Blue Jays' hopes rest heavily on rotation vitality

Club features solid starting five, but lack of depth a concern; Estrada could prove critical

Blue Jays' hopes rest heavily on rotation vitality

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have aspirations of contending this season, but their chances of competing likely will come down to the health of the starting rotation.

Toronto seems to have more depth in most areas of its roster compared to previous years except for the starting staff. That's one aspect of the organization that has to be a major concern as the start of the regular season rapidly approaches.

The Blue Jays have yet to officially announce their starting five but are expected to go with Drew Hutchison, R.A. Dickey, Daniel Norris, Mark Buehrle and Aaron Sanchez. It's a group that possesses a lot of upside, but if anyone misses a significant period of time, there isn't much depth to pick up the slack.

John Gibbons on 2015 Blue Jays

"That's always on your mind," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted. "I think last year it was a concern a little bit, too, but we held up pretty good. We brought a couple guys up every now and then in spot starts to give guys a break, and that worked out well. But, yeah, you hope that happens again, we hold together there, but history proves that's usually not the case. Not only ours, very few teams out there have a ton of depth."

The Blue Jays were very fortunate last year with Dickey, Buehrle, Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ remaining healthy for almost the entire year. That's a rare stroke of luck, and more often than not teams usually go through nine or 10 starters throughout the course of a season.

Stroman on season-ending injury

Stroman already has been lost for the year with a torn ACL, which pressed Sanchez into the rotation. Right-hander Marco Estrada now provides the first line of defense with a versatile arm that can easily transition from the bullpen to a starting role when needed.

After that, though, the options appear very limited. Veteran Randy Wolf recently signed a Minor League deal and is about to join the rotation in Triple-A Buffalo. Jeff Francis and Andrew Albers are two other possibilities, while the status of right-handers Todd Redmond and Liam Hendriks -- who are both out of options on their contracts -- remains up in the air.

Gibbons on team's young arms

The one thing that likely won't happen if a need arises is for either Roberto Osuna or Miguel Castro to transition to the rotation. If both pitchers, as expected, make the bullpen out of camp, that's where they will stay this season.

"You could, but it depends on really where you're at in the season," Gibbons said. "If you get too far into the season, those guys are used to throwing one inning, maybe two innings max, it's tough to crank them up.

"We did that with Stroman last year, but we had the luxury of sending him down for a couple of starts to build him up. That's not always the case. Knock on wood that they stay healthy."

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.