The closest is Ray, the left-hander who bruised his elbow when he fell down a set of stairs. He was sharp in camp and profiled as the No. 2 starter in the rotation, so the Blue Jays are eager to get him back on the mound as he rounds out his rehab process. Toronto's rotation needs upside, which Ray brings to the table.
“He feels great. His side session was electric, and we’re really excited to get him back here,” pitching coach Pete Walker said Sunday. “He was built up and got to his pitch count where we wanted him to be, so now it’s just a matter of doing right by him and making sure he’s ready when he gets back here.”
Next in line should be Pearson, the club’s No. 1 prospect who’s dealing with a right adductor strain. The Blue Jays aren’t putting a timeline on him, but given that he’s still only throwing off flat ground and hadn’t built all the way up in camp, his return could still take some time. Pearson hasn’t had the best injury luck in his young career, so Toronto wants to be certain that the big right-hander is at 100 percent.
Hatch still sounds like he’s the farthest from returning, but after the initial scare of his elbow injury in Dunedin, Fla., having him projected to come back this season is great news for the organization. Hatch was in the competition for the final rotation spot and was likely to be the club’s No. 6 starter when he went down, but it’s easy to envision him having a role this year.
“He’s a kid that we love. He’s got a long Major League career ahead of him,” Walker said. “He’s a guy that’s going to pitch a lot of big innings for us, I believe, over his career. We’re not going to rush him, but we will have him back at some point, for sure.”
The Blue Jays' pitching situation will be fluid all season long, but as these starters return, Ross Stripling and T.J. Zeuch will likely be looking at new roles. Stripling, in particular, has experience coming out of the bullpen, and Zeuch could offer the club another bulk arm.
Borucki taking the next step
Ryan Borucki debuted with a scoreless inning of relief Saturday, averaging 96.1 mph on his fastball. Now that Borucki has fully established himself as a reliever, Walker has seen his fastball velocity improve along with his breaking ball. That pitch was a bigger curveball when Borucki was starting, then developed into more of a slider, and now acts as a cutter. There’s room to grow, but Walker likes his trajectory.
“I see him taking off in that role in the bullpen,” Walker said, “which we’ve seen, but I just see it to be a continued theme.”
Borucki’s name hasn’t been mentioned as often behind the expected high-leverage group of Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, Tyler Chatwood and Julian Merryweather, but he’s right there. Tim Mayza gives the Blue Jays another hard-throwing lefty, too, and they are confident rolling out both against right-handers.
Milone added to bullpen, Payamps optioned
This is the type of roster move you’ll see dozens of times this season as the Blue Jays, like most clubs, work to cover innings while their pitchers stretch back out to 162 games. Milone, like Payamps or Trent Thornton, offers that multi-inning insurance. Reliever Kirby Yates (Tommy John surgery) was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.