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The Blue Jays still need a fifth starter

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The Blue Jays’ Great Six-Man Rotation Experiment of 2016 has reached its natural end, and with it, the starting roles of Francisco Liriano and R.A. Dickey. The club is looking for one of the two to earn back their rotation spot as the season winds down, and with both Dickey and Liriano showing off their chops this weekend, it shouldn’t be difficult to cull the less-productive starter from the five-man rotation.

“Shouldn’t” is the operative word there, as Dickey’s start on Friday night was nothing less than flawless. After giving up 13 hits, four walks, and 10 runs over his last 10 innings pitched, Dickey tossed five frames of scoreless ball against the Angels, issuing one walk and striking out five in his 10th win of the year. It marked the seventh outing where Dickey has given up one or fewer runs, albeit not quite rising to the level of his eight-inning shutout back in May.

In most other respects, it’s been a down year for the 41-year-old. HIs 4.46 ERA is the highest it’s been in a full season since he pitched for the 2004 Rangers, and while his strikeouts are up by a full 3% in 2016, his walks and home runs have also shot up accordingly.

Liriano, likewise, is pitching through one of the worst seasons of his career, clocking in a -0.1 fWAR with a 5.36 ERA and a staggering 4.98 BB/9. He’s also pitching more to hard contact, with a 34.8% mark in 144 ⅔ innings, up 10 percentage points from a 24.3% hard contact rate with the Pirates in 2015.

Unlike Dickey, Liriano has already gained some experience out of the bullpen this season, to mixed results. He slotted in behind Marcus Stroman at the beginning of September, giving up a leadoff home run and RBI triple while failing to record an out in a 8-3 loss to the Rays. Against the Yankees, and covering for Dickey’s five-run meltdown, Liriano struck out three over two scoreless frames. He’s looked equally capable in a starting capacity, going 6 ⅓ innings during his last start with two runs, a walk, and six strikeouts.

While neither starter has produced outstanding results this season, they’ve both been solid enough over the last two weeks to make this a difficult decision for the Blue Jays. With two open spots left in Toronto’s schedule, one against the fourth-place Yankees and the other against the fellow wild card-contending Orioles, filling the No. 5 spot will depend heavily on how well Liriano handles the ball on Saturday.

Liriano is scheduled to make his next start against the Angels on Saturday at 9:05 PM EDT.

New York Yankees roster and schedule for 2020

Yankees roster and schedule
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The 2020 season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The New York Yankees roster and schedule:

YANKEES ROSTER (projected) 

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Yankees roster to begin the season:

Catchers

Gary Sánchez
Kyle Higashioka

Infielders:

Luke Voit
Mike Ford
DJ LeMahieu
Gio Urshela
Miguel Andújar
Gleyber Torres
Tyler Wade

Outfielders

Aaron Judge
Aaron Hicks
Giancarlo Stanton
Brett Gardner
Mike Tauchman

Starters

Gerrit Cole
Masahiro Tanaka
James Paxton
J.A. Happ
Jordan Montgomery
Jonathan Loaisiga

Relievers

Aroldis Chapman
Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa
Jonathan Holder
Tyler Lyons
David Hale


BREAKDOWN:

It’s weird to say this but the delay to the season due to the pandemic actually helped the Yankees a fair amount. Because of new injuries and extended rehab from older injuries, the very injured 2019 New York Yankees were poised to begin the regular season with many key players on the injured list, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton, among others. It’s not 100% clear if all of those guys will be back and at full strength when the club starts play next week, but Stanton and Paxton seem like a go right now and Judge and Hicks are ramping up.

Obviously the biggest change for 2020, though, is Gerrit Cole, the Yankees big free agent acquisition last winter. Adding arguably the game’s best starter will take a lot of pressure off of the other guys in the rotation and ease the workload of a bullpen that, however deep and talented it is, could still use a break here and there.

With health, hopefully, not the concern it was back in March or last year, we’re left with a Yankees team that (a) has one of the most loaded lineups in the game; (b) features a much-improved rotation with a clear and solid top-four; and (c) has fantastic bullpen talent and depth. Last year’s team, despite all of the injuries, won 103 games. This year’s team is considered the favorite in the American League and, by extension, in all of baseball.

YANKEES SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

Yankees home stands will be July 29-Aug. 2 (Phillies, Red Sox), Aug. 11-20 (Braves, Red Sox, Rays), Aug. 28-Sept. 2 (Mets, Rays), Sept. 10-17 (Orioles, Blue Jays) and Sept. 25-27 (Marlins). Their rivalry games against the Red Sox will be July 31-Aug. 2 (Yankee Stadium), Aug. 14-17 (Yankee Stadium) and Sept. 18-20 (Fenway Park). Rivalry games against the Mets will be played Aug. 21-23 (Citi Field) and Aug. 28-30 (Yankee Stadium).

The entire Yankees roster and schedule can be seen here.