Happ not guaranteed rotation spot when he returns
On DL with lower back tightness, Blue Jays lefty throws bullpen session
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ threw a bullpen session Wednesday afternoon, but there's no guarantee that he'll have a spot in the rotation once healthy.
Happ was placed on the 15-day disabled list at the end of Spring Training with tightness in his lower back. The timing of the DL stint was rather curious because Happ appeared to have lost his starting job even before the official injury announcement.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos was pressed for details on the injury and Happ's future role on the team during a Wednesday evening scrum with the reporters.
"We'll deal with all of that," Anthopoulos said. "Look, hopefully, like anything, we have five starters that are rolling and they're winning all of their games and we have too many starters. That would be a great problem to have. I would sign up for that right now.
"But you deal with those things as they come. Every day something else could happen, in the next 10 days, two weeks, you can't plan that far ahead."
Happ dealt with a sore back early in camp but eventually returned to the mound with several weeks remaining and was adamant that everything was fine. That tone continued through his final outing of the year but quickly changed when the Blue Jays announced their 25-man roster on March 26.
There had been some speculation that Happ would be headed for a role in the bullpen, but instead the club announced his back was still an issue and placed him on the DL. Anthopoulos stressed that there was still a spot for the seven-year veteran in the rotation.
Toronto started the year with R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan in the rotation. It would likely take one of those starters to either falter or get injured for Happ to get another chance. Anthopoulos remained vague about that, though, and said that's not something the club will seriously consider until Happ eventually goes through a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues.
"If we all of a sudden have six starters that are performing great, I don't think we're going to go to a six-man rotation; we would deal with that then," Anthopoulos said. "We expect J.A. to be a part of the rotation and we expect that when he's healthy to be a really good performer for us."
But there's no guarantee that Happ will have a spot?
"No, certainly, the same way there's no guarantee with every single starter over time, things can happen, performances, things like that," Anthopoulos said.
Trio of catchers may soon become duo
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Blue Jays started the season with three catchers on their 25-man roster, but that's not necessarily going to be the case for long.
Toronto has right-hander Casey Janssen and shortstop Jose Reyes on the 15-day disabled list and when either of those players return, it will prompt some changes. One possibility is returning to an eight-man bullpen while another would see the Blue Jays stick with a more versatile defender off the bench.
The main reason catcher Erik Kratz was a late addition to the roster when Janssen went down was it gave the club an additional right-handed bat off the bench. That's the priority for now, but it might not continue much longer.
"I think it's fair to say, ideally, we wouldn't carry three," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "It's really game to game right now.
"We've had dialogue, but when some of these guys start coming back from the DL whether it's Janssen, [J.A.] Happ, Reyes, knock on wood, none of these guys are expected to be long, so we'll have some moves to make and there will be changes."
Dioner Navarro is the starting catcher, but a case could be made that Kratz should be the primary backup over Josh Thole. Kratz has 19 home runs and a .699 OPS in 379 career at-bats while Thole has a .645 OPS and eight home runs in 1,038 at-bats.
Kratz is the one with a bit more power, but for now the Blue Jays are sticking with Thole, the backstop they think will work best with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Anthopoulos also defended Thole's offensive abilities by pointing to 2011, when he hit .268 with a .345 on-base percentage in 114 games.
"The thing is, Josh has had some offensive success," Anthopoulos said. "I know he didn't have it last year and the second half of the year in 2012 with the Mets. But in the past, he has been a .700 OPS guy, he can draw some walks, low strikeout rate, he can put the ball in play, he can grind out some at-bats and that's what we talked to him about. He doesn't need to come out and hit .300 or hit 20 home runs, just have quality at-bats."
• Just because the Blue Jays lost Reyes just one at-bat into the season with a tight hamstring doesn't mean they will be looking outside the organization for additional help.
"No, we expect Jose to be back somewhat soon," Anthopoulos said. "We don't expect it to be that long of a stint."
Reyes is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on April 16. It's not known whether Reyes will be able to return by that date, but he's optimistic about playing somewhere around that date.