Blue Jays notebook: Starting pitching options

Blue Jays pitcher Chad Jenkins. (CP photo)

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays have yet to name a fifth starter for Friday’s contest against the visiting Baltimore Orioles and their continued indecision may suggest that prospect Sean Nolin is being considered for the outing.

Chad Jenkins, who threw five innings of two-run ball against the Boston Red Sox on May 12, is an obvious choice to fill the hole in the rotation, but he hasn’t pitched in a game since taking the mound at Fenway Park and it’s unclear how deep in a game he could go right now.

The right-hander has also pitched just twice, once at double-A New Hampshire, once with the Blue Jays, since returning from the disabled list after a shoulder injury.

“It’s not definite,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked about the plans for Friday. “We’ll know in the next couple of days. We have Jenkins available in the ‘pen (Tuesday night) so we’ll see how long that plays out.”

Nolin, meanwhile, has made three starts with the Fisher Cats since coming back from a groin injury, going six shutout innings in each of the past two, allowing a total of eight hits and four walks while striking out 13.

GM Alex Anthopoulos went to see the left-hander’s first start back from the DL, when he allowed three runs, two earned, over 2.1 innings, demonstrating how much he’s on the club’s radar. He’s believed to be the next starting pitcher in line to be called up when one is needed.

Nolin last pitched Saturday, so his next day to pitch on regular rest would be Thursday.

ESCOBAR GESTURE OK: A day after responding to a question about Yunel Escobar’s emphatic safe-sign gesture at home plate by saying “I’m certain you’re not going to see that again,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon flip-flopped Tuesday and said his shortstop is free to do it again.

As promised, Maddon says he spoke to Escobar about it and found that it was a regular part of his home run celebration at home, and not something done to try and show up the Blue Jays. Escobar did indeed make a similar gesture after hitting a home run against the Blue Jays on May 9 in Tampa Bay.

“Some people point to the sky, he shows a safe sign,” Maddon says. “It’s one of those things people are going to interpret according to their own prejudices or thoughts or judgmental opinions. For me I love the way he is, I want him to remain the way he is, he did nothing wrong.

“I like the way he answered the crowd with the home run, quite frankly.”

Escobar was booed regularly in his first game back in Toronto since being traded in the off-season.

“Part of it is it seems a lot of times when a good player comes back to Toronto they get booed here, even though they played here well in the past or given this hometown some really good effort,” Maddon said. “I don’t quite understand that sometimes. I thought Yunel did a great job (Monday) in the game, I loved his home run and I’m never going to attempt to subtract from his celebratory manner.”

JOHNSON MAKES GAINS: Right-hander Josh Johnson (triceps) allowed one run over three innings in his first rehab start for single-A Dunedin on Monday night, striking out five and throwing 48 pitches.

“I heard he threw really well and the most important thing is that his arm felt fine,” Gibbons said. “So he’ll throw again Saturday. He looked good.”

He’s been on the DL since May 2 and is expected to need at least one more rehab outing before he rejoins the Blue Jays.

“At this point, personally, I think he probably needs three,” Gibbons said. “But, you know, we’ve been known to make some adjustments.”

MINOR MOVES: The Blue Jays released veteran right-hander Miguel Batista from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Tuesday, one of a handful of shuffles in the farm system.

Right-hander Thad Weber, claimed Sunday off waivers from the San Diego Padres, was activated by the Bisons while outfielder Ricardo Nanita was promoted from double-A New Hampshire and right-hander Chad Beck placed on the disabled list.

The Fisher Cats also activated right-hander Fernando Hernandez from the disabled list and released him.

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