Notes: Litsch's durability proven
Development not motive behind potential return to Minors
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jesse Litsch may wind up heading to the Minor Leagues as a victim of circumstance. If the young pitcher is indeed told at the end of Spring Training that he has to suit up for Triple-A Syracuse, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said it won't be because Litsch needs more development.
"He had enough starts," said Gibbons, referring to Litsch's stint with Toronto last season. "How many starts did he have total last year, 20? I think that's a pretty full year, especially for a young kid. I think he's proved enough.
"Whether he makes the team or not, we don't know. But he's proved enough to me, anyway."
On Tuesday, Litsch took the mound at Knology Park for his second start of the spring, squaring off against the majority of the New York Yankees' regular lineup. A rain delay in the bottom of the second inning forced Litsch to finish his work indoors, but the 22-year-old did manage to complete two innings before the sheets of rain showed.
Litsch, who is competing with right-hander Casey Janssen for the fifth spot in Toronto's rotation, needed 44 pitches (25 strikes) to get through his two frames on the hill, and the right-hander added another 14 tosses inside the batting cage after his start. Against New York, Litsch gave up one run on three hits, with one walk and one strikeout.
"He can go out there and get hit a little bit," Gibbons said. "We're just looking to see what he's doing with his pitches. ... The big thing is, hopefully he uses his sinker a little more. His natural pitch is his cutter, and that's his go-to pitch when he needs it.
"But he's most effective when he uses both of them, so he can cut up both sides of the plate."
Litsch, who went 7-9 with a 3.81 ERA in 20 starts for Toronto in 2007, said that -- unlike in his last start, when he used mainly fastballs and changeups -- he mixed in all of his pitches this time around. Using his sinker, Litsch forced four New York hitters to ground out, which the pitcher said was an improvement over his results against the Tigers on Thursday.
"I didn't get many ground balls in the last game," said Litsch, who yielded four runs in two innings against Detroit in that start. "I'm trying to [work on my sinker]. I threw a couple good ones today and a couple bad ones. That's the main thing I'm working on right now, and it's definitely getting there."
Differing views: Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi took a non-committal stance on Tuesday when asked if Jeremy Accardo was a shoo-in for the bullpen's setup job. Ricciardi would only say that Accardo was "in the mix" for that role, if closer B.J. Ryan is healthy enough to be the stopper come Opening Day.
Gibbons had a different take on the matter. Last season, while Ryan was recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, Accardo filled in and chalked up 30 saves. That performance has Gibbons backing Accardo as the obvious pick for the eighth-inning job.
"That's Accardo's [job]," Gibbons said. "But everything is going to revolve around B.J. If B.J. is healthy, that's Accardo's job. Then, of course, Jeremy will fill in to close some games when Ryan's not available."
Rounding third: The more Gibbons sees Vernon Wells swing, the more the manager is convinced that the center fielder has no lingering problems from the left shoulder surgery he had in September. It's also a main reason why Gibbons is leaning toward slotting Wells into the third spot of Toronto's lineup.
"I was watching him hit in the cage before the game the other day," Gibbons said, "and that's as good as I've seen his swing look in two or three years. His shoulder is fine, and I think he's going to have a big, big year. I really do.
"I like him right in that three-hole. He's earned his name, and he's earned his stripes here being in that spot. That's always been his spot, and he's had big years for us. I see him hitting in that third spot."
Finding the time: The Jays are trying to sort out how catching prospects Robinzon Diaz and Curtis Thigpen will each get enough playing time this season at Syracuse. One way is to have the players spend time at some other positions.
On Monday, Diaz played third base during a Minor League game for Toronto and he has experience at second base as well. Thigpen, who spent time with the Blue Jays last season, has logged some innings at first base on occasion this spring.
Gibbons backs Frasor: Gibbons noted that reliever Jason Frasor, who often went long stretches without an outing during season's second half a year ago, shouldn't be looking over his shoulder this spring. Gibbons said, as far as he's concerned, Frasor will be in Toronto's bullpen. Frasor has been sick with flu-like symptoms for the past few days, but he's slated to make his first game appearance of the spring on Wednesday.
Far from perfect: On Tuesday, the Blue Jays were unable to manage a single hit -- or a baserunner, for that matter -- in a rain-shortened game against the Yankees at Knology Park. After roughly an hour-long weather delay, which interrupted play in the second inning, Toronto pulled its regulars from the lineup and labored to a loss in five-plus innings.
Roster moves: Prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees, the Blue Jays returned pitchers Jamie Vermilyea, Jeremy Cummings and Ryan Ketchner to Minor League camp. Toronto currently has 56 players, including 16 non-roster invitees, in camp with the big league club.
Quotable: "Zaunie's got the Kennedy assassination figured out. There's a lot of conversations with Zaunie that don't end up the way you think they're going. And I love him." -- Ricciardi, joking about catcher Gregg Zaun
Coming up: Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is scheduled to pitch three innings on Wednesday, when Toronto hosts Philadelphia at 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Knology Park. Brian Wolfe, Jesse Carlson, Tracy Thorpe, Mike Gosling and Frasor are also slated to pitch for the Jays.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.