Inbox: Who are the Blue Jays' other options at short?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers Toronto fans' questions
If the Blue Jays decide to put Jose Reyes on the disabled list, who do they have in the Minors that could take his place?
-- Adam C., Mississauga, Ontario
There's still an expectation that Reyes (cracked left rib) will be able to avoid the DL. He's going to be re-evaluated prior to Tuesday's game against the Orioles, and manager John Gibbons indicated there's a good chance he'll be in the lineup as a right-handed hitter.
The injury affects Reyes the most when he's hitting left-handed, and it hasn't caused him a lot of discomfort from the right side or in the field. Temporarily hitting right-handed is one way to get Reyes into the lineup before he's back to full strength.
If Reyes does require a stint on the DL, which seems unlikely, then the club likely would turn to either Jonathan Diaz or Munenori Kawasaki in a utility role. Ryan Goins and Steve Tolleson could then continue to platoon at short during Reyes' absence.
When do you expect Michael Saunders to make his season debut?
-- Todd W., Waterloo, Ontario
Saunders has resumed his rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Dunedin following last week's minor setback with a tight hamstring. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Sunday night, but the most important thing is Saunders was able to play left field. It marked his second game in the outfield since undergoing left knee surgery earlier this spring.
The Blue Jays have insisted all along that Saunders won't be rushed back, and if the club follows through on that plan, he'll likely miss the upcoming three-game series against Baltimore. In order to prove he's ready, Saunders will need to play the field on back-to-back days and show there is no lingering soreness or discomfort from the injury.
One scenario could see Saunders continue his rehab with Triple-A Buffalo. That would allow Saunders to join Toronto on Friday in St. Petersburg, or perhaps more realistically Monday in Boston.
When Saunders comes back, do you think Kevin Pillar becomes the starting center fielder? Will Dalton Pompey become the fourth outfielder or be demoted to Triple-A?
-- Phil D., Saint John, New Brunswick
Lots of questions this week about Pillar and Pompey, and while it's still a little early to make a final determination, it's clear the Blue Jays are closing in on a very difficult decision. Saunders was acquired during the offseason to become the everyday left fielder, and that plan hasn't changed despite his injury problems this spring.
If the decision had to be made today, Pillar has probably done enough to earn regular playing time in center field. He's provided Gold Glove Award-calibre defense during Saunders' absence, and he also was one of the club's hottest hitters during the first week of the season.
One reason for caution is that these results are coming from a very small sample size. Pillar had at least one hit in all but one of his club's first nine games, but since then, he's 1-for-15 over the last four. If the bat goes cold before Saunders returns it's possible Pompey could re-establish himself as the player to keep in center.
If Pillar starts in center, Pompey should be optioned to the Minors to receive everyday at-bats. If Pompey hangs onto the job, Pillar will stick around as a fourth outfielder and, at the very least, start against left-handers.
If Jeff Hoffman continues to excel, do you think he could pitch in Toronto later this year?
-- Matt S., Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Odds are, this is going to become a hot-button topic during the second half of the season. Hoffman, who is ranked the Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, is nearing the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, and when that date officially hits next month, he'll be allowed to go on an official Minor League assignment.
Once Hoffman is back to full speed, it shouldn't be long before he is ready to contribute at the big league level. He was drafted in 2014 as a junior out of East Carolina University, and by all accounts, he has an advanced skill set with the ability to become a front-line starting pitcher.
Considering that Toronto is doing everything possible to win now, a promotion later this year can't be ruled out. Before that happens, though, Hoffman will have his innings closely monitored when he returns in May, and there likely will be a series of gradual promotions.
Is it too early to hit the panic button? The relievers can't hold a lead, and only one time have our starters made it late into the game. Should [general manager Alex] Anthopoulos look at acquiring a Jonathan Papelbon or a starter via trade?
-- Shane S., Portland
It's still way too early to hit the panic button, and with such a young pitching staff, the expectation should be that there will be plenty of ups and downs this season. In my opinion, the bullpen has solidified itself quite nicely, and while there have been some missed opportunities, the pros outweigh the cons with the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna.
The rotation is another problem entirely, and one that probably won't go away any time soon. Lefty Daniel Norris has been going through a dead-arm phase, and the hope is that the command and life on his fastball will be return shortly. The bigger issue is with Aaron Sanchez and the lack of consistent command with his fastball.
When Sanchez is on, it's easy to see why the Blue Jays have been so high on him. The problem in each of Sanchez's first two outings this year has been location, and until he proves the fastball and curveball can be thrown for strikes consistently, he's going to have issues. Marco Estrada is the backup option, but Sanchez deserves more opportunities before that type of decision is made.
What's the latest on Johan Santana? Any chance he is ready to come up if one of the young starters needs to get sent down or to the bullpen?
-- Chad M., Yorkton, Saskatchewan
There really isn't much to report on the Santana front. Anthopoulos recently said that the plan was to re-evaluate the veteran lefty at the end of April. To date, Santana has been limited to going through the weighted ball program and throwing off flat ground while attempting to build up strength in his left shoulder.
Even once Santana does start a rigorous throwing program, it's going to be quite a while before he can be considered a viable candidate. If Santana defies the odds and somehow proves he can stay healthy and be effective, it will be a major bonus for Toronto, but there doesn't appear to be many expectations at this point.