Blue Jays’ Walker: Still a four-way battle for fifth rotation spot

Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker tells Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt that the competition for the final rotation spot is more than just a two-horse race between Aaron Sanchez and Gavin Floyd.

Conventional wisdom may suggest the Toronto Blue Jays are deciding between Aaron Sanchez and newcomer Gavin Floyd for the fifth starter’s job, but pitching coach Pete Walker says two other players are still in the competition.

“Right now I think you’ve forgotten a couple of names — Jesse Chavez and of course Drew Hutchison,” Walker said Tuesday on The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “As of now, there’s still four guys.

“We’re going to look at Chavez (Tuesday) and Hutch will pitch (Wednesday) night against the (New York) Yankees with most of their regulars in there, so we’ll have a better indication of where we are after this next go around here and start to get a better feel of what we’re going to do. This could go right down until the end.”

Hutchison, 25, was the Blue Jays’ opening day starter in 2015 but struggled more than expected lost his rotation spot by the end of the year.

He’s considered to be a long shot in the competition while Chavez, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics this past off-season, offers versatility either as a starter or a long man in the bullpen.

At the same time, it remains unclear what the team’s plan is for Floyd, a veteran right-hander who has impressed the Blue Jays in spring training.

“He seems to be healthy right now,” Walker told co-hosts Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt. “The ball is coming out as good as ever. His sides have been outstanding. He’s comfortable here. He’s been in a routine. One thing I did notice is we’ve made an attempt to adjust his tempo. He kind of has a slow methodical delivery and we picked up the pace a little bit and he seems to like it a lot. We’re hoping he can run with that.”

Otherwise, the big storyline surrounding the Blue Jays is the team’s battle for the closer’s job between newcomer Drew Storen and incumbent Roberto Osuna.

Walker didn’t give any indication of which way the team is leaning there.

“Both those guys want to close,” he said. “It’s one of those good problems to have but you have to deal with the one who isn’t closing at some point. And there will be some disappointment. We haven’t made a decision. Both those guys are throwing the ball well. They certainly both can close games. They both deserve it based on Roberto’s last year and Storen in the past. But they’re both open to doing whatever. Deep down, they both want to be out there for the last out and we know that. And we don’t want it any other way. As of right now, we haven’t made a decision.”

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