DUNEDIN, Fla. — Sharpened command made the difference for Gavin Floyd in his second start of the spring. The right-hander, one of four pitchers in the mix for the Toronto Blue Jays’ fifth rotation spot, pitched three effective innings against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday.
Still, it’s far too early to say who’s in the lead for the rotation spot between Floyd, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez. Manager John Gibbons expects the decision will be the toughest the Blue Jays face this spring.
"They’ll all start rounding into shape in the next couple outings and that’s when you really get a better gauge," Gibbons said. "They start throwing more innings, so they get a little fatigued and you start to see a little bit more."
In the meantime, Floyd did his part to convince the Blue Jays that he belongs firmly in the mix. Gibbons said he likes what he sees from the right-hander, and noted he’s "right on schedule." It’ll likely be a couple more starts before the Blue Jays get a real feel for the competition, since starters continue getting reacquainted with their stuff after a winter away from the mound.
Floyd pitched three innings Tuesday, allowing one run on one hit, a solo home run by Byung-ho Park. After struggling to find the strike zone in his first spring outing, he was around the plate much more against the Twins, deploying a 91-95 mph fastball to strike out two without walking a batter.
"My focus was to take what I did the first time and focus on throwing strikes," Floyd said. "The key to this game is to try to get outs as quick as possible and pound the zone. I wanted to take that approach in this game and attack because it’s how I pitch.”
He last pitched more than three innings nearly two years ago, but he built up to three innings with the Cleveland Indians in 2015 after overcoming the long list of elbow injures that limited him to 14 big league games from 2013-14. Pitching for Cleveland down the stretch gave him confidence he wouldn’t have otherwise had leading into the winter.
"It was huge," Floyd said. "Going into the off-season it was comforting, I guess. Just knowing that I’ve tested it out and it’s good, especially at that level."
Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro liked what they saw from Floyd in Cleveland, so much so that they signed him to a big league contract in Toronto. Where he fits on the big league team has yet to be determined, so for now Floyd’s simply encouraged to be pitching well — and pitching healthy.
"When you’re able to pitch again, you’re like a kid again," Floyd said. "You definitely have an appreciation for being out there. I’m very fortunate to be able to throw."