Pitching, not slugging, may drive Blue Jays in 2017

Pitching, not slugging, may drive Blue Jays in 2017

REGINA—Scoring runs has rarely been an issue for the Toronto Blue Jays the past several seasons, as Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have slugged it out with the best power hitters in the game and blasted a couple of the most memorable home runs in franchise history.But with at least one, perhaps both, of those marquee names playing elsewhere this season, the team’s recipe for success in 2017 may switch to preventing runs scored against them.Four of the five starters who spent the entire 2016 campaign with the team are expected to return, led by a solid one-two punch of ace Aaron Sanchez and 20-game winner J.A. Happ.Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano will likely round out the starting five.“We have one of the best starting rotations in baseball,” said outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was in Regina with teammates Devon Travis, Sanchez and Estrada as part of the Blue Jays’ Winter Tour.Article Continued BelowPerhaps overshadowed by the heavy hitters in the Jays’ lineup, the rotation was among the best in the major leagues in 2016 with the sixth-best combined earned-run average (3.92) and fourth-lowest opponents’ batting average (.242).“There was so much speculation last year of that group being the question mark for the team. I think we surpassed that and then some,” said Sanchez, who helped lead the Jays to an 89-73 record and a second consecutive appearance in the American League Championship Series. “We lost R.A. (Dickey)… but we have (Francisco) Liriano stepping in and he was filthy for us down the stretch last year. If we can keep our five starters healthy then I think there’s a good chance we get back to where we were last year.”And Pillar felt the ultra-competitive American League East has shifted somewhat to a pitching-dominant division with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello in Boston to square off against the Jays’ solid quintet.

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