NEW YORK – Counting on Adam Lind and Brett Cecil to make quick recoveries from minor injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays optioned reliever Steve Delabar – an all-star in 2013 – to triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday to make room for infielder Munenori Kawasaki.
The surprising move came after a complex set of deliberations that stretched over two days as GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons debated the different options at their disposal.
They landed on demoting Delabar, whose inconsistencies this season have dropped him down the bullpen pecking order, while bringing up Kawasaki to buy time for Lind, who is hoping to DH on his bruised foot Wednesday, and Cecil, whose groin troubles should be in the past.
“I’m the guy who has options,” he said. “We had to make a roster move and I’m just the guy. They want me to go down, continue to work on some stuff, get back on track to where I was and just be back whenever they need me.”
The machinations of the AL East leaders came ahead of a series opener in New York against the second-place Yankees, and stirred the latest debate over the club’s roster construction.
Avoiding a DL stint for both Cecil and Lind, who was walking gingerly Tuesday although was said to be making progress, is clearly preferable. But with a potentially significant swing in the standings possible either way this week in the Bronx, even if it’s only mid-June, the Blue Jays need to be at their best, and a reasonable case could be made for putting Lind on the DL and calling up someone like first baseman Dan Johnson, who’s been red hot for the Bisons of late.
“We think Lind is that close,” said Anthopoulos. “I say days, but I know if you ask Adam he thinks he might be able to DH (Wednesday). We'll find out (Wednesday) but I think we also need to have the infield (help) and the fact that Kawasaki can play both the infield and the outfield, he protects us.
“Dan is more of a first base/DH and we have a lot of those guys that can certainly fill that role. Having that versatility in the infield is pretty important for us, we have Juan (Francisco) that can obviously do that right now. And, again, it looks to be very short term.”
Also waiting in the wings with Buffalo on a rehabilitation assignment is Colby Rasmus, and Anthopoulos said the timing of his return is discussed after each game the centre-fielder plays with the Bisons.
“Obviously he’s very close,” said Anthopoulos.
Combined with the fact the GM doesn’t want to put any extra onus on this series, the Blue Jays feel they can afford to take their time on all fronts.
“We tend to forget, I know we keep saying it, but there's so many games left, who we play today in a three-game series is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things,” said Anthopoulos. “Sure, it’s AL East, you want to win, but I don't make any more of this series than I would, important series is in September if we're in the hunt.”
For Delabar, who had back-to-back scoreless appearances of one inning after rough performances in four of five outings, he’ll get extra opportunity to regain his all-star form with the Bisons.
While roster management made him the odd man out, the Blue Jays would like to see him “iron it out a little bit,” in the words of Gibbons.
“Some steady work I think will do wonders for him,” he added. “I thought he looked much better than he had in Baltimore (Thursday) night, but he’s been battling it. The only way he’s going to get that is to go down and do it. So it kind of all came together at the right time.”
Delabar said he thought such a move was a possibility a few weeks ago but the timing caught him off-guard because he’d been better the past few outings. His ERA is 4.68 in 29 games and his walks per nine innings are up to 5.8 while his strikeouts per nine are down to 7.6.
Still, he’s not shaken.
“I know what I’m capable of doing and how I can help this team,” he said. “So I know that I will be back and I’ll be here to help.”