MONTREAL—With opening day around the corner, the Blue Jays plugged a hole in their starting rotation.
Trent Thornton will be the Jays’ fourth starter — with Ryan Borucki opening the year on the injured list — and make his major-league debut Sunday against the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Matt Shoemaker will pitch the first three games of the season, with left-hander Clayton Richard slotted in as the fifth man while Clay Buchholz continues to increase his workload.
Trent Thornton will make his big-league debut at 25, starting for the Jays against the Tigers on Sunday. (Mark Cunningham / Getty Images)
“It killed me yesterday, I couldn’t tell Trent,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of the decision. “He was in Florida, so somebody else did.”
Montoyo made the announcement Tuesday before Toronto’s pre-season finale against the Milwaukee Brewers. His decision to start Thornton before Richard was based purely on matchups against upcoming opponents. The Jays host Baltimore after their opening series with Detroit.
“Detroit is more right-hander heavy,” Montoyo said, “and the Orioles are not, so that’s why we’re doing it that way.”
Montoyo didn’t commit to moving the 25-year-old Thornton to the bullpen once Borucki returns from an elbow injury.
The Blue Jays acquired Thornton from the Houston Astros in the off-season for infielder Aledmys Diaz. Thornton went 9-8 with a 4.42 earned-run average at Triple-A Fresno last season. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Astros in 2015 and was ranked No. 24 in the Houston system at the time of the trade, per MLB Pipeline.
His last start came Saturday, when a Blue Jays split-squad beat the New York Yankees 7-3. He gave up a three-run homer to Gleyber Torres in the first inning but settled down after that, finishing with three earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks over 32/3 innings.
“He’s got the stuff to compete in the big leagues,” Montoyo said. “That game I saw against the Yankees, with a good lineup? I thought he was very good. It tells me that he’s ready to compete in the big leagues. It was just one start, but he’s got the stuff to do it.”
With the five-man rotation set, Montoyo will turn his attention to the bullpen. While pitcher Sam Gaviglio has also made the team, Thomas Pannone remains in the mix as well. Montoyo says he’ll keep the battle open for the remaining spots until the end of spring training.
Borucki, coming off a solid rookie season with Toronto in 2018, experienced elbow discomfort during spring training. Both Borucki and Ryan Tepera, also out with an injured elbow, played catch prior to Tuesday’s game.
Montoyo added that veteran reliever Bud Norris was scheduled to throw a bullpen session. He’s been on the mend with forearm fatigue.
“We don’t want to rush him,” Montoyo said. “We got to see how he’s doing. He could be two more bullpens, another game, we’ll see.”
Montoyo also announced that top prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. appears to ahead of schedule in his rehab from an oblique injury suffered in spring training.
“He’s swinging the bat now,” Montoyo said. “He’s ahead of schedule. He’s doing well.”
Buchholz and Tepera should be ready to join the big league club by mid-April, the manager added.
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