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Gaston faces big decisions about his rotation

Gaston faces big decisions about his rotation

Slowly but surely the injured pitchers - save for Dustin McGowan - should start trickling back to the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup beginning around the middle of May.

At that point, manager Cito Gaston will be facing some critical decisions about his rotation, which has performed above expectations in the first month of the season.

One of the toughest verdicts will involve Brian Tallet, last night's starter against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium, where rain delayed the first pitch by 31 minutes.

What Tallet couldn't put off was his first rough outing since he joined the rotation as an injury replacement, getting knocked around for 10 runs off 11 hits through four-plus innings as the Royals won an 11-3 laugher.

Tallet's task was formidable to begin with, going up against Royals ace Zack Greinke, who had not allowed an earned run through four starts this season, recording 36 strikeouts.

The Blue Jays quickly ended Greinke's streak in the first inning. Vernon Wells singled to centre to score Marco Scutaro, who doubled to lead off, which staked Toronto to a 1-0 lead.

It was pretty much downhill for the Jays and Tallet after that as the Royals roared back to score 11 runs between the second and sixth innings.

The deluge included three home runs - two by Billy Butler, who had four hits and four runs batted in.

It made for a fairly routine night for Greinke, 5-0, who held Toronto to two runs off five hits over seven innings.

Kansas City belted out 15 hits, a season high against Toronto pitching.

"It's one of those times they got the best of me," Tallet said. "When you make mistakes out over the plate and up, that's what's going to happen.

"It just seemed like I could get those two outs and I just wasn't able to make the pitch to get the third out. Hats off to them and we'll go back to the drawing board and we'll be better next time."

The Royals (11-10) have taken a 2-1 series lead over the Jays (15-8) with the fourth and final game this afternoon.

With Toronto having won its first six series to begin the season, the best it can do now is gain a split.

A stalwart of the bullpen, Tallet was pressed into the rotation after Jesse Litsch landed on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his right forearm and elbow.

In his previous two starts heading into last night's game, the 31-year-old lefty performed admirably, pitching into the sixth inning in both outings, going 1-0 with a 0.82 earned-run average.

With performances like that, assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos agreed it will be hard to send Tallet back to the bullpen.

"Tallet's great because all he cares about is winning and he'll do whatever's good for the team," Anthopoulos said. "If he's rolling and he's throwing well, I'm sure we're gong to find a way to keep him in there."

That would probably be at the expense of David Purcey, 0-2 in five starts with a 7.01 ERA and a tendency for wildness with 18 bases on balls over 252/3 innings.

Litsch, considered the No. 2 starter behind Roy Halladay, has been cleared to start throwing off flat ground for the next two weeks. It is anticipated that he won't be ready to rejoin the Jays until the latter part of May.

By then the Blue Jays are figuring they will have already welcomed back both Ricky Romero and the long-lost Casey Janssen.

Romero, whose rookie campaign is off to a great start with a 2-0 record in three starts, played catch for the first time yesterday after going on the DL on April 14 with a strained right oblique muscle.

Janssen, who missed all of last season convalescing from shoulder surgery, is working himself back in shape in the minor leagues.

Both could be up with the team by mid-May, giving Gaston a lot of options with his starting five.

"Invariably there's probably going to be guys going back down, guys who are going to hit a bump in the road from a performance standpoint," Anthopoulos said. "You're going to go through at least eight to 12 starters in a year, so it's a good problem to have."

The one drawback to the sunny outlook is McGowan, whose return from shoulder surgery last July continues to be slower than expected.

McGowan has been given clearance to begin throwing off flat ground over the next couple of days.

But Gaston did not sound overoptimistic about the 27-year-old coming back this year.


NOTES Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero, who landed on the 15-day disabled list on April 20 with a right oblique strain, threw off flat ground for the first time here yesterday and reported everything felt fine. "I let a couple go," he said. "My arm's in shape. It's not like there's something wrong with it. As far as my oblique is concerned, no problem." ... It was announced earlier in the week that Toronto farmhand Johermyn Chavez, signed by the Jays as a non-drafted free agent in 2005, was selected as the Midwest League hitter of the week. Chavez, an outfielder with Toronto's Single-A affiliate in Lansing, went 8-for-16 with six runs, three home runs and 10 RBIs. ... With his win against Kansas City on Tuesday night, rookie Scott Richmond improved to 3-0. The last Toronto rookie pitcher to begin a season 3-0 was Gustavo Chacin in 2005.

NEXT Today in Kansas City against the Royals, 2:10 p.m. EDT.

PROBABLE PITCHERS Jays LHP Brian Burres (0-1, 12.46) v. RHP Kyle Davies (1-1, 4.88).

TV Rogers Preview.

Robert MacLeod

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 30, 2009

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