NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays pinned their hopes of contending this season around a strong starting rotation, but a pair of injuries have created some big question marks, and the answers have yet to be found.
Toronto has been hard pressed to find viable replacements while J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez are on the disabled list. Casey Lawrence has come and gone, while Mat Latos became the latest issue when he allowed seven runs over four innings in an 11-5 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Latos might get another opportunity to start, but that will be based on necessity more than anything else. Toronto needs two starters between now and May 9, and the ballclub has quickly found itself running out of options at Triple-A Buffalo.
"They hit him around pretty good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Latos, who did not speak with the media after the game because he was dealing with a personal matter, according to a team spokesman. "He snuck a few strikeouts in there, but I think a lot of times the ball was up, in a bad spot."
The Yankees scored early and often off Latos, but Gibbons felt he had no choice but to leave him in the game. Toronto has nine relievers in its bullpen, but even that hasn't been enough lately after that group was asked to toss eight innings on Sunday. Four of New York's five home runs came while Latos was on the mound, and while that would normally be enough for either his release or a trip to the Minor Leagues, that might not be what happens here.
Lefty T.J. House is likely next in line for a starting job after a strong start to the season in Triple-A, which has seen him post a 1.64 ERA over 22 innings. That's one spot, but the Blue Jays need one starter on Sunday against Tampa Bay and another on May 9 vs. Cleveland. That means Gibbons will either stick with Latos, turn to another lefty in Brett Oberholtzer or go back to Lawrence, who allowed six runs over five innings last week in St. Louis.
There's no clear-cut option. In this case, the tie may go to Latos because he was coming off six scoreless innings of work in St. Louis before Tuesday's meltdown, but even that outing did not earn a ringing endorsement from his manager.
"I think, maybe, he got away with maybe more that last time," Gibbons said when asked if the biggest difference between the two starts was command. "[The Yankees] are a dangerous hitting team, and you've got that right-field wall too. A couple of big home runs at the wrong time. But, he managed to get through four innings. That was key, got a little worried early."
Meanwhile, the search continues. Sanchez will be out until at least May 11, while Happ has yet to resume throwing off a mound due to inflammation in his left elbow. The hope has to be that both will be back in uniform by the middle of the month, and if the Blue Jays want to get back into the race, they almost have to be, before it's too late.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.