One rotation spot up for grabs, Atkins says

Notes on Borucki, Richard, Tepera, Zeuch, Phelps

February 14th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays were barely one hour into the official start of Spring Training when general manager Ross Atkins threw the first curveball of the year.
Atkins announced four members of his starting rotation. The news wasn't so much who made the list, but rather who did not. Despite an impressive 2018 rookie season, lefty apparently hasn't been guaranteed anything quite yet.
Vlad Jr. yet to arrive but already talk of camp
The Blue Jays seem content to move forward with a rotation of , , and . Borucki, 24, remains the clear favorite for the final spot, but he'll have to compete against a long list of candidates to get the job.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"As long as those guys are healthy, stretched out and able to pitch six innings, they're most likely going to be the first four starters," Atkins said. "[Borucki] will be competing for the fifth spot."
Atkins' morning announcement caught some of the media members offguard because until Thursday it had been assumed Stroman, Sanchez, Shoemaker and Borucki all had guaranteed jobs. Speculation was that Richard would be the favorite for the final slot, and he would have to hold off other candidates such as , and .
Borucki will now be the one tasked with having to win a job with his performance this spring. Make no mistake, he's the favorite to head north, but it appears as though the Blue Jays will force him to earn it every step of the way. A spot will be handed to Richard and his 5.33 ERA in San Diego, but it apparently won't be given to Borucki without a fight, and that might be the biggest surprise of all.
Tepera clarifies comments
Reliever attempted to clarify some comments he made during a recent interview with the Toronto Star on Thursday by saying he was upset with the arbitration process, but harbors no ill feelings toward the organization.
Tepera recently came out on the losing end of his arbitration case. The 31-year-old was awarded a salary of $1.525 million instead of the $1.8 million he was seeking. That led to a media interview in which he said: "At the end of the day, it comes down to me winning or losing the case and I hate losing at anything. So obviously I'm not happy, but it's over and done with."
The Toronto media was informed Thursday morning that Tepera wanted to set the record straight and a scrum was scheduled.
"I want to clarify some words I said [Wednesday] it was strictly about the case and the process," Tepera said. "There are no hard feelings between the club and I at all. I don't think any player likes to go through this process, win or lose. It's just part of what is set in stone. It is the process. With that being said, I'm making good money and I'm playing the game of baseball that I love."
Worth mentioning
• Atkins announced on Thursday that right-hander T.J. Zeuch has a mild lat strain, and the club is still gathering information on the extent of his injury.
• Right-hander is approximately 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has not been ruled out for the start of 2019. The initial belief was that Phelps would begin the year on the injured list. That still might happen, but Atkins said a return before the end of March is still realistic.
• Skipper Charlie Montoyo was asked Thursday about possible Opening Day lineups and an everyday leadoff hitter, but he remained vague on both accounts. The new Blue Jays manager said he won't start thinking about lineups until later in camp, and that almost everyone is a candidate to bat first.