Blue Jays consider options in wake of Stroman's injury

Sanchez and others could be asked to take on larger roles

Blue Jays consider options in wake of Stroman's injury

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With Marcus Stroman expected to miss the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee, the Blue Jays now face the unenviable task of trying to come up with a Plan B for the starting rotation.

Toronto will have a very difficult time replacing the number of quality innings Stroman was expected to provide this year. But there are at least a few options to consider.

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez immediately jumps to the forefront of that discussion as he'll likely compete with right-hander Marco Estrada and left-hander Daniel Norris for the final two spots on the staff.

"Our plan for Sanchez was always the same," general manager Alex Anthopoulos insisted Tuesday afternoon. "I think it certainly gives him a better opportunity to start but we still have Estrada being stretched out, still have Norris being stretched out, still have the remainder of camp.

"I think we still continue down that path, but there's no doubt about it, there's another opportunity there with Stroman being down."

Despite Anthopoulos' claims to the contrary, there has been a feeling around camp that Sanchez was headed for the bullpen once the season began. The main reason behind that widely spread speculation was that the Blue Jays desperately needed another reliable reliever to either close or set up games.

But Sanchez in the bullpen now becomes a luxury the Blue Jays likely can no longer afford. Left-hander Brett Cecil could slot into the closer's role with Aaron Loup as his primary set up man. After that there's plenty of uncertainty but the Blue Jays could choose from a group that includes Steve Delabar, Wilton Lopez, prospect Miguel Castro, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek and Jeff Francis.

If Estrada isn't included in the rotation, he also could become an option for a role in middle relief while also filling in as a backup starter. A similar scenario wouldn't be realistic for Sanchez because of his overall inexperience at the big league level. If he starts the year in the bullpen that's likely where he would have to remain all year.

The one thing the Blue Jays won't be doing in the coming weeks is making a major addition through a trade. A minor move remains possible but Anthopoulos all but completely ruled out another scenario.

"Those guys aren't normally available in March, actually there might be one but I don't know that we can afford that right now," said Anthopoulos, who likely was referring to Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.

"Realistically, guys that are out of options are normally available at the end spring, guys with out clauses on Minor League deals, but we'll look to fill internally. We'll give these guys an opportunity. Hopefully some of the guys we have in camp emerge and we can get through it."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.