has been here, I think he has been outstanding."
The 28-year-old Gaviglio technically doesn't have a guaranteed job for the rest of the season, but he should feel pretty safe. Injured right-hander Aaron Sanchez has not progressed to throwing off a mound, and by the time he returns, Happ likely will have been traded to another team. Estrada is a candidate to be shopped as well, but even if the crafty right-hander sticks, he's expected to leave at the end of the season as a free agent.
That has opened the door for Gaviglio, not only for this season, but as a possible fifth starter in 2019 as well. Toronto's rotation next year currently projects as Sanchez, Stroman, Borucki and a lot of uncertainty after that. Gaviglio, with a strong finish to the year, could enter the conversation as a full-fledged member of the rotation by holding off whomever the Blue Jays pick up this offseason, along with emerging prospects like Sean Reid-Foley and T.J. Zeuch.
Gaviglio's skillset doesn't necessarily scream "bona fide big league starter" with a fastball that averaged 87.1 mph and maxed out at 89.1 on Friday night. Gaviglio instead has to rely on pinpoint command by keeping his sinker down in the zone, occasionally mixing in a slider or changeup to keep his opponents honest. It hasn't always worked, but in 12 starts this season, Gaviglio has allowed more than three earned runs just three times.
"He's a pitcher, he's a great competitor, and he can get you out in different ways," Gibbons said. "Some guys have to overpower you, he doesn't. He just pitches, dissects the plate a little bit, and he has shown us that he is pretty strong, too."
The downside to Gaviglio's recent performance has been a lack of innings. That wasn't an issue vs. last-place Baltimore as Gaviglio completed 7 2/3 innings before a two-run homer by Chris Davis made his pitching line look a little bit uglier than it otherwise would have. But Friday's outing was the outlier, not the norm, as Gaviglio has completed five innings in just two of his previous seven starts.
All of Gaviglio's hard work was nearly negated when Tyler Clippard blew the save with three earned runs in the top of the ninth. Toronto bounced back two innings later when a two-out errant throw by Timothy Beckham allowed Russell Martin to reach. Two batters later, Aledmys Diaz had a ball sneak through the left side of the infield for the game-winning run. Diaz, Martin and Randal Grichuk all homered for the Blue Jays in the win.
"It's big, especially because I've had a couple of short ones in my last [starts]," Gaviglio said. "It's nice to get deep into the game and work some stuff out mechanically. I don't get there unless Russ is doing a good job behind the plate calling pitches. He knows the hitters well and made my job easy."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The seeing-eye single: Toronto's 10th-inning rally would not have been possible without a gift from Beckham. With two outs in the 10th, Baltimore's shortstop could not make a clean throw across the diamond on a little chopper off the bat of Martin. The play was ruled a hit but likely should have resulted in the final out of the inning. Instead, the inning continued and Grichuk followed with a walk before Diaz hit a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield for the game-winning hit. The ball deflected off third baseman Renato Nunez's glove and snuck into the outfield, allowing Martin to score the winning run.
"I didn't think it was going to go through," Diaz said through an interpreter. "The third baseman was playing a good game today. I was just trying to stay up the middle, and then he threw me a good pitch to hit. To be honest, I didn't think it was going to go through."
Clippard can't close it: Clippard's issues at the back-end of Toronto's bullpen continued in the series opener. In the ninth, Clippard allowed homers to Caleb Joseph and Jonathan Schoop while Trey Mancini doubled and later scored on a wild pitch. It's the second consecutive game that Clippard was saddled with a blown save, and he has allowed runs in three of his last five appearances. Clippard's stint as Toronto's closer isn't expected to last much longer with Dennis Tepera back from the disabled list, and Roberto Osuna set to return from his suspension at the beginning of August.
"You never know what you're going to get coming out of an All-Star break," Gibbons said. "He's had five days off, so you never really know who's going to be sharp and who's not. … He has done a great job for us. The late-inning bullpen guys, it's a tough job. Sometimes they get you, sometimes they don't."
The Blue Jays have won five straight games against the Orioles, which is their longest winning streak vs. Baltimore since 2010.
Right-hander Marcus Stroman (2-7, 5.86 ERA) will take the mound as the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at 1:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Stroman will look to turn the page on a disappointing first half of the season that saw him allow fewer than four earned runs just four times in 12 starts. Baltimore will counter with right-hander Alex Cobb (2-12, 6.41).
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.