BOSTON – The Toronto Blue Jays continue to benefit from the off-season deal that sent out-of-options right-hander Brad Lincoln to the Philadelphia Phillies, as left-hander Rob Rasmussen joined catcher Erik Kratz on the big-league roster Tuesday.
A converted starter, the 25-year-old from Pasadena, Calif., joins the bullpen as the third lefty behind Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup, and if he can prove effective at retiring left-handed batters, he’ll have some value for the club since there isn’t much depth in the organization on that front.
His stay is likely to be short – the Blue Jays will need a fifth starter Saturday and it’s sounding like it will be Liam Hendriks – but he has an opportunity to make an impression.
“Aaron and Brett have been unbelievable last season and this season, so I didn’t necessarily know when it was going to come, but I knew that that opportunity was there,” he said on the Fenway Park field before the series opener against the Boston Red Sox. “I’m glad it’s here right now.”
Rasmussen, who struck out 19 batters in 17 innings over 13 appearances at Buffalo, features a fastball that can touch 94 m.p.h. with a slider, curve and changeup. He’ll ride whatever is working in any given game.
A second-round pick of the Marlins in 2010, the Blue Jays are his fifth organization. The Los Angeles Dodgers traded him to the Phillies last August for Michael Young but he didn’t play a single game in their organization before he was flipped to the Blue Jays.
“Truthfully I’ve been traded quite a few times already in the past three years or so,” said Rasmussen. “You just kind of appreciate the team that you’re with, appreciate the opportunity that they’ve given you and, yes, my stay with the Phillies was short, but I can’t say that this hasn’t been an unbelievable trade for me to be able to get this opportunity, and get up here with the Blue Jays.”
Having started predominantly over the past four minor-league seasons, he feels the transition to the bullpen has become much smoother of late.
“I’m commanding the strike zone better … and I’m using my off-speed pitches a lot more than I have been,” said Rasmussen. “Becoming familiar with coming out of the bullpen has really helped me and (Bisons pitching coach) Randy St. Claire, he and I had some familiarity from my time with the Marlins, a lot of credit goes to him because he’s really helped me, too.”
FIFTH STARTER: Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said the decision on who fills Saturday’s vacancy in the rotation is down to Hendriks and Todd Redmond, with an announcement expected Wednesday.
“We’ll see how that all plays out and then (Marcus) Stroman, we’re going to build him back up. We’ll see, couple turns, how we’re doing,” said Gibbons. “Hendriks is stretched out, he’s been starting down there. That’s one reason it could be him. Red can do it, Red has thrown a lot but it has been kind of sporadically. So we’ll see.”
Hendriks has a 6.06 ERA in 30 games, 28 of them starts, over the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Twins but is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA in nine games, seven starts, at triple-A Buffalo.
“He’s pitching pretty good down there, so it might be good to give him a shot,” said Gibbons. “But, we’ll definitely know (Wednesday) I would think.”
Stroman, back in the Bisons rotation, allowed three runs over five innings in his first start since being optioned Tuesday.
“Eventually we’d like to get him up here to do that,” said Gibbons. “Whoever fits into that spot this weekend, we’ll see how they do too. If they’re good, we might run with them a little bit.”
INJURY UPDATES: Centre fielder Colby Rasmus went for an MRI Tuesday on his injured right hamstring that Gibbons described as “just precautionary.” Reliever Sergio Santos (forearm) is expected to resume throwing once the Blue Jays return from the road. “It won’t be long,” said Gibbons. “He said he’s feeling good, I know that.”