Germano working to get noticed on depth chart
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' pitching staff no longer resembles the one Justin Germano thought he was joining back in early November.
Germano was an early offseason target by general manager Alex Anthopoulos. The signing was met with little fanfare, but at the time it appeared as though Germano would have an opportunity to at least compete for a starting job.
A lot has changed since then, though, and now Germano not only finds himself without a chance to make the rotation but also needing to make a strong impression in camp to climb a suddenly lengthy depth chart.
"It was pretty open at the time," Germano said of the rotation. "Alex called me himself and told me about the opportunity that was here and it sounded too good to pass up.
"Obviously nobody knew they were going to do what they did. It's not the most ideal situation for me but I'm happy to be here, and I hope I can be part of this team because they're going to do some good things this year."
At the end of last season, the Blue Jays' pitching depth was questionable at best. Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ led the way, but after that there wasn't a whole lot else.
Henderson Alvarez was coming off a disappointing season while promising right-handers Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison were both out until at least the All-Star break following Tommy John surgery.
That's where Germano fit in -- as a valuable depth option for a club that was forced to use 12 different starting pitchers in 2012 because of injuries. The chances for a potential big league gig appeared greater than with just about any other organization in baseball.
What happened in the months that followed was something Germano could never have envisioned. The Blue Jays pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade with Miami which brought Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle into their rotation.
A month later, the staff got even stronger by the addition of No. 1 starter R.A. Dickey. It has left Germano in a somewhat awkward position.
"It's not ideal but it's definitely taken a bit of an edge off knowing you don't have to go out and be perfect every time," Germano said. "They have a pretty solid pitching staff there, so it's going to take quite a bit of things to really make that team.
"Just trying to go out there and at least open up some eyes where if something happens down the road and if they need somebody, hopefully I'll be at the top of their list."
Germano has spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues but the vast majority of his work has been limited to the Minors. He was originally selected in the 13th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft and bounced between five different organizations since then.
Anthopoulos became interested in his services thanks to a strong performance last season for Triple-A Pawtucket of the Red Sox organization. Germano went 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA in 105 innings of work after previously struggling in the Majors with the Cubs.
The 30-year-old possesses a mid-to-upper 80s sinker along with a curveball and impressive changeup. His success certainly doesn't come from velocity but more on command, which is something he hadn't begun to master until the past couple of years. Now it's something he prides himself on as evidenced by only 13 walks in Boston's system last year.
"I think just getting comfortable in myself knowing what my game plan is," Germano said of his recent success. "Being younger, you just want to go out there, throw as hard as you can and strike everybody out.
"I try to get ground balls and get quick outs. I'd rather be out there for nine pitches and get three groundballs than be out there for 15 pitches and strike out the side. I guess being a starter that's my mindset, trying to get as deep into games as I can."
All hope isn't lost for Germano but he does have a daunting task ahead of him. Happ is the clear backup starter in Toronto's rotation and it's possible Brad Lincoln also will find himself on that depth chart this season.
That would likely leave Germano as the eighth starter. Injuries would have to hit Toronto's staff before he could make a mark, but there is also an outside chance that the Blue Jays would consider him for a role in long relief.
That would seem somewhat unlikely based on the other candidates, but if Germano has his way, the club's decision won't be easy. During a game on Wednesday afternoon against the Astros, fellow candidates Lincoln and Jeremy Jeffress struggled badly on the mound while Germano was relatively flawless.
The native of California allowed just one hit while striking out four and was praised by manager John Gibbons following the lopsided 10-1 loss.
"He was really the only one that was sharp out there today," Gibbons said. "Everybody else got hit around pretty good or [had] trouble locating the ball.
"That's two good ones in a row for [Germano]. ... We're looking for a guy that can eat some innings up too on the big league staff and he could definitely fit that."