CLEARWATER, Fla. –Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell confirmed that Dustin McGowan will start the season on the disabled list Saturday, but left the rest of the team’s starting rotation up in the air.
Asked when that would be finalized, he replied: “Probably before we get on the plane to get out of here. We’ve got the last starts to make that further evaluation. We’re still evaluating.”
The Blue Jays head north to Cleveland for Thursday’s season opener against the Indians following their spring finale in Dunedin on Tuesday.
Both Kyle Drabek and Aaron Laffey, the two candidates remaining to fill in for McGowan as he recovers from plantar fasciitis, are scheduled to pitch behind Henderson Alvarez in that contest against Detroit.
Key factors at play in the Blue Jays’ calculations are the three off-days they have over the first three weeks of the season, and how after the first two series of 2012, they won’t need a fifth starter again until April 21.
Farrell said the team is “likely to go down to four starters” after the initial stretch and the off-days that follow would still provide the starters with additional rest, something the Blue Jays did last year and would like to repeat this year.
“When we can, yes, we’d look to give the extra rest,” said Farrell. “But when you look at the schedule, we’ve got multiple off days. We don’t want Ricky pitching on the seventh day. I think an extra day is good, two extra days starts to affect their overall feel and command.”
One scenario is for Laffey, who has 126 big-league games and 49 starts under his belt, to pitch April 10 or 11 versus Boston and then move to the bullpen until the 21st, when it’s possible McGowan would be ready to slot back in, depending on his recovery.
Issues there include adding Laffey to the 40-man roster, and two rough outings in his final two starts of the spring.
Another possibility is for Drabek to make the start, return to the minors to get another start in, and then come back on the 21st if McGowan isn’t ready. In the interim, the Blue Jays could give the roster spot to another position player or reliever.
McGowan’s timeline is uncertain, as the Blue Jays intend to be extra cautious with him.
“The foot continues to feel better but we’re going to make sure that every symptom is out of there because he admits he started to alter his arm slot when the foot issue started to emerge,” said Farrell. “That begins to get into a dangerous area, and we’re not going to risk anything along those lines.”
RICKY READY: The 37-minute rain delay that cut short Ricky Romero’s final outing of the spring Saturday afternoon in an 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t prevent the ace left-hander from getting his work in.
Romero threw two simulated innings indoors while the rain fell, joking that he was following the lead of former teammate Roy Halladay, who started for the Phillies, in calling it a day.
“The first thing I asked was if Halladay was done, because if he’s done than I’m done,” Romero said with a grin. “He knows what he’s doing a little bit. Obviously he was in there finishing off in the cage and you don’t want to push it too much right now. I’m healthy, the arm feels great, it happens to be bad weather, but it’s a good way to end it.”
Romero went six-up, six-down in his two innings of work with two strikeouts, saying afterwards it was “the best I’ve felt all spring … I was sharp with every pitch, just right where I wanted to finish.”
His next outing will come in the season-opener Thursday at Cleveland.
Solo shots from Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, plus a two-run blast by Luis Valbuena, paced the Blue Jays as they pushed their club-record spring wins total to 24, against five losses and a tie.
They host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, with Adam Lind (back) scheduled to make his return to the lineup after a full day of baseball activities Saturday.
COLBY’S SPRING: Colby Rasmus went 0-for-3 Saturday, dropping his average this spring down to .184, but manager John Farrell isn’t concerned.
Asked to describe his centre-fielder’s spring, he replied: “I would say it’s solid. I don’t think he’s really hit his stride offensively, where he’s a dominant force. I think he has the potential to be kind of a streaky hitter, but at the same time I think we’re seeing a much improved swing, better at-bats against left-handers. I think everyone’s reference point with Colby is last year after the trade. His at-bats have been much more consistent throughout the course of spring training.”