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Making a pitch to be a Jay

Making a pitch to be a Jay
There are a lot of people doing a lot of math around the Toronto Blue Jays this spring.

Pitchers on the cusp, or on the bubble, are counting vacancies and candidates in trying to assess their chances of winning a spot.

Manager Cito Gaston and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg are looking at the 1,458 innings the team is scheduled to play in 2009 and trying to figure out who exactly, beyond the 225 innings they can count besides ace Roy Halladay.

And general manager Juan (J.P.) Ricciardi and his staff are examining all the possibilities in trying to find the right formulas for the starting rotation and bullpen.

Good thing there's still another month of camp.

"It's been, of my eight or nine years of being in the big leagues as a pitching coach, by far the toughest spring training that I've ever had," Arnsberg said yesterday before a 6-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

"When I came in, we had seven or eight guys on the shelf, we've got seven different throwing programs, we've got two spots in a rotation and the third spot being David Purcey's is something we've got to sell him on and make sure he's ready for that, we've got the back end of a bullpen where three to seven guys are trying to take that spot.

"It's really been a rat race."

The incomplete equations come as a result of pitcher Allan (A.J.) Burnett's departure as a free agent and injuries to Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum that leaves them short a total of 484 innings from last year's stellar pitching rotation. But who will make it?

Toronto starters led Baseball with 1021 2/3 innings pitched, allowing the team's relievers to throw a major-league low 425 innings. The combination resulted in the best earned-run average in Baseball at 3.49.

"The starters shortened the game," said Ricciardi. "At that point it was hitter to hitter or inning to inning, that definitely helped a lot."

A repeat is highly unlikely, even if McGowan comes back in May as is hoped. Marcum is out for the season.

Jesse Litsch, who threw two scoreless innings yesterday, and Purcey, will follow Halladay in the rotation. Neither Litsch nor Purcey (182 innings pitched in 2008) has thrown 200 innings in a season.

"I'd like to go over 200," said Litsch. "I was 196 last year between the two (majors and minors) and I'd like to go 210, 220."

The other two spots are up for grabs with no shortage of options.

Prospects Brett Cecil and Brad Mills have impressed but come with inning limitations on their young arms. Canadian Scott Richmond threw a career-high 164 innings last year they are hoping for 200 from him. Casey Janssen, who will make the team as either a starter or a reliever, is coming off shoulder surgery.

Reclamation projects include Matt Clement and Mike Maroth, while Japanese experiment Ken Takahashi is a longshot.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 2, 2009

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