DUNEDIN, Fla. – Definitive answers for Ryan Tepera and John Axford are coming in the days ahead but they are going to miss time, perhaps lots of it, and as opening day looms, the Toronto Blue Jays are scrambling to reconstruct their bullpen.
"Of course there’s concern," manager Charlie Montoyo said Thursday morning after revealing that Tepera will meet Saturday with Dr. David Altchek to further evaluate his inflammation, and Axford will rest four weeks due to a stress reaction in his elbow.
"They’re very important. But that’s baseball. We’ve got to make an adjustment now. Somebody else gets the chance to make the club now."
Montoyo mentioned two names from the group of candidates left in camp – David Paulino and Sam Gaviglio – as candidates for bigger roles. Bud Norris, who has an out in his contract Thursday, is now positioned to be Ken Giles’ chief set-up man while fellow non-roster invitees Javy Guerra, Justin Shafer and Danny Barnes suddenly have a potential path to the majors.
David Phelps, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and needs more time to build back up, looms as eventual help.
As things stand, the definites for the bullpen look like this: Giles, Norris, Joe Biagini and Tim Mayza. Given Montoyo’s comments, Paulino and Gaviglio can be elevated into likelies. Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano is a wild card. Then there’s Guerra, Shafer, Barnes and Jason Adam, plus the appealing Trent Thornton, whom appears headed for the triple-A Buffalo rotation as GM Ross Atkins said Wednesday that the Blue Jays want to first "exhaust" the possibility of making him a starter.
Basically, buckle up Blue Jays fans.
"Now Paulino has a chance to get in there," Montoyo said of filling the gap in leverage inning coverage. "Biagini has a chance. Biagini we were thinking more in the sixth/seventh, now he might have to go a little bit deeper. It’s a day-to-day deal."
Also a day-to-day deal is Kevin Pillar, who was scratched from Thursday’s lineup due to a stiff neck. He homered Wednesday in an 8-7 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tepera, meanwhile, is awaiting a clearer picture of what’s behind his elbow inflammation, an issue that caused him to miss time last season, too. In a brief interview, he said the pain is similar to what he experienced last year and is anxiously awaiting his meeting with Altchek, and a visit with additional specialists is possible, too.
Axford, another non-roster invitee, is dealing with a stress reaction in his olecranon, the small, ball-shaped bone at the side of his elbow. A stress reaction, the result of overexertion, can be a precursor to a fracture, which necessitates the resulting caution.