Alex Anthopoulos was on Sportsnet 590 The Fan's Prime Time Sports talking with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt for a full 20-minute segment Friday afternoon to discuss the status of various players. He focused mainly on the rotation, but the conversation did lead to over players on the roster.
The most surprising bit about what he said was that there was a chance that the Blue Jays may start the season with the dreaded eight-man bullpen "in the off-chance" that Brett Lawrie would need to miss the first few days of the season. (Friday was the first day teams could place players on the 15-day disabled list, so any player who doesn't play in a major league spring training game from now until the start of the season can be placed on the 15-day DL on April 1 retroactive to March 22). If Lawrie does hit the DL, that would free up a roster spot to allow the Blue Jays to evaluate their relievers--especially the ones with no options--for an extra week or so. Of course, carrying an eight-man bullpen means leaving a three-man bench of Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio / Maicer Izturis / Mark DeRosa, and the backup catcher (Anthopoulos did not mention who is leading the race).
However, the general manager immediately said that Lawrie has swung and has fielded and not felt pain. He is expected to see some game action this coming Tuesday. It is not the pain from injury itself that Anthopoulos feels may keep Lawrie from starting the year in Toronto, it is whether Lawrie's has his timing down pat.
I am not terribly opposed to the team starting the season with a large bullpen, just so they can delay their decision-making process on some relievers, but I dearly hope that we won't have to see an eight-man bullpen for long stretches of the season. The short bench comes at such a disadvantage, and one guy in the pen ends up sitting for a week without making an appearance. Let's just hope that Lawrie can start the season healthy so we won't have to worry about this at all.
Here is a summary of what he said about each player:
Janssen is expected to break camp with the big club, and will be their closer if he does. If Janssen feels good today after his minor league outing yesterday, he will return to pitch in major league camp. The club wanted to see Janssen pitch pain-free without jeopardizing his retroactivity status.
Santos' stuff is good, throwing 95 and has a nasty slider, but he needs to work on his command. Santos is expected to walk guys, but his stuff is very good.
Anthopoulos is "not counting on" McGowan (who will be pitching today in a minor league game to work on his breaking ball) but he has looked good in previous outings. Anthopoulos reiterated that Morrow has the "best stuff on the staff." If all goes well and McGowan is pain-free on Sunday the club would have to start thinking of how best to use him, as a long reliever or to try to stretch him back out to start. It would be "tough" for McGowan to make the team, but since he has had a legitimate injury, the club could place him on the DL and not have to worry about the fact that he is out of options.
On the DL, McGowan would be allowed to throw bullpen sessions and simulated games, but once he is placed on a rehab assignment (in order to pitch in the minors), he has 30 days (20 if he was a batter) before he must be taken off the DL. Now here is something I learned: if a player has a legitimate setback during a rehab assignment, he can be taken out and sit for a week. After that week, the rehab clock gets reset to a full 30 (or 20) days again.
Encarnacion has not played a game since his return from the World Baseball Classic due to a finger injury. Anthopoulos explained that he jammed his right index finger in his last at bat with the Dominican Republic. Despite it being very swollen the next day, X-rays turned out to be negative. "Worst case scenerio" is that he is out six weeks, but that was after Anthopoulos insisted on hearing the worst possible case.
"Everything is fine." Like in a very good way, not a "everything's fine, don't talk to me" way.
Jeffress was hit hard during his last outing, but Anthopoulos thought he had done well in camp until the last couple of games. He is scheduled for Sunday--which would be "an important game for him." Jeffress basically needs to throw strikes and not stink on Sunday to make the club.
Did not have the best of starts, but is better, and is throwing 86-92 mph according to Anthopoulos. The lefty's "secondary stuff is getting better", but "his command is a little bit off."
Anthopoulos thinks that he's been doing well. He then told a story where Loup was probably headed towards a release when roving pitching coordinator Dane Johnson intervened and taught him to drop down his arm slot. That increased speed and combined with Loup having "ice in his veins" have brought him to success.
Delabar has the stuff to set-up or close, but home runs and long innings are concerns. Like Santos, walks are expected but Anthopoulos can "live with it" because of the number of strikeouts Delabar can get.
Rogers had a very bad outing, giving up 3 HR, because he changed his mechanics after some other player told him he was tipping his pitches. Pitching coach Pete Walker made him go back to what made him successful and he has been a lot better.
A surprising name to mention, but Alex Anthopoulos thinks that Bush has pitched well enough to be in the conversation to be the Jays' long man. Bush can fill the "Carlos Villanueva" role to hold games when starters get blown out. Although considered a candidate, I don't see how Bush would break camp with the club being off the 40-man roster with a bunch of relievers who are out of options.
Emilio Bonifacio / Maicer Izturis
The club has talked about matching whoever starts with the pitcher on the mound. For example, a ground ball inducer like R.A. Dickey could have Izturis behind him, but a fly tball pitcher like Brandon Morrow may be better suited with Bonifacio. Bonifacio's strongest positions are second base and centre field, and since he was moved from short, his throws have been good. Interestingly, Anthopoulos mentioned that should Lawrie start on the DL, the Jays might see both players in the lineup. I had thought that Mark DeRosa would be the one to start at third.
Rasmus' numbers in the spring may not be pretty, but his at bats looked good (note to the folks who say "spring training doesn't matter"). Rasmus is taking balls off the plate rather than hacking, and the quality at bat means that Anthopoulos believes Rasmus can succeed at the plate. "The key is if he would do it for six months," Anthopoulos said, referencing how good his at bats looked in June before he "fell off a cliff" towards the end of the season. I will be watching his at bats very closely today to see what he is laying off on.
Anthopoulos noted that Gose is in a funk at the plate, and that he still needs work at the plate. Gose is very confident and mentally-tough, so Anthopoulos is not worried about him being sent back down to the minors after being in the Show last season. Gose's high strikeout rate is part of his game and he will likely carry that through his career.