After a rough three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays have lost six in a row and fallen into the final qualifying wild card spot in the American League. Now trailing the Yankees by 5 games for second place, the Toronto/Buffalo Blue Jays are pretty well locked into their current spot in the standings, with Fangraphs giving them a 0.9% chance to re-take 2nd place from the Yankees, but a 91.5% chance to hold off the Mariners, Angels, and Tigers for the final playoff spot in the American League postseason bracket. Though they share a record with the Astros, Houston should secure 2nd place in the AL West. The Indians are currently the other wild card team, and they hold a 2 game lead over the Blue Jays with 8 games remaining.
That sets up Toronto for a first-round, 3-game series with the Rays, White Sox, or A’s, with Tampa holding the top spot if the season ended this minute. Hyun Jin Ryu would figure to start the first game of any playoff series, but the rest of the rotation is open to interpretation. With improving health, however, the Jays are on the cusp of adding a few more options to the stable.
Matt Shoemaker has thrown upwards of 60 pitches while preparing to return to the team, which he could do any day now, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Shoemaker has 5 starts under his belt in 2020 with an average of just over 5 innings per start and a 4.91 ERA/6.11 FIP. 8.8 K/9 is a strong mark for Shoemaker, but he’s been doomed by the long ball with 2.8 HR/9. In terms of the playoffs, Shoemaker’s role is up in the air, but he’ll return to the rotation to make a start against the Yankees on Monday, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
The Blue Jays remain hopeful that hard-throwing right-hander Nate Pearson will return before the end of the season as well. Should he return, the Jays will use him for 1 to 2 innings at a time, presumably because there’s not enough time to work him back to full-strength before the playoffs. Pitching Coach Pete Walker reports a return to normal velocity levels for Pearson, per Nicholson-Smith, who suggests Pearson could work in relief to Tom Hatch or Julian Merryweather.
Regardless, the Blue Jays look as though they’ll be piecing together the rotation game-by-game following Ryu. Given their heavy reliance on the pen, a return from Jordan Romano will certainly help. Romano should throw off a mound shortly, and the Blue Jays are hopeful to see him back in their bullpen for the playoffs, per Nicholson-Smith. Romano, 27, enjoyed a breakout 15 appearances before hitting the injured list with a right middle finger strain. He’s been worth 1.1 rWAR with a 1.23 ERA/3.12 FIP and 12.9 K/9 to 3.1 BB/9 while picking up 2 saves and 5 holds.