BRADENTON, Fla. — Finally healthy after a three-year battle with injuries, right-hander Gavin Floyd turned in a solid start for the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday in a 10-8 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Justin Smoak hit a towering solo home run for the Blue Jays. The ball rode a light breeze and cleared the concourse in right-centre field.
Floyd worked two innings and gave up one run on two hits. He walked one and struck out two.
The 33-year-old Floyd had Tommy John surgery in 2013. While working his way back, he twice snapped a bone in his elbow.
"I expect to attack, but that wasn’t the case today," Floyd said. "I’ll make adjustments and start making quality pitches. I knew I was going to be amped up. The longer you’re out there, the more you calm down."
Floyd has pitched a total of 21 games in the majors over the last three seasons with the White Sox, Braves and Indians. He has a shot to make Toronto’s rotation, but could end up in the bullpen.
"I want to be a starter. That’s my comfort zone," he said. "I’m treating this as a spring when I’m getting ready for the season. It’s all going to play out. Whether I’m in the bullpen of the starting rotation, I’m just glad to be back."
Mike Morse’s RBI double gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
The Blue Jays put six straight runners on base with two outs in the second and scored four runs off Pirates newcomer Jon Niese. Michael Saunders hit a two-run single.
Niese worked two innings and gave up four runs on five hits. He was acquired in December in a trade that sent 2B Neil Walker to the New York Mets.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who will fill either the No. 4 or 5 spot in the rotation, tossed two scoreless innings. He struck out two.
"Felt pretty good," Vogelsong said. "I’ll take it. A good way to start."
Blue Jays reliever Pat Venditte, a switch-pitcher, faced two switch-hitters in a perfect sixth inning.
Venditte uses a six-fingered glove that allows him to switch arms on the fly without getting a different mitt. In 2008, MLB passed the "Venditte rule," which mandates switch-pitchers must first visually signal which arm their use against a switch-hitter, who then can choose which way to bat.
Venditte indicated he’d throw lefty against Josh Bell and Pedro Florimon, who both chose to hit from the right side. Bell flied out to centre and Florimon grounded out. The inning ended when Venditte got Reese McGuire, a lefty hitter, to roll out.
"We really want to see how he is against lefties," manager John Gibbons said. "We know we can use him a lot because he throws with both arms."
The Blue Jays picked up Venditte, 30, off waivers from Oakland in the off-season. He had a 4.40 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 26 outings (28 2/3 innings) for the A’s.
"From what we see this spring, we’ll get a better idea of who he is," Gibbons said. "We’ve got to watch his stuff. It’s getting later in camp and hitters are starting to get their timing down. He’s got a different arm angle, down a little bit. He’s not extreme like some guys, but it’s a different look and hitters don’t always like that. So, we’ll see."
IF AT THIRD …
The Pirates are exploring their options in case third baseman Jung Ho Kang (leg surgery) is not ready by opening day. Jason Rogers started at third against the Blue Jays.
In the first inning, Rogers was slow to react to Matt Dominguez’s slow roller and it went for an infield single.
Rogers, who was traded to Pittsburgh in December, played outfield and first base with the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s appeared in only three games in the majors at third.
"It’s something I work on every day, trying to get the footwork down," Rogers said. "It’s all about preparation."
The Pirates are intrigued by Rogers’ bat — he hit .286 with four homers in 94 games with the Brewers — which could make him a valuable bench player.
Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ, who signed a three-year, $36 million deal in the off-season, will start on Friday against Baltimore. The Orioles will start RHP Vance Worley, who was Happ’s teammate last season in Pittsburgh.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano, who went 12-7 with a 3.28 ERA last season, will make his first spring start on Friday against the Minnesota Twins. Closer Mark Melancon and free-agent pickup Neftali Feliz also are scheduled to pitch.