DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays sound like they’re closing in on a decision between Aaron Sanchez and Gavin Floyd for the fifth starter’s spot with spring training’s finish line approaching.
"We pretty much know what it is," manager John Gibbons said of his rotation after Thursday’s 6-4 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Asked if that meant they’d settled on No. 5, Gibbons answered: "No. But we got a pretty good idea – well … no."
Floyd is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game Friday but Sanchez has made a very strong case for himself, winning some over with the changes to his physique and the gains in his repertoire during a boffo spring.
In 20 innings over five games, three starts, he’s allowed just three runs on 15 hits and three walks with 19 strikeouts. Floyd has been strong, too, allowing three runs on nine hits and three walks in 12.1 innings.
CHANGING SPEEDS: R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball ranged from 63-78 mph against the Tigers over his five innings of work and it was the way he managed to change speeds is what he was most pleased with.
"The one thing that’s tough in that situation is how do you not telegraph that it’s going to be a slow one, mechanically," he said. "My arm speed was still good on the slow one and I was able to generate enough arm-speed that they could not tell it was going to be a 63 instead of a 77 and 78 and that worked to my advantage. I probably could have done it four or five more times, but I just didn’t want to overexpose it at this point. I knew it was where I wanted it to be, so there was no use going to it too much."
Dickey surrendered four runs on eight hits, one of them a Nick Castellanos homer, but didn’t give up much solid contact. He struck out Justin Upton twice in three at-bats but was grinded hard by Jose Iglesias, who flew out, walked and singled in three pesky plate appearances.
"It’s like you’re playing a board game and you’re trying to figure out what’s the best strategy to get this really good player out and it’s a lot of fun," said Dickey. "He always gives me great at-bats, I always enjoy competing against him in particular because he’s got a good approach and he’s not overly aggressive and he’ll take his bullets the other way, so it’s like a chess match. It makes spring enjoyable."
Manager John Gibbons is impressed with the knuckleballer’s work.
"This is probably the best I’ve seen him in spring training in the four years," he said.
THOLE ADJUSTS: Josh Thole reworked his spring over the off-season but last week made an adjustment, no longer starting with bat pointed forward, but keeping his hands at the same angle.
Thole said the Julio-Franco-esque bat tilt "helped me find the angle where my hands need to be. I’m still making this move, essentially, but it’s just shorter. I found it more consistent with the same amount of power. It’s just a minor adjustment, but now I feel like I understand the moves I need to make."