Villanueva was supposed make one more outing before the end of the year, but instead that assignment will go to rookie Chad Jenkins. The reasons behind the move were partially because of Villanueva's high volume of innings thrown this season, plus the club's desire to get another look at Jenkins.
The decision was made against Villanueva's wishes, but the veteran right-hander said he was still understanding of manager John Farrell's line of thinking.
"We've been talking about it the last couple days," said Villanueva, who is 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA this season. "Obviously I'm a competitor, I want to be out there, but with the long season and the last three games not meaning anything for [Minnesota], for us, regardless of playoff contention, they said they want to get another look at Jenkins and I'm board with that."
Villanueva is set to enter free agency at the end of the year, and it has become more apparent with each passing week that he's unlikely to return. The 28-year-old served as a swing man with the Blue Jays, and has spent each of the past two years in both the bullpen and starting rotation.
An opportunity to earn a full-time starting job is Villanueva's top priority for the offseason, and that appears to be something Toronto is reluctant to guarantee. GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have both displayed at least some level of skepticism that Villanueva would be able to handle the rigours of a full season in that role.
Villanueva has never thrown more than 125 1/3 innings in a season, but his ability to step in following a series of injuries to Toronto's rotation helped solidify the Blue Jays' staff.
"I'm comfortable," Villanueva said of his stance heading into free agency. "When the season started, obviously we were in different circumstances. I had an opportunity in the middle of the season and I feel like I took advantage of it. ... Hopefully I will get a chance to start.
"I have trust in my agent that he is going to do a good job with the situation. For me, I worry about the part that I can control, which is going out here and prepare myself and do the best I can."