LAKELAND, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays broke for Montreal after six weeks in Florida with several roster decisions still looming, even with the pending addition of reliever Daniel Hudson bringing some stability to a making-it-up-on-the-fly bullpen.
A rough outing for Sean Reid-Foley during an 18-5 drubbing from the Detroit Tigers in Sunday’s Grapefruit League finale won’t help his candidacy to help cover Ryan Borucki’s absence from the starting rotation. An uneven inning from Bud Norris, meanwhile, should secure his spot as the set-up man for opening day as long as he’s fine physically.
As things stand, the bullpen has five men in it, featuring closer Ken Giles, lefty Tim Mayza, righty Joe Biagini, Hudson and Norris, leaving two or three spots still up for grabs. Candidates include Sam Gaviglio and, perhaps, Thomas Pannone in a long-man role; Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano, who is a wild-card, along with non-roster invitees Justin Shafer, Javy Guerra, Danny Barnes and Jason Adam, who’s forced his way into the mix with seven strikeouts in three clean innings since being acquired for cash from the Kansas City Royals for cash March 17.
Manager Charlie Montoyo has been so impressed by the right-hander that he asked Adam – whose fastball spin-rate average of 2,580 last year was in the 99th percentile among big-league pitchers – for Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred’s phone number.
“He impressed me enough that I was like OK, let me find out from Eldred and see what he’s got,” said Montoyo, who played with Eldred in the Milwaukee Brewers system. “You don’t want to go by two outings, but he’s throwing 96, 97 with a good hook and he looked pretty good to me. It’s good to see an arm like that.”
The same goes for Trent Thornton, who after allowing a three-run homer to Gleyber Torres but nothing else against the New York Yankees on Saturday, may have the inside track on covering for Borucki, who’ll start the season on the injured reserve list due to elbow discomfort.
Thornton pitched to a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings over seven games this spring, striking out 16 batters against just five walks, impressing with his mid-90s repertoire.
“He made one bad pitch (against the Yankees) but other than that he looked good,” said Montoyo. “He was aggressive, he was pitching inside, he’s not afraid. They had their good lineup and to me he pitched well … which was good to see.”
Also good for the Blue Jays is that Ryan Tepera was told during his visit to specialist Dr. David Altchek on Saturday that the pain in his elbow was from inflammation – the same issue which sidelined him last year – and he did not require surgery. The right-hander can resume throwing Tuesday, although there’s no clear timeline for a return.
“We’ve got to see how he feels. We’re not going to rush him, either,” said Montoyo. “Of course, he’s not going to start the season with us, but he shouldn’t be that far behind.”
Montoyo hinted in the morning that the Blue Jays were looking for external help as rosters around the majors were being finalized and word emerged later that they had agreed to a one-year, major-league deal with Hudson, according to an industry source.
The 32-year-old was released from his minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday after allowing three homers and five runs in 6.2 innings over seven games. But last season he delivered 46 innings in 40 games at an ERA of 4.11 and WHIP of 1.217 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His addition comes after a week in which the Blue Jays lost Tepera, Borucki and Canadian John Axford, who suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow and was released, although the club is likely to renegotiate his contract and re-sign him.
Norris also skipped his scheduled outing Thursday with what was described by the team as typical spring soreness, and he made his third appearance Sunday and first since March 18, getting two quick outs before consecutive doubles by Jordy Mercer and Dustin Peterson ahead of a Mikie Mahtook homer.
The Blue Jays paid Norris a $100,000 retention bonus and barring a setback, he’ll be on the opening day roster. The same can’t be said for Reid-Foley, who won’t be making the trip to Montreal after allowing five runs on four hits and three walks in two wild innings.
At times he was overpowering and made Miguel Cabrera look silly swinging through a chase breaking ball in the first. But with erratic command, he only threw 26 of his 49 pitches for strikes.
SHORT HOPS: The Blue Jays will need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Daniel Hudson. They can transfer Dalton Pompey and/or Devon Travis to the 60-day disabled list, and there’s uncertainty over the fate of Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano. The 19-year-old right-hander threw two scoreless innings Saturday against the Yankees. “He was better (than in his previous outing),” said Charlie Montoyo. “Not as sharp as he was in the beginning, but he was good, he went two innings, he did a nice job. We’re still thinking about him.” … Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., selected by the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft, was returned to the Blue Jays. His exact role is unclear although the talented righty could be stretched back out to start at triple-A Buffalo. … Montoyo said not to read into the late lineup change Saturday that moved Randal Grichuk to centre in place of Kevin Pillar, who played right field for the first time since 2015. “I wanted to play Grichuk in centre field, that had nothing to do with Pillar,” said Montoyo. Grichuk played centre again Saturday, when he clubbed his fourth home run of the spring.