Blue Jays’ Walker encouraged by progress of Happ, Liriano

Joe Biagini allowed just two runs over six innings but that's all the Rangers needed to end the Jays five-game winning streak, with a 3-1 win.

Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ looked “real good” during a side session on Sunday and could be in line to return from the disabled list for Tuesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, according to pitching coach Pete Walker.

Happ last pitched for the Blue Jays on April 16, before being placed on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation. He tossed three innings for the advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays on Thursday and re-joined the major-league club in Toronto Sunday.

The Blue Jays have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday’s contest against the visiting Reds, but the team appears to be leaning toward handing Happ the ball.

“There’s a chance he could be out there, but obviously [we will] see how he feels [Monday] after the side session he threw [Sunday], which was actually very good,” Walker told Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN.

The pitching coach also gave an update on another injured starter, Francisco Liriano, who pitched in his own rehab assignment on Sunday night for triple-A Buffalo. The left-hander, who’s on the DL with shoulder inflammation, allowed three runs, two earned, on two walks and three hits over 4.1 innings. He struck out seven batters while tossing 72 pitches.

“[Liriano] was outstanding,” Walker said. “Stuff was very good. He was pitching at 92-93 mph and the slider was sharp again. He’s feeling good and he’s going to be coming back here soon.”

Aaron Sanchez has yet to begin throwing as he recovers from blister issues on his throwing hand, but with other Blue Jays starters returning to the fold, it presents a question for the club: What to do with right-hander Joe Biagini? The 27-year-old has impressed in his transition to the rotation from the bullpen and Walker acknowledges a decision is approaching.

“He certainly has fit in well in the rotation,” he said of Biagini, who enjoyed his best start yet Sunday, holding the Texas Rangers to two runs over six innings on 95 pitches. “He’s made a nice transition … it’s not ideal to go back and forth for anybody — rotation, relieving. It’s not easy. We’ll just have to weigh that when the time comes.”

When Happ, Liriano and Sanchez join Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman in the rotation, it gives the Blue Jays a quality starting five, says Walker, so “a decision will have to be made. Joe certainly deserves to be in the rotation. (On Sunday) he showed it. He can throw 95 pitches and be effective. Moving forward that’s all great stuff. He’s realizing he can do it at this level and we certainly feel that way.

“We’ll continue to discuss it, monitor it, and make the right decision when the time comes.”

Pete Walker: Biagini's shown he deserves to be in the rotation
May 29 2017


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