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Borucki (elbow) to begin season on IL

Injury opens up competition for No. 5 rotation spot; Buchholz closer to big league arrival
@gregorMLB
March 23, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' list of the walking wounded increased yet again on Saturday morning when rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki was ruled out for the start of the season because of a sore left elbow. Borucki will miss at least one spring start, and he is scheduled to

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' list of the walking wounded increased yet again on Saturday morning when rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki was ruled out for the start of the season because of a sore left elbow.

Borucki will miss at least one spring start, and he is scheduled to open the year on the injured list. Right-handers Trent Thornton, Sam Gaviglio, Sean Reid-Foley and lefty Thomas Pannone will now be competing for the final spot in Toronto's rotation. Thornton struck out four and yielded three runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings in the Blue Jays' 7-3 win over the Yankees on Saturday.

Toronto's training room has been a revolving door for the past week. Ryan Tepera went down with a right elbow injury and setup man Bud Norris had to be scratched from his scheduled outing vs. the Phillies for similar reasons. Sore elbows aren't contagious, but it sure feels like they might be in Central Florida.

"Just precautionary for me," Borucki said. "I've had two elbow surgeries, so I don't really mess around with my elbow. Just decided to shut it down, getting reevaluated on Monday and go from there."

Borucki was expected to open the year as Toronto's No. 4 starter behind Marcus Stroman, Matt Shoemaker and Aaron Sanchez. Veteran lefty Clayton Richard will now move up one spot, while the other four contenders will be competing for the final spot in the rotation.

The 24-year-old Borucki has been expected to be a big part of the Blue Jays' rotation this season. Last year as a rookie, Borucki went 4-6 with a 3.87 ERA while striking out 67 and walking 33 over 97 2/3 innings. There is no immediate timetable for his return, but the Blue Jays hope this is a short-term thing.

"It's always a concern with somebody with a history," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of Borucki, who previously underwent Tommy John surgery during his Minor League career. "From what I know so far, it looks like it's going to be one start. But we'll go from there. You never know. We're not going to rush him for sure."

Buchholz getting closer

Right-hander Clay Buchholz appears to be closing in on a mid-April arrival to the big league roster. Buchholz tossed approximately two innings and 30 pitches during a Minor League game on Friday, and he will increase his pitch count by 15 the next three times out to build endurance.

The goal is to be around the 75-pitch mark in early April. Based off his current five-day schedule, Buchholz might be ready as early as April 12, but there's also a chance the 34-year-old will decide then that he needs a little bit more time.

"If everything goes smoothly, after 75 pitches I'll be ready," Buchholz said. "You'll build up to go to 90 and 100, but as the game is changing, there aren't too many times that I even threw 100 pitches last year and I felt good, really good.

"It's just about keeping your legs underneath you, and after the 75-pitch game that I throw, I feel like I might need one more after that, just depending on how everything goes. But other than that, if my health is good, I will be ready to go."

Canada Day in Florida

The Blue Jays held their annual exhibition game against the Canadian Junior National Team on Saturday afternoon. Toronto invited some of its Canadian Minor Leaguers to Dunedin Stadium for the game with outfielder Demi Orimoloye (Ottawa), Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alberta), Brayden Boucher (Vancouver) and Will McAffer (North Vancouver) making the trip. Alejandro Kirk and Kacy Clemens each recorded two RBIs in Toronto's 8-3 win.

The Canadian Juniors travel to Florida every spring for a series of exhibition games against Minor League players of big league teams. It has become an annual event and in the past featured Russell Martin playing against his fellow countrymen and last year's moment when Braden Halladay, son of the late Roy Halladay, pitched for Canada.

It's a feel-good event, and one the Blue Jays hope continues long into the future.

"With us representing a nation, it feels like we have a bond with the organization and really appreciate everything that [Baseball Canada director] Greg Hamilton does," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "It really feels like an extension of the Toronto Blue Jays, and I hope they would say the same. It's a natural fit, an easy decision to do and something I always look forward to."

Axford out, Norris in

The Blue Jays released John Axford from his Minor League contract on Saturday afternoon. The veteran right-hander had been competing for a spot in the Blue Jays' bullpen until he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right elbow earlier this week. Axford was set to be evaluated in late April and is facing a lengthy rehab.

Norris' decision to remain with the Blue Jays led to a retention bonus. Norris had an out clause in his Minor League contract on March 21, but as expected, he should now settle into a setup role in front of Toronto closer Ken Giles. Norris still needs to be added to the 40-man roster before Opening Day, but the Blue Jays have some potential candidates for the 60-day injured list, which would create space.

The Blue Jays' bullpen remains one of the top storylines to watch as Spring Training comes to a close. Giles, Norris, Joe Biagini and Tim Mayza will be on the team, but the final three or four spots are up for grabs. Pannone, Thornton, Reid-Foley are all competing for either the aforementioned starting job or a spot in the 'pen. Justin Shafer, Jason Adam and Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano are also among those in mix for a relief spot.

Up next

The Blue Jays will play their final spring game in Florida on Sunday, when Reid-Foley takes the mound against the Tigers with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. He was initially expected to begin the year in the Minor Leagues, but he is now competing for the final spot in the rotation. Following the game, the Blue Jays will travel to Montreal for a two-game exhibition series against the Brewers.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.