Blue Jays say rotation is in league of its own

Blue Jays say rotation is in league of its own

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays weren't quite sure what to make of their rotation going into last season. They knew there were some talented arms in camp but not much else.

And now?

"I think we have the best rotation in baseball hands down," right-hander Marcus Stroman, the 2016 Opening Day starter, said after Monday's workout. "I'll argue that day in and day out. We weren't valued at all coming into Spring Training [last year]. Everyone had a bunch of question marks. But we knew what we were capable of. One through five we're extremely strong. Every guy I consider an ace who can get us a win on any day. And that's the mentality that we have."

Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

Manager John Gibbons offered a couple caveats, but is pretty much on the same page.

"When you look at it one through five? Yeah, we've got to be right up there," he agreed. "They proved it last year. It's a new year. You've got to go out and do it again. But it's a totally different feeling this year, going in knowing what our rotation is. That wasn't necessarily the case last year. I think they were all better than we thought they were going to be, to be honest with you."

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Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada combined for a 3.52 earned run average in 2016. Francisco Liriano, acquired from the Pirates on Aug. 1, had a 2.92 ERA in 10 appearances for Toronto. He's expected to fill the final spot in the rotation.

Overall, the rotation's 3.64 ERA was the best in the American League -- the Indians were next at 4.08 -- and fourth in the Major Leagues.

Stroman, Happ and Sanchez each pitched at least 190 innings last season. Happ was a 20-game winner. Sanchez went 15-2.

"We were fortunate, too, that we stayed healthy," Gibbons said. "We need to do that again. But, yeah, I'd put them up there with anybody."

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.