TORONTO -- Whether it's because of injuries, ineffectiveness or maybe even trades, you can't figure to go an entire season with just five starting pitchers.
Since they affiliated with the Buffalo Bisons in 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays have bucked that trend and have mostly done exactly that. But fate caught up to them this year and their lack of pitching depth at the top rung of the minor leagues has absolutely been an issue.
Nick Tepesch (who?) got the call to Rogers Centre Wednesday night after making just three appearances with the Herd. Tepesch, who made 39 starts for Texas in 2013-2014 and got one in for Minnesota this season, was uninspiring to say the least against the New York Yankees. He gave up three solo home runs in 4 1/3 innings and was charged with six runs in the Jays' 11-5 loss.
Chris Rowley, the former U.S. Military Academy pitcher, is probably the Buffalo hurler most deserving of a shot here on merit. It seems like he'll get that chance Saturday against Pittsburgh.
The Yankees evened the series at a win apiece even though Masahiro Tanaka walked a career-high five and didn't survive the fifth with a 6-2 lead. Frazier went 3 for 4 and scored four runs while first baseman Garrett Cooper went 4 for 5 as the bottom of the order did the major damage in a 17-hit attack.
Tepesch got taken deep back-to-back in the second by Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier and gave up a 423-foot bomb in the third to Didi Gregorius, the longest in the Yankees' shortstop's career.
"They took advantage of some pitches I left over the plate up in the zone and did a good job of hitting them," said Tepesch, 28. "I thought I was OK. Most of the time, solo home runs aren't going to hurt you. I gave up three tonight. I didn't think it was horrible but I didn't think it was great either."
At least he was honest. Manager John Gibbons said, "I don't see why not" when asked if Tepesch might get another chance. Really? Seeing roughly 1,200 feet of home run might be why, among other things. But seriously, there's not much Gibbons could say after running out his 11th starter of the season.
In 2015, the Blue Jays got 121 starts from four players (R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchison) and split 22 others between Aaron Sanchez and David Price. Their callups that year included a 4-0 mark from Marcus Stroman and some pretty good outings from prospect Daniel Norris.
Last year, they hardly needed any help. Stroman, Sanchez, Estrada, Dickey and J.A. Happ combined to make 152 of the 162 starts and trade deadline acquisition Francisco Liriano made eight others. That's just not reality.
Over the last five years, the Jays have futilely tried veterans like Esmil Rogers, Chien-Ming Wang, Ramon Ortiz and Mat Latos. They kept going to the well with a failed high draft pick in Ricky Romero. The only midseason revelation they've come up with is Stroman. Even Norris, who was a highly touted prospect, didn't get much accomplished here before he was sent to Detroit in the key 2015 David Price trade.
There has been nothing close to legitimate help for the rotation this year. Nothing like a prospect doing what Jaret Wright did for the Bisons in 1997, when he rocketed from Double-A through Buffalo and landed as the starter in Game Seven of the World Series for the Cleveland Indians.
The Jays have tried to keep some arms in Buffalo this year but the likes of T.J. House, Brett Oberholtzer and the departed Jarrett Grube have done little to inspire faith. Mike Bolsinger has had multiple chances in Toronto and done nothing with them. Luis Santos has a 3.87 ERA for the Herd but a 3-9 record due to awful run support. Cesar Valdez was supposed to start here Wednesday but landed on the DL and was replaced by Tepesch.
Rowley (3-4, 2.82) seems to be the best the Bisons have to offer. We'll see how that goes Saturday. Joe Biagini is back in Triple-A to be stretched out as a starter, which seems odd because his stuff has yet to translate to that role in two years in the big leagues.
The top two pitching prospects in the organization are at Double-A but neither Sean Reid-Foley (8-9, 4.44) nor Connor Greene (4-8, 4.89) have done a whole lot at New Hampshire to maintain their status. On the move is lefty Ryan Borucki (1-1, 0.43 in three starts at Double-A after going 6-5, 3.58 at Class A Dunedin).
Prior to Wednesday's game, Gibbons admitted he didn't know much about Tepesch. The Jays were simply rolling the dice.
"Let him run out there as long as you can," Gibbons said. "We're going to need at least one guy to go the rest of the season. Biagini comes back to be that second guy. Somebody can take advantage of it, we'll see what they can do the rest of the year."
Tepesch didn't take advantage Wednesday. Rowley appears to be the next man up with Biagini clearly in the hole after a couple more turns with the Herd.
We'll see next year if Borucki might be able to make the jump. Or if the Jays can find some veterans to fill in with the Bisons who could actually help them here. Major fail in that area in 2017. Again.