Word has been coming out from various reputable media types that the Blue Jays have set their pitching and catching picture for Opening Day with just one (or two) roster spots set to be decided.
In a story appearing on Sportsnet.ca, Mackenzie Liddell reports that Erik Kratz, who had been hitting .400 with two home runs this spring, is going to be sent to the minors to start the season. This allows Josh Thole, the light-hitting backup catcher who backstopped R.A. Dickey to a Cy Young award with the New York Mets in 2012, to make the team as the back up catcher.
In further news, Mike Wilner has tweeted that Jeremy Jeffress has been told he’s going to make the team while Gregor Chisholm reports that J.A. Happ will be placed on the DL while Dustin McGowan takes the fifth starter spot.
The decision on the catcher’s position is somewhat surprising. In watching a couple of Dickey’s starts on TV, I’m of the opinion that Kratz didn’t look bad in catching the knuckler and he certainly offers much more offensive pop than Josh Thole does. In my mind, Kratz has the ability to push Dioner Navarro and might have been able to earn almost 50-50 split of the playing time. I like the way Kratz plays defensively (from watching him close up for a game when I was in Dunedin) and over the past couple of seasons, he’s been far better than Thole with the bat. For me, there are only two things that could explain this decision: either AA had made a promise to Thole before spring training even started or R.A. Dickey has told management that he’s more comfortable with Thole and would prefer to have him on the club.
I think that either situation is possible although the latter is more probable. I’ve spoken to Dickey briefly and the impression that I get (from things I’ve read as well) is that he would offer his opinion about which catcher he’d like to throw to, but only if asked. I think that Dickey may well have been approached by management to ask who he prefers as his catcher and that an endorsement from the only knuckleballer on the big league staff would go a long way to Thole securing a job on the big league club despite anemic offensive output.
As far as the pitching situation goes, I think that this decision was inevitable. There was no way that the Jays were going to carry Happ on the roster with him getting thrashed the way he has this spring. They can’t send him down to the minors without his assent and word was that he probably wouldn’t accept going to Buffalo. A DL stint keeps Happ in the Jays system, allows the club to keep Jeremy Jeffress without exposing him to waivers and opens the door for Dustin McGowan to open the season as the fifth starter. (I’ll be updating yesterday’s “Frankenstarter” article to reflect this reality and explain why it would allay people’s fears that McGowan has to be stretched out to 90 or 100 pitches by Opening Day.)
Really, the only questions heading into the final two Grapefruit League games and the two exhibition games with the Mets in Montreal are whether Jose Reyes is hurt enough to be placed on the DL and who of Moises Sierra or Matt Tuiasosopo will break camp with the club.
I really hope that Reyes is able to start the season on the roster. Moving Ryan Goins to short and having one of Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki or Chris Getz play second really weakens the offense. While defense at short will be just fine with Goins there, all three alternatives are a step down from him at second. We all saw what happened without Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup and what he brings to the club offensively and the Blue Jays can’t afford to have two sinkhole offensive positions in the lineup with Goins and his replacement at second base.
I’d love to see Moises Sierra make the club out of spring training and see what he can do over an entire season, however, Tuiasosopo is not going down without a fight. He hit a home run yesterday and offers more defensive versatility than Sierra. I can’t really speculate as to which one will emerge victorious although it’s a sure bet that whoever isn’t on the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster is either traded or lost on waivers.
UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long. Mike Wilner is reporting that Matt Tuiasosopo was apparently waived by the Jays and is packing up his stuff.
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) March 26, 2014
This gets the roster down to 25:
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