Notes: Zeuch makes roster; Mayza ready

March 30th, 2021

TORONTO -- was told prior to his start in the Blue Jays’ Grapefruit League finale on Monday that he’d cracked the Opening Day roster, solidifying one of the final spots with some pitching decisions still looming.

One year ago, the big right-hander allowed 10 runs (seven earned), including five home runs, over just 4 1/3 innings of spring work. He’s come a long way from that low point, consistently earning praise from the coaching staff and front office throughout camp.

“It’s amazing. I worked really hard for this, and I’m going to continue to work hard to improve and be the best pitcher I can be,” Zeuch said. “To me, making it to the big leagues is one thing, but making an Opening Day roster is another step forward and higher. I was really happy and excited to learn I’ve achieved that goal.”

Following the 13-7 win over the Phillies, manager Charlie Montoyo said that Zeuch won’t necessarily be in the rotation, with a bullpen day or a piggyback strategy still on the table for that open starter’s spot. Trent Thornton could be part of that picture alongside Zeuch, too, as the current long man in the bullpen.

The main outstanding variable here is outfielder George Springer and his Grade 2 left oblique strain. Springer had a followup MRI on Monday, which should tell the Blue Jays more, but reserve outfielder Jonathan Davis has already been told he’s made the roster. Otherwise, this roster picture comes down to one or two spots at the back end of the bullpen between Julian Merryweather, who could be a key piece of the group this season, A.J. Cole, Travis Bergen and Anthony Castro.

Blue Jays release Liriano

Francisco Liriano was granted his release on Monday night and is now free to sign with any team. The veteran lefty was in camp on a Minor League deal and, midway through Spring Training, it looked like he was on his way to earning job in Toronto’s bullpen. The emergence of Tim Mayza and the club’s need to cover innings following injuries to the rotation have changed that, though. Liriano certainly held up his end of the bargain, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts, so he should have little trouble finding another opportunity. 

Injury updates

• Robbie Ray, who’s dealing with a bruised left elbow and is expected to miss at least the first start of the regular season, will stay back in Florida when the Blue Jays travel to New York for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. A more concrete timeline on his return should be available soon.

No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson (right groin strain) does not have a scheduled date to progress to throwing bullpens again and is still playing long toss.

• Thomas Hatch (right elbow inflammation) is still just playing catch, but the club is optimistic that he’s avoided serious injury.

Mayza ready to let it rip

Mayza’s return from a late-2019 Tommy John surgery exceeded all expectations in camp, landing him a spot on the Opening Day roster. It’s been a long road for the hard-throwing lefty, and even he’s been surprised at how sharp his pitches have felt at this point. Already, Mayza said he’s comfortable pitching back-to-back days or multiple innings.

“I definitely felt like the bullpens leading up prepared me for this success we’re seeing in spring and the confidence I have in the pitches I’ve been able to develop over the course of the past 17 months,” Mayza said. “Being able to get after hitters with this stuff and seeing their swings, I’m pleased with where things are right now.”

Orelvis Martinez goes deep

No. 6 prospect Orelvis Martinez launched his first spring homer -- a 415-foot blast off of Phillies reliever Héctor Neris in the sixth inning. Martinez is still just 19, having signed with the Blue Jays in 2018 for $3.5 million out of the Dominican Republic. When he finally gets into full-season ball this summer, Martinez should produce the numbers to back up his MLB Pipeline prospect ranking. He has some of the best raw power in the club's farm system.

Vancouver Canadians to open in Oregon

Toronto's Class A Advanced affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians, announced on Monday that they will open their 2021 season in Hillsboro, Ore., due to the continued closure of the Canada-US border.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff continues to be our top priority," the club said in a statement. "As an organization, we are working through plans to execute a safe return to Nat Bailey Stadium in addition to providing an alternative option for the games to be played. We are committed to sharing any updates with our fans as they become available."