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Blue Jays ready to ramp up use of openers after strategy's early success

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TORONTO – Like so many major-league teams, the Toronto Blue Jays have tried out the opener this season.

To this point, they’ve used the strategy selectively, in 12 of their 127 games. But with five weeks remaining in the regular season, their usage of openers is about to ramp up.

Their starting rotation is young – no one is older than 25 – and inexperienced – Trent Thornton leads the group with 25 career starts. The Blue Jays want to make the transition to the majors as smooth as possible for these pitchers, and using an opener helps on that front. There’s no problem getting buy-in from this staff, either.

Plus, it’s working. In those 12 games, the Blue Jays are 9-3. Their openers have combined for a 3.64 ERA in 17.1 innings of work, striking out 19 hitters while walking just six.

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As the rest of the season unfolds, get used to watching openers on a regular basis.

"I do think there’s going to be more opportunities to use that strategy as we move forward," pitching coach Pete Walker said. "It’s only going to put us in a better position to win games. When you face one starter three times through, you get a good look at him, but the mix of looks and the different looks I think is important. If we have a good fit, we’ll do it. If it’s not a good fit we probably wouldn’t." WHAT IS THE OPENER?

First embraced by the 2018 Rays, the opener strategy challenges the long-held assumption that a starting pitcher should pitch deep into the game.


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