Toronto Blue Jays rookie Yariel Rodriguez impressed in his first career start on Saturday and manager John Schneider liked what he saw, per Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic:

“Rodríguez brings an intensity to the mound — “He’s not scared,” Schneider said when asked about his in-game demeanor — and attacks hitters with his entire arsenal of pitches in any count. Despite feeling myriad emotions, Rodríguez said he was able to control them Saturday by focusing on executing his game plan. He mixed in his five pitches, though he leaned most heavily on his 95.5 mph four-seam fastball and 85.7 mph slider.

Rodríguez also dropped in his tricky hesitation delivery. It’s a maneuver he uses to mess up a hitter’s timing, including on his first career strikeout against Rockies shortstop Ezequiel Tovar, who whiffed at a slider on the edge of the strike zone in the first inning.”

After representing Cuba in last year’s World Baseball Classic, Rodriguez took the remainder of the year off from professional baseball and instead worked on preparing to transition to the big leagues. He established residency in the Dominican Republic and was declared an MLB free agent after the 2023 season.

The Blue Jays signed Rodriguez to a five-year, $32 million deal this offseason to boost their pitching depth in the short term and potentially develop a starting pitcher in the long term. Two weeks into the season, after Rodriguez’s hot start in the minor leagues, the Blue Jays turned to him to start the second game against the Rockies.

The 27-year-old right-hander allowed just one run over 3 2/3 innings in his Blue Jays debut.

Blue Jays rotation struggles

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Chris Bassitt (40) hands the ball to manager John Schneider during a pitching change in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park
© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the chief struggles for the Blue Jays has been their pitching; at present, they rank 23rd in the MLB in starting pitcher ERA, and that's thanks in large part to the strong starts Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi have had. Middle of the rotation starter Chris Bassitt then called out the Blue Jays rotation without sparing himself, urging them to get back on track given how little margin of error there is in the AL East.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m pretty disappointed in our starters so far. This is my third start and two of my starts were terrible, in my opinion, so I’m no help to the problem. The biggest thing for us is getting our starters going. I’m so confident in the guys we have, it’s just that the first 10 or 11 games have been pretty rough for us, outside of Berrios,” Bassitt said.

The beginning of 2024 has been rather dreadful for Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman. His surface-level stats are horrendous, as he has put up a 11.57 ERA in three starts (9.1 innings) this season.