Vying for setup role, Norris turning heads

Blue Jays confident Giles will be ready for Opening Day

March 16th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Bud Norris doesn't have a lot of time to make his case for a spot in the Blue Jays' bullpen, but he appears to be making the most of his limited window of opportunity.

Norris made his spring debut during Friday's game against the Phillies, and he retired all three batters he faced, including two via strikeout. The veteran right-hander is vying for a setup role in front of closer Ken Giles after signing a Minor League deal earlier in camp.

The 34-year-old declined to speak with the media after the outing, but the following day, his manager had a lot of positive things to say. Norris' mid-90s velocity and pretty consistent location made a positive first impression with his new club.

"He was really good," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "He dealt. He looked to me like a closer, a late-inning guy, pitching yesterday. That's good. He’s competing for a job, and that's a good start. He looked really good."

Norris went 3-6 with a 3.59 ERA while picking up 28 saves for the Cardinals last season. In his career, he owns a 4.45 ERA over 355 games, including 188 starts.

All eyes on Giles
The wording surrounding Giles' health seems to be changing by the day, but the Blue Jays remain confident he will be ready for Opening Day.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Giles had been held out for several days because he was sick. Then on Friday, one day after he got into an on-field exchange with prospect David Paulino, Montoyo said Giles wouldn't pitch until Sunday after sleeping on his shoulder the wrong way.

The previous several days, the Blue Jays did not express any concern that Giles might not be ready to start the year, despite having tossed just 2 2/3 innings this spring. Montoyo tried to ease concerns again on Saturday by stating Giles remains on track to face the Twins, but it also came with a pretty big caveat.

"As of right now, he will be," Montoyo said when asked if Giles would be ready for Opening Day. "You never know what's going to happen, but as of right now, yes."

Giles also commented for the first time on Saturday morning about the on-field spat with Paulino. Toronto's right-hander took exception to the fact that Paulino was not participating in an on-field drill.

"I'm just holding people accountable," Giles said. "Charlie has already established what we're here to do. Work hard, work your butts off and be competitive. Any of the players who do not want to participate in that, then they need to leave, because that's disrespecting your teammates, disrespecting your manager.

"I don't expect an incident like that to ever happen again, because we're all here together. It's not about one person, it's about the whole team."

Making his case
Right-hander made his first start of the spring on Saturday afternoon, limiting the Orioles to a pair of runs in Toronto's 4-3, split-squad loss at Dunedin Stadium. Gaviglio allowed two hits and a walk while picking up five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. He showed a little bit more confidence in his changeup, which has been added to this repertoire this spring to go along with his fastball-slider combination.

Gaviglio is competing for a spot in the bullpen as Toronto's long reliever. If he doesn't crack the 25-man roster on Opening Day, the expectation is that Gaviglio will open the year in the starting rotation at Triple-A Buffalo. The 28-year-old Gaviglio has allowed just the two runs over 14 innings this spring while striking out 15.

"I've thrown a couple of good ones," Gaviglio said of his changeup. "I think I probably should have used a couple of more today. I took my chances with it, especially being ahead in the counts. That's a good time to experiment because that way I'm not falling behind and able to make a certain pitch in a situation."

Up next
Right-hander will make his fourth start of the spring when the Blue Jays host the Twins on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. The broadcast will be available in Canada via Sportsnet and MLB.TV. Minnesota is set to counter with former Blue Jays waiver claim, Preston Guilmet.