One thing that is not settled going into next season is the Blue Jays’ closer role. B.J. Ryan is gone — though his $10 million 2010 salary is still on the books — and the team is not 100 percent convinced Scott Downs will be the full-time replacement.
Asked if Downs would be defined as “the closer” going into next spring, this is what manager Cito Gaston had to say:
“Probably not. We’ll just wait and see. To say, ‘Who’s your closer?’ and to try to see which one does a better job in Spring Training is a little tough to do.”
By that last statement, Gaston meant that it’s difficult to simulate a ninth-inning situation in the spring, when most big leaguers have bailed long before the final frame. It stands to reason that Downs and Jason Frasor, who both are eligible to become free agents after 2010, will be the leading candidates for the role next year.
Downs has been great over the past few years as Toronto’s main setup man, but his performance as the closer this year — after Ryan was stripped of the role in April before being released on July — has been shaky. Part of the reason for Downs’ struggles, a main reason actually, is he has been dealing off and on with a left foot injury.
Gaston does not believe the injury, and the lack of save chances, have really given Downs an opportunity to show if he is the right person for the closer job.
“Downs did great as a setup man,” Gaston said. “But he hasn’t really had the opportunity to show us that [he should be the closer] one way or the other — not much. He’s had a couple of times out there that didn’t work out, but as far as really showing us that he’s the guy, he hasn’t had the opportunity because he’s been hurt.”
Downs, who is coming off a three-outing Minor League rehab stint with Class A Dunedin, was scheduled to rejoin the Jays on Sunday, according to Gaston. The manager said that Downs would “probably” be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday, but he might not move directly into the stopper role — currently held by Frasor.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Gaston said. “If he got here tomorrow and I said, ‘We’re going to stick him in the closer’s spot right away,’ I’m not sure if that’s fair to him, either. We’ll see who’s hitting. We’ll see what numbers we’ve got on guys and see if it’s a possibility for him to do that.”
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (74-47)
First place AL West, — GB
1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Vlad Guerrero, DH
5. Juan Rivera, LF
6. Mike Napoli, C
7. Kendry Morales, 1B
8. Howie Kendrick, 2B
9. Erick Aybar, SS
Starter: RHP Trevor Bell (1-0, 5.91)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, LF
4. Lyle Overbay, 1B
5. Vernon Wells, CF
6. Randy Ruiz, DH
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. Travis Snider, RF
9. Raul Chavez, C
Starter: LHP Ricky Romero (10-5, 3.95)
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