DUNEDIN, Fla. – J.P. Arencibia will catch opening day and share duties handling R.A. Dickey with Henry Blanco, Brett Lawrie will open the season on the disabled list, while Anthony Gose, Josh Thole, Brad Lincoln and Dave Bush were all re-assigned on a busy Monday morning for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Catcher Mike Nickeas was also told he’s not making the club but will travel to Philadelphia for exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Phillies before finding a minor-league home.
Combined, all the moves provided some roster clarity for the Blue Jays heading into training camp’s final days, with Brett Cecil seemingly assured a spot on the team and Lawrie’s DL stint likely opening a spot, at least for a few days, for either the out-of-options Jeremy Jeffress or J.A. Happ, who’s pushing to bump Ricky Romero from the rotation amid Alex Anthopoulos’s protestations that, “we have our five starters.”
Still, Romero is scheduled to make what could be an important outing Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Happ is slated to throw Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte. Jeffress is also scheduled to pitch in that one, a performance that could determine his fate one way or another.
The only other question at this point appears to be whether closer Casey Janssen will be ready in time, although signs seem to be pointing in that direction.
Cecil, meanwhile, is slated to throw an inning in Philadelphia and logic suggests that if he wasn’t in the team’s plans, the left-hander wouldn’t make that trip.
There was little surprise in Blanco beating out Thole for the backup catcher’s job, as from the moment he signed back in January, the Blue Jays planned on having him on the club given his defensive reputation and history with Dickey. But word that he’d share duties with Arencibia was new, a decision made based on the everyday catcher’s work with Dickey on the American World Baseball Classic team.
“He did such a nice job, they’ll both catch him,” said manager John Gibbons. “To be honest with you I thought J.P. might have a hard time with him never having caught a knuckleball, it made sense then. But he’s done a good job and all the reports we got and everything we saw, Henry won’t strictly be his guy, they’ll both catch him.”
That will also open up the opportunity for Blanco to work with each of the club’s starters, a useful by-product of the shift. Less positive was the decision on Lawrie, whose DL stint will be backdated and mean he could miss only four games.
“We’re not going to be able to get him in enough games before the season starts to feel comfortable with it,” Gibbons said of the decision.
As for who plays, it will likely be a platoon of Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis.
“We’ll go according to what bat we want in there,” said Gibbons.
Gose, Thole, Lincoln and Bush are all bound for triple-A Buffalo.
Bush will start for the Bisons, Lincoln, slowed by shoulder inflammation, was slated to pitch in a minor-league Monday and will be in the bullpen, with Thole sharing the catching duties with Nickeas and Gose playing centre field.