Floyd pitching strong early case for No. 5 spot

Right-hander retires 9 of 10 hitters against Twins

March 8th, 2016
Right-hander Gavin Floyd pitches against the Twins. (AP)Chris O'Mear/AP

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The most difficult decision the Blue Jays have to make this spring centers around the final spot in the starting rotation, and Gavin Floyd intends to make sure he doesn't become the forgotten man.

Floyd continued his bid for the rotation with a strong outing in Tuesday's 9-3 victory over the Twins. The veteran righty retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, with the only blemish coming on a solo homer by Byung Ho Park in the second inning.

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The 33-year-old Floyd has to walk a fine line this month. On one hand, he has to keep things as normal as possible by easing into a routine that will have him peaking at the right time. On the other, Floyd needs to keep getting outs in an attempt to curry favor and gain an edge in this competitive battle.

"I know that I'm at my best when I just work on the things I need to work on, use Spring Training as a build-up," Floyd said. "That's what I need to do, I need to build up and I need to work on things. Spring Training is a month of adjustments. Some games you'll be off, some games you'll be on and just try to be as consistent as possible. I'm trying to build off each start and worry about attacking, making pitches and things will take care of themselves."

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Aaron Sanchez is the biggest name competing for the final spot, and after spending parts of the last two years in the bullpen, he has made it publicly known he has a strong desire to start. Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez also want to stake their claim to the position and at this point it's impossible to predict with any confidence who will be the ultimate winner.

Floyd experienced some command issues during last week's spring debut, but he got back on track against Minnesota. The 12-year veteran induced three weak outs through the air in the first, allowed the homer in the second and then got a popup, a grounder and a strikeout in the third.

It's still far too early to read into the results, but the most important thing for Floyd is that he finally feels healthy. The native of Maryland had multiple surgeries on his right elbow and hasn't been a full-time starter at the big league level since 2012. He has a lot to prove but every positive outing -- even the ones in Spring Training -- represents a small step forward.

"First couple of outings, they're really just getting into shape," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of his starters. "They're getting their feel, getting some side work in between. They'll all start rounding into shape these next couple of outings and that's when you can really gauge. They start throwing more innings, [experience] a little fatigue and we'll see a bit more. [Floyd] is right on schedule. We like what we've seen."