Buchholz looking to extend major-league comeback with Blue Jays

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo joins Baseball Central to explain why he has tinkered with his starting lineup every game so far, and why overall team pitching has been a pleasant surprise, and something to build off.

TORONTO — More elbow pain for Ryan Borucki, who received a cortisone shot Friday to ease inflammation in the area, means more flux ahead for a Toronto Blue Jays rotation set to be bolstered by Clay Buchholz’s season debut Saturday.

Borucki, shut down in the last week of spring training when he experienced tightness during a minor-league game, last threw a bullpen April 3 and experienced more pain afterwards. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks and his next steps will be determined from there.

“Just a mild setback we hope is what it is,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “The images are encouraging, that’s always a good sign, especially for a major-league pitcher. When you start to do images, it’s hard for things to look good. We were encouraged by the images so hopefully the cortisone injection will help.”

Borucki’s absence would seem to secure, at least for the time being, Trent Thornton’s spot in the rotation, something that would have been less certain with Buchholz suddenly in the mix.

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The 34-year-old, signed March 5 to a one-year, $3-million deal, is looking to extend his comeback from last season, when he posted a 2.01 ERA in 98.1 innings over 16 starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks after starting back up in the minor-leagues.

Though he finished last season on the injured list with a flexor strain in his right arm, he’s healthy now, the start to his season delayed only by his late signing and arrival in camp.

“I felt really good last year,” Buchholz said of reclaiming a big-league job. “It was a little different route than the one I envisioned taking. I swallowed a lot of pride to do the whole minor-league thing. After not doing it for eight, nine years, having to do bus rides and all that stuff was a little hard. I’m glad I did it. I learned from it.”

Still, he learned more from pitching alongside Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke, ultimately deciding to “try and mirror what he did because he had to evolve from being 95, 96, 97 when he was younger in Kansas City to being 89, 90, 91 and still punching out everybody.”

Buchholz was in a similar boat, the power pitcher from his early Boston Red Sox days eroded by age and injury. Averaging 90 m.p.h. now with his sinker and four-seamer, down from 95 a decade ago, he now works with a cutter, curveball and changeup, too.

Also, working in his favour is the determination he’s used to fight back from the injuries that have routinely sidetracked his career.

What’s kept him going?

“This is the only thing I’ve really done,” said Buchholz, whose only jobs outside of baseball were at a local school and as a waiter in a Mexican restaurant during his high school days. “I’m not going to quit. Anyone can go through struggles and just give up. That’s not how I’ve been moulded as a player growing up. You’ve got to know that everything is not going to be good every time out. You have to know how to learn from it and that evolving from more of a power guy with a couple of pitches to being able to finesse and do things a little bit differently to get it off the fat part of the bat. That’s how I’ve done it the last couple of years.”

NOTES: Ryan Tepera (elbow) began a rehabilitation assignment with a scoreless first inning in triple-A Buffalo’s 4-1 loss at Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He’s slated to pitch again for the Bisons on Sunday but Ross Atkins said it was possible he could rejoin the Blue Jays before that. … Clayton Richard (knee) is set to begin a throwing progression this weekend. … David Phelps, working his way back from Tommy John surgery, is slated to start throwing bullpen sessions next week. … Dalton Pompey will be evaluated Saturday to see if he can resume physical activities under MLB’s concussion protocol. … Devon Travis (knee) is scheduled to begin baseball activities next week.


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