The next couple of weeks promise to be active for the Toronto Blue Jays. After finishing out their opening home stand against the Athletics, the Jays will travel to Anaheim and Seattle as part of a West Coast road trip, before coming back East to Boston for a four game set and then finally returning to the Rogers Centre to face the Yankees and Rays. In addition to the long travel and stiff competition, the Jays will have to make several important roster decisions during this time.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the players involved:
The Jays slugger has left the team to be with his wife after the birth of their first child, a healthy baby girl. Bautista is expected to rejoin the team in Anaheim. We got a glimpse of what the Jays lineup without Bautista looks like last night when Juan Rivera moved into right field, Edwin Encarnacion played designated hitter and Jayson Nix filled in for him at third base. We should see a similar lineup tonight with J.P. Arencibia starting at catcher instead of Jose Molina. Looking at how the lineups have been juggled this far into the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if John McDonald got a start at third base for Thursday’s afternoon away game.
Jays manager John Farrell told reporters yesterday that the hard throwing right hander, on the Disabled List with elbow inflammation, will likely make two starts for Single A Dunedin, the first of which will be tomorrow and likely come with a maximum pitch count of only 50-60. Once Morrow returns to the rotation, it will mean bumping either Jesse Litsch or Jo-Jo Reyes, who did himself no favours with Tuesday’s brief start. Performance may be a secondary factor in making a decision though because Reyes is out of options while Litsch can be sent down to the Minors without risking placement on the waiver wire.
Heading into the season, it was expected that Francisco would become the Blue Jays closer in 2011. Unfortunately (or as I read from someone else yesterday, unforch) a sore right pectoral muscle sidelined the reliever through most of the Spring. After throwing in a simulated game on Monday, Francisco joined Dunedin yesterday and is expected to pitch on Thursday after Morrow. Farrell suggested that the former Texas Rangers closer would pitch in at least three games before the team considered bringing him back to the big club. With so many right handers already in the bullpen, Francisco’s return likely spells out a demotion for Casey Janssen who is one of the few relievers on the team to still have Minor League options remaining.
Further complicating the status of the Jays relief corps is Dotel’s impending return from the Disabled List. The right handed reliever has been out with a strained left hamstring, rehabbing at the team’s training facilities in Florida. He could return to the Jays bullpen as soon as the upcoming West Coast road trip. If Dotel comes back before Francisco, my money would still be on Janssen to be demoted. However, a scenario could happen where Dotel and Morrow’s returns coincide resulting in Janssen and Marc Rzepczynski being sent down, while Litsch would remain in the rotation and Reyes would take over Rzepczynski’s role as a lefty specialist in the bullpen. Such a move would only stave off the inevitable though, as Francisco’s eventual return would force the Blue Jays to expose one of their relievers to the waiver wire, unless they’re willing to go with David Purcey as the only left handed reliever, which would mean an eventual demotion for Litsch. Relievers Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Carlo Villanueva would all have to clear waivers before they could be demoted to Triple A.
After moving Bautista back to the outfield, the Jays can afford to take their time with Corey Patterson who was hit in the head with a Daniel Bard fastball during Spring Training. Although he showed no signs of a concussion at the time, the team is being properly cautious with him. His return will either mean Mike McCoy gets sent down to Triple A or Jayson Nix goes on the waiver wire. Nix probably has more pop in his bat than McCoy as well as a bit more experience filling in at third base, where defense is likely most needed.
There’s no timetable on Podsednik’s return to action, and it’s very possible that with Bautista in right field and Patterson eventually coming off the Disabled List, Podsednik doesn’t play a single game in a Jays uniform. He really, really should have accepted his option with the Dodgers during the offseason.