Toronto Blue Jays: J.A. Happ looking to justify John Gibbons’ faith


J.A. Happ will get his first career opening day start, as the Toronto Blue Jays announce their official rotation for the beginning of the 2018 season.

Since joining the Majors in 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays have had 24 different starters on opening day. When they face the New York Yankees on Mar. 29, that number will increase to 25.

As reported by Sportsnet‘s Arash MadaniJ.A. Happ will take to the mound on opening day. It will be his first ever start on opening day.

The Jays’ opening day starter has been pretty much a revolving door since the late, great Roy Halladay took the ball for the seventh and final time to begin the season in 2009. Dave Stieb is second, with four career opening day starts for the Blue Jays, followed by Jimmy Key, with three.

As you’d expect, Happ is “honoured” to get the opening day start. Manager John Gibbons discussed the decision, as reported by Sportsnet‘s Ben-Nicholson Smith:

"“Happ, since we’ve brought him back, he’s really, really been good,” Gibbons said. “He’s just a reliable guy. He’s going to go out there and nine times out of 10 he’s going to give you a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for. He’s really turned into a good workhorse for us. He’s one of those guys you look forward to the days he pitches.”"

Not that long ago, the thought of Happ starting on opening day would have been an underwhelming proposition for a lot of fans. However, just two seasons ago he had a career year with 32 starts, 20 wins and 195.0 innings pitched, which resulted in him finishing sixth in the Cy Young voting.

Last season was nowhere near as impressive for the 35-year-old. In fairness to him though, the team as a whole struggled and it wasn’t as if he was terrible.

Regardless, that Happ has been named opening day starter, is mainly down to Marcus Stroman‘s shoulder inflammation. The official starting rotation will be as follows:

While the Blue Jays want to give Stroman as much time as possible to be ready, it is no accident he is fourth in the rotation. This was done, so he will still be able to pitch in the opening four-game series against the Yankees.

More from Toronto Blue Jays

Further, it is worth noting the rotation will likely not remain in its current order. The first such opportunity to change things around will come on the Jays’ first off day on Apr. 5, with a second one scheduled for Apr. 12.

Of course, any changes will be influenced by how healthy the Jays’ pitchers are. Last year’s preferred rotation only made 117 of a possible 162 starts, including 59 quality starts.

The season before, the Jays were remarkably healthy on the mound. The preferred rotation made 152 starts out of a possible 162, including 93 quality starts.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation is arguably the key to their ability to be genuine contenders for the postseason in 2018. And Happ will go first, as he looks to prove he is as reliable as Gibbons says he is.

Next: Who is Danny Espinosa?

How much importance do you place in the opening day starter; none, some or a lot? As for Happ specifically, what kind of season are you predicting for him in the Toronto Blue Jays’ rotation? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.