TORONTO -- With star outfielder George Springer rehabbing from a Grade 2 strain to his left oblique, the Blue Jays have told Jonathan Davis he’s cracked the Opening Day roster.
For now, the Blue Jays haven’t made a final decision on whether Springer will open the season on the injured list, with manager Charlie Montoyo instead saying that Davis has earned this opportunity with a strong spring.
He’s right. Davis has hit .294 with an .841 OPS in the Grapefruit League and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the organization, with speed to burn, but with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández and Randal Grichuk already on the roster, this clearly raises the question of whether Springer will be ready for Opening Day on April 1 against the Yankees in New York.
“We’re still going day to day,” Montoyo said of Springer. “He hit off the tee today, but again, we have to see how he feels tomorrow. It’s still day to day with him.”
Following the theme of the past week for the Blue Jays, the injury news doesn’t stop there. Left-hander Robbie Ray, who bruised his left elbow earlier in the week after falling down some stairs, will miss at least his first start of the regular season. The early diagnosis was simply a “bruise,” so while this shouldn’t be a long-term issue, it further stretches Toronto’s pitching depth.
“There are still guys competing for those spots,” Montoyo said. “We’ve still got Trent Thornton, we’ve still got T.J. Zeuch, we’ve still got Anthony Kay. We’ve got guys competing now that we know Robbie’s not going to make that start.”
This challenge is compounded by the fact that No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is still only throwing long toss after re-aggravating his right groin strain on March 16. With Pearson not yet throwing bullpen sessions, it could take him some time to build back up to full strength. Right-hander Thomas Hatch is also out of action with right elbow inflammation.
Even before these injuries, the Blue Jays were expected to lean on multi-inning relievers and creative pitching solutions throughout the season, but that’s become more urgent. The Blue Jays have a scheduled off-day on April 2, following Opening Day, but after that, they play 16 games in 16 days. There will be little time to catch their breath or skip an open spot in the rotation.
Behind ace Hyun Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays’ rotation now has Steven Matz, Tanner Roark and Ross Stripling healthy. But question marks remain behind them.
“I was just leaving my fastball up a lot today and I just couldn't make an adjustment today. That’s the key thing,” Kay said. “I was pitching from behind a lot and I wasn't getting ahead and everything plays off my fastball.”
Merryweather on track
Julian Merryweather said Saturday that his back feels comfortable after he missed time earlier in camp. Now that he’s settled back into his one-to-two-inning bullpen role, he should be ready for Opening Day and has the potential to play a large role for the Blue Jays. Debuting in a similar multi-inning role last season should only help.
“It was great for a lot of guys to get their feet wet, me included,” Merryweather said. “Being there against big league hitters in big league ballparks, it’s good to acclimate yourself to that. It takes away a lot of the nerves. We’re slowly introducing fans now, so that will be an added element eventually when we see full capacity at some point. Just being able to face the true talent of a Major League hitter, there’s nothing that’s going to prepare you for that.”
Blue Jays trim down roster
Prior to the game, the Blue Jays assigned 10 players to their Minor League side. These players will still be eligible to play in Grapefruit League games. Catcher Riley Adams, infielder Santiago Espinal, outfielder Josh Palacios and right-hander Joel Payamps were optioned. Right-hander Dany Jimenez, left-hander Kirby Snead and outfielder Forrest Wall were reassigned along with infielders Tyler White, Richard Ureña and Kevin Smith.
Espinal should still see some action through the season, but Friday’s decision to roster veteran Joe Panik keeps him off the Opening Day roster. Palacios could also see some time as a 40-man outfielder while Adams, the club’s No. 19 prospect, impressed throughout camp and should be Triple-A Buffalo's starter behind the plate when the Minor League season opens.