Inbox: Who might start Opening Day?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions

March 12th, 2017
J.A. Happ might be more likely to get the ball on Opening Day since Aaron Sanchez's spring debut was delayed for rest. (AP)

With only making his spring debut this week, does that rule him out for Opening Day?

-- Tim W., Ottawa, Ontario

Not necessarily, but it does support the case to push Sanchez's first outing into the second series of the regular season. Sanchez tossed two innings on Saturday and he might need four starts to get into the proper range of six innings and close to 100 pitches. Instead of rushing to get ready for April 3, it makes sense to start Sanchez later in the week and give the Opening Day nod to someone like 20-game winner J.A. Happ.

With three off days from April 4-17, do you see anyone in the rotation getting skipped?

-- Paul L., Moncton, New Brunswick

Not unless someone gets hurt. Pitching coach Pete Walker will map out the rotation prior to the start of the season based on matchups and his spring schedule, but once everyone gets going they will stay on turn. During Walker's tenure, the Blue Jays have almost always opted for an extra day of rest instead of skipping a starter, and that will be the case again this year with five strong options. For a staff that needs to eat up a lot of innings, early rest might pay dividends later in the season.

Lots of chatter about . With likely to start the season on the DL, how much sense would a reunion make?

-- Peter B., Toronto

This isn't going to work for a couple of reasons. One, while Travis is rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, the Blue Jays remain committed to him at second base. When Travis returns there would be nowhere to put Lawrie, and he will be looking for an opportunity with more playing time.

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Then there's the fact that Lawrie is dealing with soft-tissue discomfort in his lower body and reportedly plans to wait until he's 100 percent healthy before signing. The 27-year-old likely will have a difficult time securing a starting job, but he can can afford to wait for the ideal fit. Unless Travis suffers a major setback, it would be a shock if that was Toronto.

Gibbons seems to be not only content with Toronto being a home-run-or-strikeout team, but he seems to endorse it. Why doesn't the team focus more on contact and putting the ball in play than relying on the home run ball to score?

-- Gil A., Sudbury, Ontario

This is a common complaint, but one has to realistically look at the cards Gibbons has been dealt. No manager in baseball is going to complain when hitters such as , Josh Donaldson, and take big swings, because you want to try and maximize each of their at-bats. The same cannot always be said about the bottom half of the lineup, but Gibbons can only do so much with the players he has been given.

and Melvin Upton Jr. have long, looping swings that generate power and a lot of swing-and-miss. doesn't swing for the fences, but he expands the zone with an aggressive approach. has struck out at least 95 times for three different teams. This is how the team has been built, and while some efforts were made to change that in the offseason, the bulk of that work is still to come.

Why did the Blue Jays not pursue Chris Carter? They need to improve at first base and Carter led the National League in home runs.

-- Ronald P., Burlington, Ontario

From the club's perspective, Carter would have been a redundant piece. Toronto has been committed to Smoak for quite some time and that wasn't going to change for someone who could be viewed as a similar player. Carter led the NL in home runs but he finished with the most strikeouts. Smoak has similar strikeout issues, but the Blue Jays also believe he has comparable power with the right number of at-bats. Carter's career OPS is .777 and Smoak's is .700, so there is a large difference, but the Blue Jays don't seem to think it's as big as others might believe.