Blue Jays could go young in rotation with Drew Hutchinson, Marcus Stroman

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With J.A. Happ struggling and reportedly dealing with back issues, the number of openings in the Toronto rotation has increased from one to two. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, Drew Hutchinson is now looking like a good bet for one of those spots, with Happ, 2012 first-round pick Marcus Stroman, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers in the mix for the other.

Stroman’s inclusion would be quite the surprise, even after his excellent performance last season in Double-A (9-5, 3.30 ERA, 129/27 K/BB in 111 2/3 innings) quieted those who doubted he’d make it as a starter. However, GM Alex Anthopoulos said service time won’t be an issue delaying his arrival and that he’s prepared to pick the best five.

Hutchinson likewise figured to open the season in the minors after returning from Tommy John surgery late last year, but he’s turned some heads with his performance this spring.

“He’s off to a great start, he’s definitely opened some eyes, he’s a strong candidate to make the rotation but he’s got to make it. But I love what I see,” Anthopoulos said.

Given the Jays’ struggles the last couple of years, Anthopoulos probably can’t afford to be particularly concerned with delaying arbitration and free agency eligibility with his prospects. If Stroman looks like one of the five best starters, it’s worth carrying him. After all, Anthopoulos isn’t likely to be around for the bill coming due unless the team starts to turn it around.

Report: José Ramírez diagnosed with knee contusion

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Indians third baseman José Ramírez had to be carted off the field in the top of the third inning of Sunday afternoon’s Cactus League game agaisnt the White Sox. Ramírez fouled a pitch off of his leg during an at-bat against pitcher Sean Nolin.

MLB.com’s Mandy Bell reports that Ramírez was diagnosed with a left knee contusion after he was taken for X-rays. The X-rays were negative, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Ramírez, 26, finished third in AL MVP Award voting last season, batting .270/.387/.552 with 39 home runs, 105 RBI, 110 runs scored, and 34 stolen bases across 698 plate appearances. He was worth 7.9 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. If Ramírez lands on the injured list, that would obviously be a huge loss for the Indians, despite being the overwhelming favorites in the AL Central entering the season.

The Indians will already start the season without second baseman Jason Kipnis and shortstop Francisco Lindor, though both are expected to return before the end of April. The infield is in rough shape at the moment.