Blue Jays notebook: Jenkins has to ‘earn it’

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Chad Jenkins. (Frank Gunn/CP)
April 26, 2014, 2:07 PM

Chad Jenkins is back with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he knows he must earn every appearance he gets. The 26-year-old right-hander will have to perform to keep his roster spot.

“I don’t think I ever feel like I belong,” he said on the field before Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. “This is the big leagues. This is the highest of the high, so you’ve got to earn it. For me, every time out is a chance to earn it and show that I can play here, not so much that I belong.”

Jenkins, a 2009 first round pick who had stints with Toronto in 2012 and 2013, attempts to induce contact with his sinker and keep the ball in the park.

“Earlier in my career I tried to blow it past people, and I learned real fast that I can’t do it,” he said.

That approach served him well in triple-A this year. In eight games for the Buffalo Bisons, he posted a 2.30 ERA with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

To create roster space for Jenkins, the Blue Jays optioned Neil Wagner to Buffalo. The move gives the Blue Jays four long relievers, including Jenkins, J.A. Happ, Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond.

“They’re our best guys,” said manager John Gibbons, explaining that the relievers could also be used in shorter stints.

While each reliever has his strengths, carrying an eight-man bullpen limits the Blue Jays’ bench. Adam Lind could start a rehab assignment next week, and once he returns, there won’t necessarily be room for Juan Francisco’s powerful left-handed bat. Still, with Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow averaging fewer than five innings per start, the Blue Jays have had to rely heavily on their ‘pen.

The Blue Jays nearly recalled Jenkins earlier in the season, but they weren’t allowed to promote him so soon after optioning him to triple-A.

JANSSEN TO THROW SIDE: There’s no timeline for the return of Casey Janssen, who will throw a bullpen Sunday for the first time in nearly two weeks. Janssen, on the disabled list with a back and abdominal injury, won’t be pitching at full strength yet. Still, he believes he’s moving in the right direction.

“Hopefully there’s no looking back,” he said.

If Janssen completes a couple of bullpen sessions, the next logical step would be a rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues. Yet there’s no target date for Janssen’s return, since he wants to be fully healthy before coming back.

“You don’t want to let the team down by figuring it out up here,” he said.

That being said, there’s some frustration at having to watch from the sidelines.

“Never did I imagine that I would be sitting here in late April not having thrown a pitch,” he said.

DAY OFF: Edwin Encarnacion got the day off Saturday with Francisco batting cleanup in his place. It’s just a routine day of rest for Encarnacion, who’s expected to return to the lineup Sunday.

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