SARASOTA, Fla. -- Drew Hutchison appears to be facing an uphill battle to make the Blue Jays starting rotation, but there's still almost four weeks to change the organization's mind.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said prior to Saturday afternoon's game against the Orioles that Hutchison has an "outside shot" at the No. 5 job behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ.
The early favorites seem to be Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers with Hutchison currently on the outside looking in. Still, perhaps the gap was narrowed just a bit as Hutchison pitched two scoreless innings in a 9-7 loss to the Orioles on Saturday afternoon.
"Any time you get an opportunity you make the most of it and if you don't have opportunities you try to create them," said Hutchison, who allowed just one hit and struck out four. "That's something I've always tried to do regardless of what situation I'm in. So I continue to battle and go out there and perform."
Hutchison couldn't have looked much better than he did against the Orioles. He touched 94 mph on the radar gun and his fastball consistently registered in the 91-92 mph range. He also threw his full arsenal of pitches and kept the opposing hitters off-balance with a variety of looks.
If there was one thing to complain about, it was that Hutchison needed 38 pitches to get through the two innings of work. He didn't seem too happy about that after the game but there were plenty of other positives to focus on.
"For a young kid, he's kind of ahead of the game," Gibbons said. "He's a command guy. He reminds me a lot of Shaun Marcum, the body type, they're both great athletes, pitchers that aren't overpowering, but have a great feel and understanding of how to get guys out."
Hutchison missed all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, but appears to be fully recovered this spring. The hope is that Hutchison will pick up where he left off during his rookie season when he seemed to get better with each outing as he posted a 4.60 ERA in 11 starts.
Romero focused on positive aspects of latest outing
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Left-hander Ricky Romero focused on the positives after pitching a scoreless inning vs. Baltimore that included a pair of walks.
Romero walked the first two batters he faced on a total of nine pitches. The first four balls all missed low and away, but he was able to get back on track and finish the rest of his outing unscathed.
The 29-year-old stranded the two baserunners by getting Baltimore's Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis to hit weak fly balls. The start was far from pretty, but that's not what Romero decided to focus on afterwards.
"It was good, it could have been a lot worse," said Romero, who entered in the fifth. "I was excited to get out there and it's different coming out of the bullpen. It's just weird to me, but I got three good hitters out after those two walks. Threw strikes when I had to, bared down, and nothing but positive things other than those two walks."
The fact that Romero decided to talk about the positives is probably a good sign. The last thing the Blue Jays and Romero want to do is spend anymore time going over a 2013 season that saw him outrighted to the Minor Leagues just one year after he was the club's No. 1 starter.
It has been a frustrating couple of years, but the focus is now on taking those steps to regain his confidence and figure out his mechanics on the mound. The walks weren't a good sign, but the following three quick outs were. More won't be known until he's given an opportunity to go beyond just one inning.
"We sped up his delivery a little bit," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has a little rhythm and that's a key to pitching. When you get into those ruts, and you could see it last year, real slow and deliberate and a lot of times that works against you. But that's kind of the natural way guys do things when they're trying to put everything back together and trying to repeat things. But he looks a heck of a lot better.
"It has been a battle for him. Mentally, it has been tough on him, but he has hung in there pretty good. He has been to the top of this game and now he's down to the bottom. You're probably pulling for that guy a lot extra than you are some of the other guys, simply because of what he has been through."
Janssen held out of action with sore shoulder
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Casey Janssen has been held out of action this week because of a sore shoulder.
Janssen has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game and his overall throwing routine has been limited because of lingering soreness. According to the Blue Jays, the issue isn't expected to be anything too serious.
Toronto's closer underwent shoulder surgery prior to the 2013 season and made only two official appearances that spring, but still managed to get through the year without going on the disabled list.
"He's still a little stiff," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He'll go a few days and then get back up there. He didn't throw a whole heck of a lot last [spring] either and had a pretty good year. Want to make sure he's ready to go, he'll have plenty of time."
Third baseman Brett Lawrie also is dealing with a minor injury. He was scratched from Saturday afternoon's game vs. the Orioles because of a tight hamstring. Lawrie wanted to make the trip to Sarasota, Fla., but Gibbons told him to take a day off instead.
Lawrie is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday afternoon against the Yankees. The same thing can be said for first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who also was given the day off after originally being scheduled to make the trip to face Baltimore.
"I just gave Eddie a couple of days, he's coming off that wrist thing," Gibbons said of Encarnacion, who underwent surgery last September. "There's absolutely nothing wrong there, but I thought, you know what, let's be smart about it. He'll play [Sunday] and he'll go down to Fort Myers with us too [on Monday]. Back-to-back days the next two days."
The Blue Jays seem to be taking a cautious approach this spring and it's easy to understand why. Last season, Adam Lind, Mark DeRosa and J.P. Arencibia were the only position players that started the year with the team and didn't spend time on the disabled list.
Toronto's pitching staff was equally decimated by the injury bug. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle were the only healthy starters while Janssen and Aaron Loup were among the only healthy relievers.
"You get a little gun shy because we saw so many of our key guys go down," Gibbons said. "You don't feel like those things are going to happen again, but it weighs on you, it's in the back of my mind.
"The fact that it's Spring Training, a guy like Eddie, he's a little bit older, he's not like that young kid. You know he's going to hit so we just want to make sure he's ready to go for Opening Day."