With Happ, Sanchez on DL, Toronto in need of extra arms
By Keegan Matheson
TORONTO -- Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence will get the ball for the Blue Jays on Friday and Saturday, respectively, against the Angels, manager John Gibbons announced prior to Thursday's game.
The two right-handers will take the spots of J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez, both of whom are on the 10-day disabled list. Gibbons added that one of the starters will stick around for at least one more outing next week against the Cardinals.
Latos signed a Minor League deal with Toronto in February, making the Blue Jays his 9th MLB organization at just 29 years old. He will require a spot on the 40-man roster for Friday's start. While his velocity has dipped compared to earlier in his career, Latos has looked very sharp at Triple-A Buffalo, and Gibbons likes the experience he brings to this situation.
"He's got a good breaking ball, big breaking ball," Gibbons said. "The thing that's good about him, he's been around the game a while. He's a veteran guy, and that's why we signed him. You know, if something happened, we'd need him."
Lawrence, also 29, has taken a much different road to the Major League level. The former non-drafted free agent gutted out seven full seasons and nearly 1,000 innings in the Minors before finally making his debut earlier this season in relief.
"I actually thought he looked pretty good," Gibbons said. "He looked confident, and he was doing what he does. A lot of times you'll see those guys, first-time opportunity, they're too juiced up and they come out there and overthrow balls."
Between Double-A New Hampshire and Buffalo this past season, Lawrence posted a 51 percent ground-ball rate, and he typically relies on quality strike-zone control with just 1.7 walks per nine innings through his Minor League career.
"His pitches were doing what they do. He looked like he belonged, it felt like he belonged," Gibbons said. "And if he's getting ground balls, that's a pretty good sign."
Toronto's rotation depth went largely untested throughout the 2016 season as the team used just seven starters, and Francisco Liriano, the seventh of the group, was added by choice via trade.
With the Blue Jays now scheduled to reach their seventh starter on April 22, their remaining secondary options in the Triple-A rotation include a pair of left-handers in T.J. House and Brett Oberholtzer and veteran journeyman Jarrett Grube.
Happ throws for first time since Sunday
Happ threw 20 pitches from 60 feet prior to Thursday's game. The team does not believe Happ will miss significant time as he deals with left elbow inflammation, but no date has been given for his return. He is first eligible to be activated from the disabled list on April 27.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.