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The Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation was a cause of much concern before this season.

Would Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez recapture the solid form that helped turn them into the dependable one-two punch they once represented? Could Matt Shoemaker shake off the injury woes that have stifled his productivity over the past couple of seasons.

And just who the heck is Trent Thornton?

The 25-year-old Pittsburgh native was just another name, an obscure minor-leaguer to mostly everybody except his parents – and perhaps Toronto general manager Ross Atkins, who obtained him in an off-season trade with the Houston Astros for infielder Aledmys Diaz.

But on Sunday, in his major-league pitching debut at Rogers Centre, Thornton took some serious strides to making himself better known. And the rest of the rotation has answered some questions, too.

Unfortunately for Thornton and the 20-to-25 family and friends he invited to the game, his impressive effort was undermined by yet another so-so outing by Toronto’s hitters. The Detroit Tigers, after blowing a late three-run lead, regrouped to win 4-3 in extra innings.

The rebuilding Blue Jays split their opening regular-season series 2-2 against the Tigers, with two of the games requiring extra innings.

The Blue Jays have an opportunity to pad their early record, welcoming the Baltimore Orioles – mostly everyone’s pick to be bottom-feeders this season – for a three-game set, beginning Monday.

Detroit won it in the 11th inning when Nicholas Castellanos singled to centre off reliever Thomas Pannone, which scored Grayson Greiner from third.

The Blue Jays could have won it an inning earlier, in the 10th, with Richard Urena perched at second base with two out for pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis.

Galvis lashed a hit that Detroit shortstop Jordy Mercer did well just to knock down in shallow left field.

As Mercer scrambled to pick up the loose ball, Urena decided to run through the stop sign of Toronto third-base coach Luis Rivera and try for home. From his knees, Mercer made a great one-hop throw home and Urena was out by a wide margin.

“That’s not the first time or the last time that’s going to happen,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said afterward when asked about the play. “He ran through a stop sign … but that happens.”

The second baseman otherwise had a good day, totalling three of Toronto’s eight hits, including two doubles.

After surrendering a leadoff single to Jeimer Candelario, Thornton did not look nervous on the big-league mound and struck out the side.

And when he fanned Christin Stewart to begin the second, he became the first Toronto pitcher in franchise history to record his first four major-league outs as strikeouts.

Thornton held the Tigers off the scoreboard for five innings with eight strikeouts, setting another franchise mark for most strikeouts by a pitcher in his major-league debut.

With the five innings of shutout ball, the Blue Jays’ starters – Stroman, Shoemaker, Sanchez and now Thornton – have combined for 24 innings without allowing a run, a franchise record to begin a season. They’re the first team to reach that plateau since the 1994 Atlanta Braves’ starters put up 25 runless frames.

“That’s the reason we’ve been in every game – pitching and defence,” Montoyo said. “And I feel really good about it.”

The Blue Jays have uncovered another pitching gem in 19-year-old Elvis Luciano, the game’s first major-leaguer to be born this century.

Selected from Kansas City in the Rule 5 draft during the winter meetings, Luciano also became the Blue Jays youngest-ever pitcher (19 years, 44 days) when he entered the game against Detroit in the seventh inning after Detroit had secured a 3-0 lead.

And he fared well over the next 1 1/3 innings, allowing no runs off one hit, one strikeout and one walk.

“I feel very good about it and very proud of myself,” the Dominican Republic-native said through a translator. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I was anxious because I really wanted to do the best I could for the team.”​

The Blue Jays appeared prepared to go down meekly after Detroit scored three runs off the Toronto bullpen in the seventh inning for a 3-0 lead.

The Jays entered the game hitting a collective .165 and their bats remained in hibernation, with just two hits through seven innings off Detroit starter Matt Moore.

But Rowdy Tellez got things rocking for the home side in the eighth, entering the game as a pinch hitter and then cranking a three-run home run off Detroit reliever Joe Jimenez that tied things up.

Where the Blue Jays rotation goes from is anyone’s guess.

Montoyo said Sunday that Clayton Richard, who was to make his Toronto debut on Monday against Baltimore, will miss at least that start after coming down with right-knee soreness.

The Blue Jays are not sure how serious the injury is. In the meantime, they’ve dipped into their Triple-A roster and recalled Sean Reid-Foley, who will take the mound Monday.

This will be old-hat for Foley. The 23-year-old made seven starts for the Blue Jays last season, finishing with a 2-4 record and 5.13 earned-run average in 33 1/3 innings.

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