Catching prospect Max Pentecost is moving toward activation from the disabled list, and the Toronto Blue Jays still believe the 11th overall pick in 2014 has a promising future behind the plate.
The 23-year-old, working his way back from a third shoulder surgery, is currently playing in extended spring training games as he continues to rehab his shoulder and progress through his throwing program.
While the Blue Jays aren’t yet sure how much catching he’ll do upon his return – he could see some time at first base or designated hitter for a period to protect his shoulder – the priority will be giving Pentecost a chance to make up for lost time.
“The hope is that he’ll be able to get full season at-bats pretty soon,” says Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim. “The main goal is that he gets at-bats since he has had so much time off. For now, it’s getting at-bats and building that throwing back up better than it used to be.”
Pentecost, highly regarded for both his bat and his defence, looked set to zip through the Blue Jays system before his shoulder woes hit.
The product of Kennesaw State University appeared in a combined 25 games with the Blue Jays’ rookie-ball Gulf Coast League team in Dunedin and short-season A Vancouver in 2014 before getting shut down to undergo his first shoulder surgery. He had another operation in the spring of 2015, but neither did the trick. He missed all of last season, and when his problems persisted during fall instructional league, he underwent a rotator cuff interval repair.
None of that has left the Blue Jays any less bullish on his long-term future.
“The best way to put that is we’re confident in Max’s ability and confident that he’s got a chance to be a major-league catcher, and a pretty good one,” says Kim. “He brings some things to the table that, looking throughout baseball, you don’t see very often. Sure it’s unfortunate that it has taken some time, but he’s doing catching drills and he looks great back there.
“In talking to some of our high-performance trainers and our physical therapists, the belief is that the arm is going to be back to full strength and play behind the plate. That’s what we’re thinking right now.”
Cardona returning to form:
The Blue Jays aren’t giving up on the possibility of Adonys Cardona starting again, but their priority right now is getting the 22-year-old right-hander through the season healthy. Returning from a second broken olecranon, the electric-armed Venezuelan has thrown 11 shutout innings in 10 games, all out of the bullpen, at single-A Dunedin.
More importantly, his stuff is back, with his fastball sitting mid-90s, along with a crisp changeup and slider. That repertoire gives him the weapons to start, but his injury history raises questions about physical capacity to handle the grind. “That’s probably still up in the air,” says Kim. “It’s good as a reliever, but he’s got three pitches and a chance for two of them to be plus. Right now, the main priority is to keep him healthy and then we’ll re-evaluate after the year.” Cardona received the second-biggest signing bonus for a July 2 international free agent in club history at $2.8 million.
Alford playing with brace:
Anthony Alford, widely regarded as the club’s top prospect, returned May 2 from a right knee injury suffered in Dunedin’s season opener, and has played in six games since. Blue Jays head trainer George Poulis said recently that the centre-fielder’s “ligaments did get stressed slightly,” and that the 21-year-old is playing with a brace to stabilize the joint.
Kim says since Alford’s return he’s looked “very good. Probably within a week of injuring it, Anthony insisted on playing and he passed every test that the high performance staff here in Dunedin threw at him and he’s had no setbacks whatsoever.” Alford has struck out in 16 of 25 at-bats with three hits since returning.
Ceciliani nearing return to Bisons:
Outfielder Darrell Ceciliani, who nearly made the Blue Jays’ opening day roster out of spring training, is playing in extended spring training games and is nearing a return to triple-A Buffalo. He suffered an injury to his left shoulder and clavicle. “He’s looking good and he should be ready to go pretty quickly,” says Kim.