By Mike Harrington
The Buffalo Bisons' strength out of the gate in 2014 is going to be the starting rotation and that's an easy call for any modest observer of the Toronto Blue Jays' system. Things started to crystallize Sunday as the Jays sent lefty Sean Nolin and righties Kyle Drabek and Chad Jenkins to their minor-league camp to get them ready to open the season with the Herd.
Nolin, 24, spent most of last season with Double-A New Hampshire and was 8-3, 3.01 in 17 starts while pitching for new Bisons manager Gary Allenson. Nolin was named an Eastern League mid-season all-star and earned an August promotion to the Bisons (1-1, 1.53 in three starts).
Drabek, 26, spent 2013 on the mend from Tommy John surgery that he had in 2012. He reached Buffalo in mid-August and 1-2, 3.77 in four games (three starts). Drabek was then promoted to the Blue Jays, where he allowed two runs in three relief appearances. Drabek was 4-7, 4.67 in 13 starts for the Blue Jays in 2012 before suffering his elbow injury during a June start against Washington.
Jenkins, 26, pitched for New Hampshire, Toronto and the Bisons last season. He was 1-0, 2.70 in 33.1 innings for the Blue Jays while going 0-3, 7.48 in five June starts for Buffalo.
The biggest prize awaiting the Bisons is top Toronto prospect Marcus Stroman, the Jays' No. 1 pick in 2012. He remains in big-league camp fighting for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Stroman went 9-5, 3.30 in 20 starts last year at New Hampshire.
The Bisons will likely have their first workout in Buffalo on April 1. The home and season opener is April 3 at 2:05 against Rochester in Coca-Cola Field.