Blue Jays Notebook: Morales open to being used as a pitcher

Aaron Sanchez managed only 3 ⅔ innings of work, giving up four runs, two earned, as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Kendrys Morales says he doesn’t want to pitch in a big-league game. The Toronto Blue Jays would only call him to the mound if they were losing badly, and Morales wouldn’t wish that on his team.

But let’s be honest here — there’s part of him that definitely wants to pitch in a major-league game.

“I would like to pitch at least once here in the big-leagues,” Morales said through interpreter Josue Peley.

Notice the way he phrased that? Morales has pitched before — pitched at the highest level of Cuban baseball, in fact — he just hasn’t done it in a major-league uniform.

On Thursday, he nearly got the chance when Cleveland built a massive lead against the Blue Jays in the second game of their double-header. With the bullpen already stretched thin, the Blue Jays would have gone to Morales if they had needed even one more arm.

“I would have liked that, of course,” Morales acknowledges. “I would have been out there just trying to throw strikes. It would have been fun.”

Growing up in Cuba, Morales pitched, mixing in a fastball, change-up and curve. At one point during his first professional season, he logged 2.1 scoreless innings for the 2001-02 Havana Industriales and even picked up two strikeouts.

If the Blue Jays had called on him Thursday, he would have simplified his repertoire.

“It’s been a long time now,” he said. “But if I would have pitched I wouldn’t have thrown many curveballs because I would want to make sure I don’t get hurt out there.”

Last year Morales told Blue Jays manager John Gibbons that he’d be willing to pitch if needed. So far, the right circumstances haven’t presented themselves, but make no mistake: that offer still stands.

“I would definitely be ready,” Morales said.

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Anthony Alford’s promotion means the Blue Jays have an extra outfielder on hand while Curtis Granderson continues nursing a sore right hamstring. Beyond that, the 23-year-old top prospect has no guarantees of playing time.

“We’re just going to get Granderson through to the off day (Monday),” Gibbons said. “Just be smart and see where we’re at.”

Alford’s right-handed bat could be useful when the Mariners visit Toronto next week, as left-handers James Paxton and Wade LeBlanc are on the schedule for Seattle. With Steve Pearce and Randal Grichuk on the disabled list, the Blue Jays are down a couple of right-handed hitting outfielders. That means Alford’s value to the big-league team trumps his development for now.

“Right now he’s here because we need him,” Gibbons said. “You want him playing; you don’t want him sitting around. For how long this’ll last, I don’t know. For he or (Dalton) Pompey, we’re not sure, but we’ll take advantage of it while we can.”

The Blue Jays optioned right-hander Jake Petricka to create room on the active roster for Alford, who had four hits in 18 at-bats at triple-A before the promotion. Another move will be required Sunday when Justin Smoak returns from paternity leave after three days away from the team.

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Aledmys Diaz has struggled at the plate in recent weeks, but his six home runs have impressed his manager.

“He’s got more power than I thought I did,” Gibbons said. “He really does.”

Yangervis Solarte, the Blue Jays’ other off-season infield depth acquisition, has hit even better than Diaz, batting .277/.360/.555 with nine home runs. Plus, his defensive versatility has already helped the Blue Jays at four positions.

“Solarte’s a better player than I anticipated,” Gibbons said.

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