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Stroman's outing for naught in 10-inning loss

@gregorMLB
March 28, 2019

TORONTO -- The biggest challenge this season for Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo will be trying to find a way to get quality innings from his bullpen. Montoyo’s first day on the job proved that task is going to be easier said than done. Toronto received seven scoreless innings from

TORONTO -- The biggest challenge this season for Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo will be trying to find a way to get quality innings from his bullpen. Montoyo’s first day on the job proved that task is going to be easier said than done.

Toronto received seven scoreless innings from Marcus Stroman on Opening Day, but it still wasn’t enough to avoid a 2-0 loss to the Tigers on Thursday. That’s because after a pair of scoreless appearances by closer Ken Giles and setup man Joe Biagini, the Blue Jays’ lack of bullpen depth was exposed in the 10th inning.

Right-hander Daniel Hudson, who was cut loose by the Angels at the end of Spring Training, surrendered a double to the first batter he faced and then served up a hanging slider to Christin Stewart, which was sent over the wall in right-center field for a no-doubt game-winner. Just like that, a scoreless draw became the Blue Jays’ first loss of the year.

“We have Biagini for high leverage, and Hudson is going to be one of those guys, too,” Montoyo said. “For us to do well, Hudson has to pitch well, and Giles. The way we mapped it out, it came out that way, perfect. Biagini in the eighth, Giles and then Hudson. He didn’t have it today, but he’s going to be one of those guys.”

There was hardly any offense to speak of for either team on Thursday afternoon. Stroman carried his bid for a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was perfect until Teoscar Hernandez singled later with two outs in the seventh. There were six hits combined for both teams in the game, and three came against relievers. The starters appeared to be in midseason form, and everyone else was playing catchup.

Stroman, who struck out seven and walked four, was working under a pitch count of approximately 100 for his first outing of the season. When he came off the mound following the seventh inning, the product of Duke University had reached 94, and it was clear his night would be over. That put Montoyo into the spotlight, because the first-year skipper admitted he still wasn’t sure who his eighth-inning guy would be in front of the closer, Giles, prior to the game.

Toronto lost Ryan Tepera, John Axford and Bud Norris to injuries this spring. All three figured to have prominent roles in middle relief, and their departures exposed the lack of viable alternatives inside the Blue Jays’ organization. Biagini, who at one point seemed destined for a role as a long reliever, has since been pushed into a high-leverage role, and after that, it’s anyone’s guess who might pitch on any given night. The trial-and-error phase began Thursday.

“One-hundred percent,” Stroman said when asked if he had confidence in his bullpen this season. “Did you see how nasty Biagini and Giles were today? They were unbelievable. I have confidence in every single one of those guys down there, as I always have. Obviously, it was a tough one down there today, but we have 161 more.”

Montoyo received scoreless appearances from Giles and Biagini, but it was a much different story for Hudson. The 32-year-old quickly fell behind the leadoff hitter Niko Goodrum, who eventually hit a sharp double to right on a 2-2 count. Stewart followed three pitches later by unloading on Hudson’s hanging slider for a no-doubter into the stands.

The Blue Jays seem content to continue utilizing Hudson in high-pressure situations, and the harsh reality is they probably have to until some of their other relievers get healthy. Toronto can’t use Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano when the game is on the line, while Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio are multi-inning options, not setup men. Tim Mayza is the lone lefty. So outside of Javy Guerra, the Blue Jays don’t have anyone else to turn to until Tepera and Norris are ready.

“I felt great out there,” Hudson said. “I like my chances when I go out there with the stuff I had tonight. Just didn’t execute an 0-2 pitch. I was trying to get the slider more back foot, and I just kind of hung it there, middle in, for him. They made me pay for it.”

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.