Come spring training there should be quite a bit of interest around the pitching mounds down in Dunedin. Soon enough we shall see just who is most worthy of the fifth spot in the Jays starting rotation. I personally believe it's one of the more important issues going into Spring Training. Well, that and how many chicks Dustin McGowan is going to nail. Over/under is somewhere around 35 1/2.
As of now it would appear that Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch and Gustavo Chacin are the frontrunners but each comes complete with their own questions. Most would agree that Litsch was decent as a rookie in 2007, which doesn't necessarily mean that form will carry forward into 2008 and beyond. Janssen was a staple in the bullpen last year, and the Jays brass still aren't sure if the starting rotation is where he should be. No one knows what to expect from Chacin, as he missed the majority of last season only throwing 27 1/3 innings.
Toronto actually used 11 starters over the course of last season, eventually going with Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Litsch. They combined for a 56-38 record along with a 3.85 ERA during that span. Not to bad for the grown up American League.
John Gibbons indicated he was impressed with Litsch last season and that he believes Jesse has earned a right to claim that spot. Janssen was exceptionally badass coming out of the pen last season posting a 2.35 ERA, 24 holds in 70 appearances. It would seem his future somewhat depends on the progression of closer B.J. Ryan. Chacin has pitched well at the major league level in the past, but for all we know, his arm could fly right off in the middle of a game. Or he could lose those specs he rocks and be unable to pitch at all.
Honestly, I'm inclined to see Janssen stay in the bullpen as he seemed to thrive in that spot last season, and the Jays have been crippled by horrible bullpen's in years past. It was nice last season to have a reliable bullpen that could be counted on more often than not. That leaves Litsch and Chacin. Chacin is probably the bigger uncertainty coming off the surgery and Litsch proved capable in his 20 starts last season (7-9 3.81). I'd start the season with him barring something strange or exceptional happening in the spring. One thing I do know is that regardless of who ends up in that 5th spot, the Jays have one of the best rotations in all of baseball.
Maybe one day Ricky Romero will pitch the way that made him a star at CS Fullerton rather than sucking down in New Hampshire.