One player that has kind of been lost in the shuffle this spring has been left-hander David Purcey.
The rotation battle appears to be led by Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Tallet and Brett Cecil. And Dustin McGowan has grabbed some of the spotlight with the positive strides he’s made in his comeback attempt.
As a result, Purcey has slipped down the depth chart and virtually out of the discussion for the rotation vacancies. As it turns out, the big lefty may very much be in the running for one of the open spots in the bullpen.
“I think that we’re probably leaning that way to see what he can do,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who watched Purcey throw two shutout innings in a “B” game against the Phillies on Monday morning.
“We’re just trying to find a slot for him that he’s comfortable at. Hopefully he continues to do that. I was very impressed. That’s the best I’ve seen him throw since I’ve been here.”
In separate stints as a starter for the Jays over the past two years, the 6-foot-5, 27-year-old southpaw has gone 4-9 with a 5.81 ERA in 21 outings. Purcey relied on a power fastball, with a slider, changeup and sweeping curve as offspeed options. Gaston said pitching coach Bruce Walton has Purcey only throwing fastballs and sliders right now.
In the “B” game against the Phillies at Dunedin Stadium, Gaston was impressed with the early results.
“I’ll tell you what, you guys saw him pitch a lot last year,” Gaston began, “you would’ve been amazed with what you would’ve seen this morning, because he threw strikes. His arm slot was great.”
In a perfect world, Gaston said his bullpen might include three lefties and four righties.
Right now, the only left-hander who is a lock for the ‘pen is Scott Downs. The Jays also have lefty Jesse Carlson, who is currently nursing a left knee issue. Even if Carlson is healthy by Opening Day, Purcey provides a lefty who can potentially eat up innings — important with such a young rotation.
So, there seem to be two scenarios right now. If Carlson is healthy, Purcey could still wind up in the ‘pen, meaning one of the righties could get bumped (Jeremy Accardo? Casey Janssen? Shawn Camp? Josh Roenicke?). If Carlson is sidelined, Purcey may emerge as a leading contender to replace him in the bullpen. Other lefties in camp include Dana Eveland, Zach Jackson, Willie Collazo and Rommie Lewis.
For all you Tallet-should-be-in-the-bullpen people out there, it’s not going to happen. At least not right now. Gaston was asked if they’d consider moving Tallet or Rzepczynski into the bullpen in an emergency situation (if Carlson isn’t healthy or if something else happens related to the left-handed options), and he said that both pitchers are secure in their roles as starters.
“Those guys are pretty much rotation,” Gaston said of Tallet and Rzepczynski.
As for Carlson, he’s been bother by a sore MCL in his left knee and he’s scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Wednesday. That will be a big test to see if the injury is more serious than the Jays believe. Carlson said this morning that Toronto’s trainers are being optimistic about his chances of being ready for Opening Day.
MAKING ADJUSTMENTS: After his four-inning outing against the Tigers on Monday, Rzepczynski said he is getting better at recognizing when his mechanics get out of whack and then making the subsequent adjustments during the game.
Rzepczynski said the main issue he runs into is “flying open” during his delivery. He said he will sometimes lean back too much during his leg kick, which begins a chain reaction. His front side will open up and his left wrist will be turned to the side, instead of being on top of the ball.
“That’s when everything comes like I’m sling-shotting it,” he said.
When that happens, Rzepczynski said his pitches have a tendency to stay up and in to left-handed hitters, or to float back over the plate when he’s trying to go inside against right-handed hitters. In the first inning on Monday, Rzepczynski said the issue came up when he issues a walk to Johnny Damon.
“Everything was up and in to him, near his head — he probably didn’t like that too much,” Rzepczynski said. “When I fly open, that happens. Same thing with the breaking ball, it’ll be up on that side if I don’t get on top of it. If not that batter, at least the next one, if anything happens, me being able to realize that hopefully will get me through innings.”
CHANGING THINGS: Brett Cecil’s left thumb is completely healed and he had clearance to throw as many curves and sliders as he wanted on Monday. Still, the lefty decided to stick primarily with fastballs and changeups in his 2 1/3 innings against Detroit, and for a couple reasons.
First off, Cecil has worked with bullpen coach Rick Langford on developing a new two-seam sinking fastball with an altered grip. The tailing action on the pitch is similar to that of his changeup. Beyond that, Cecil said limiting the types of pitches he throws is also helping him realize his changeup can be a good out-pitch.
“A lot of hitters say the changeup is the toughest pitch to hit,” Cecil said. “If I throw it right, it’ll be tough to pick up.”
EDWIN WATCH: Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, sidelined with a sore left wrist, was not in the lineup in either the “A” or “B” game on Monday and he is not listed as making the trip to Sarasota for Toronto’s next game on Wednesday. As the season nears, the possibility of Encarnacion opening on the disabled list increases.
“He’s still just trying to get the strength back in his hand,” Gaston said. “We’ve still got almost two and a half weeks or something like that. Hopefully he’s going to have a chance to start the season. If not, we’ll start with him on the DL.”
If Encarnacion does open on the DL, Jose Bautista would likely shift from right field to third base to begin the season. That would create a number of scenarios for the outfield, depending on whether Travis Snider opens the year in left or begins at Triple-A.
No Snider and no Encarnacion could lead to Adam Lind in left, Randy Ruiz as the DH and Joey Gathright or Jeremy Reed in right, opening the door for two of Mike McCoy/Brian Dopirak/Gathright/Reed to be on the bench. With Snider in left, Gathright or Reed could be in right and two of Ruiz/Dopirak/McCoy/Gathright/Reed could be on the bench.
Got all that? I’m not even sure I do. Debate away…
BIRD FEED: Still nothing to report on the Adeiny Hechavarria front. Multiple reports have the Jays signing the Cuban shortstop to a four-year contract worth $10 million, pending a physical. Jays still have nothing to announce. … In his start against the Tigers, Rzepczynski allowed three runs (all on two homers in the first) on six hits with four strikeouts and one walk in three innings. The wind was howling out to right, playing a major part in Miguel Cabrera’s first-inning blast. … Cecil allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits (one homer) with three strikeouts and one walk over 2 1/3 innings. The defense behind him did not help. … Brian Dopirak homered in the game against the Tigers, ending a streak of five straight at-bats ending in a strikeout. … Randy Ruiz went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs. … Travis Snider went 1-for-3. … In the “B” game, Gathright homered (!) and had two RBIs in an 8-1 win over the Phillies. Gathright has one homer in 1,175 MLB at-bats and one in 1,840 Minor League at-bats. I may have missed out on his only homer as a member of the Jays. … Also in the “B” game, Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells, Chris Lubanski and John Buck each had doubles. Bautista, Hill, Lind, Wells and Gathright each had two hits. RBIs for Lubanski, Gathright, Wells, Lind, Buck and Hill. Zach Jackson turned in two shutout innings, Lance Broadway worked three innings and allowed one run en route to a win, Steve Register had two shutout innings and Purcey logged two blank frames as well. … Tuesday is an off-day for the Jays. RHP Shaun Marcum is scheduled to start in a Minor League game at The Mattick at 1 pm. … Pitchers going to Sarasota on Wednesday to play the Orioles include Brian Tallet, Shawn Camp, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, Rommie Lewis, Zech Zinicola, Willie Collazo. Other notables making trip inclide JP Arencibia, Raul Chavez, Brian Dopirak, Randy Ruiz, John McDonald, Joey Gathright, Jeremy Reed, Travis Snider.
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