BOSTON – Chad Jenkins is set to become the ninth different starter and 22nd pitcher overall used by the Toronto Blue Jays this season when he starts Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.
The 25-year-old right-hander was recalled from double-A New Hampshire on Saturday morning as Rajai Davis was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain and Brandon Morrow was pushed back in the rotation a second time, now to Wednesday.
The continuing trip down the depth chart – they’re only 38 games in and already last year’s club record of 34 pitchers doesn’t look that far away – comes with the Blue Jays trying to recover from a poor start to the season.
Jenkins has made just one minor-league start this year after beginning the year on the disabled list with a lat strain – throwing 65 pitches, 42 strikes while holding New Britain to two runs on three hits and a walk over five innings – and figures he’s good for a similar workload Sunday.
“The manager called me in the office (Friday) night and was like, ‘Hey, you’re going back up.’ To be honest, I was pretty surprised,” Jenkins, a first-rounder in 2009, said after checking in at Fenway Park. “I threw really well in extended (spring training) and had a really good start the other night, so I feel like I’m prepared.”
Morrow, who suffered back and neck spasms on Tuesday, had hoped to be ready to start Sunday after being pushed back from Friday, but realized while playing catch with pitching coach Pete Walker on Saturday morning that wasn’t going to happen.
An MRI exam Friday in Dunedin, Fla., showed no structural damage, but stiffness in his neck remains and hasn’t eased enough for him to take the mound.
“At this point it looks like I’m probably going to go Wednesday,” he said. “I came in this morning with the intention of pitching tomorrow but throwing, everything felt OK, I could go out there and pitch, but I don’t think it would be real effective. …
“It’s a big difference from just feeling good walking around, to throwing a baseball.”
Should Morrow indeed start Wednesday, the Blue Jays won’t have to plug a hole in their rotation until May 18 in New York, giving them some time to decide between Jenkins (whom they wanted to build up in the minors more before his return to the majors) or Friday’s spot-starter, Ramon Ortiz.
They’ll also get the flexibility to add another position player for Tuesday’s series opener against the World Series champion San Francisco Giants with off-days set for Monday and Thursday. Possibilities on that front could be infielder Jim Negrych or outfielder Anthony Gose from triple-A Buffalo.
With Morrow in place, the Blue Jays have just three of their five starters from opening day. He feels good about his chances of pitching Wednesday.
“The way that it’s improved the last 24 hours, 48 hours, I think I should (be ready),” he said. “I’m going to try to get off the mound (Sunday for a bullpen session) and then get all my throwing in in between.
“That was another thing why pushing back to Wednesday makes sense. I really haven’t even moved since Tuesday. It’s just been coming in for treatment, sit down, watch the game and then go back and lie down. I haven’t played catch, I haven’t run, I haven’t really done anything.”
The injury, he said, started “more mid-back, it wasn’t lower,” and “it felt like I had a broomstick down my back when I was throwing. I rely a little bit more on rotation than a lot of guys in my mechanics. It just wasn’t working right.”
Davis, meanwhile, left Friday night’s 5-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox in the sixth inning after he seemed to tweak the problem while grounding out to short in the fourth. The issue has been bothering him since early in the week in Tampa Bay and nearly led to a DL stint then.
“It’s just nagging,” he said of the pain Friday night. “It’s not progressing like I would want it to.”