Notes: League working against clock
Blue Jays setup man trying to get ready for Opening Day
LAKELAND, Fla. -- With each passing day, Opening Day inches closer, and Brandon League's status as the Blue Jays' setup man becomes a little less certain.
The Blue Jays have started to consider their other options, while League tries to make up the time he's lost due to a strained right lat muscle. On Monday, the right-hander pitched off a mound for the first time in 10 days, but that was merely the first step of many before he can work into a Grapefruit League game.
"We're in Plan B right now," Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said at Joker Marchant Stadium on Tuesday. "You can't assume this kid's going to be ready for the start of the season."
After his bullpen session on Monday, League said he was completely confident that he'd be ready in time for Toronto's opener against the Tigers on April 2 in Detroit. Jays manager John Gibbons didn't sound as if he felt the same way, considering League's delayed start this spring.
"He's cutting it close right now," said Gibbons, who didn't rule out maybe looking outside the organization for a new setup man for Jays closer B.J. Ryan. "You never know, but we've got to look at every option we can if League's not going to be ready. Hopefully, it's [solved] from within.
"When push comes to shove, let's face it, you've got a good team on the field and you've got one of the game's top closers. We've got to get the ball to [Ryan]. So many games are coughed up in the seventh and eighth inning. That can break your back sometimes."
Internally, the top candidate would seem to be right-hander Jason Frasor. The 29-year-old reliever led the club with 17 saves in 2004, so he has late-inning experience. Another option, besides using more than one pitcher in that role, could be veteran right-hander Victor Zambrano, who is rapidly recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery.
Zambrano, 31, had the elbow-ligament replacement operation last May, but he could be ready by Opening Day, especially if the club utilized him as a reliever. He is 11-6 with a 4.82 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in his career. Gibbons shied away from questions about possibly using Zambrano in that role, though.
"I really can't comment on that," Gibbons said. "We can't start handing out jobs. It's too early for that. We're pleasantly surprised with where he's at, but we don't want to get carried away, either -- just yet."
For now, the Blue Jays will continue to monitor the progress made by League, who posted a 2.53 ERA in 33 games last season for Toronto. Arnsberg said he was surprised at how well the young pitcher threw in his recent bullpen session.
"He looked at lot like the kid I saw last year," Arnsberg said. "That gives you a little easier chance of setting a timetable for him. Again, he's got so much we've got to do with him still."
Arnsberg said that League only threw fastballs at about 75 percent effort in the bullpen on Monday. The coach would like to see League pitch two or three more times off the mound at full strength before having him throw to hitters in batting practice. After that, League might pitch in a simulated game before being inserted into his first Spring Training game.
First look: This early in Spring Training, sending staff ace Roy Halladay to the mound to face the Tigers, who he's slated to pitch against on Opening Day, isn't really an issue. Just ask the man himself.
"I don't think it's any secret," Halladay said. "I face this team a lot, and some of the guys on this team a lot, so they would know what I have. Whether they see you or not, I don't think is a huge deal."
Still, Detroit's hitters didn't get to see all the weapons in Halladay's arsenal. The right-hander continued to work solely on sinkers and changeups in his three-inning appearance on Tuesday. In his next start, Halladay will begin to add his curveball and cut fastball back into the mix.
"We kind of had this plan at the end of last year," said Halladay, who suffered a strained forearm late last season due to excessive use of his cutter. "It kind of helps you build confidence in those two pitches. Then you can add from there."
Against Detroit, Halladay gave up one run on three hits with one strikeout and a walk. He threw 37 pitches, including 26 strikes, and then worked in another 12-15 pitches in the bullpen after his outing.
Close call: The dive was impressive, but the result was painful. Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield sent an offering from Halladay down the left-field line in the third inning, and outfielder Adam Lind, who is Toronto's top prospect, attempted to snare the ball out of the air.
Lind caught the baseball, but he landed awkwardly, rolling over his glove hand and injuring his right ring finger. Toronto immediately pulled the 23-year-old outfielder from the game and he underwent X-rays on his hand at a local hospital. The test results came back negative, but Lind will need to sit out for a while.
"I know there's nothing major going on in there," Lind said. "But, obviously, it's going to be swollen for the next few days. It's always disappointing when you get hurt. Now you have to watch your team instead of particpating with them."
Wells traveled: Center fielder Vernon Wells' name wasn't circled on the roster sheet listed in the Jays' clubhouse at Knology Park, but he made the trip to Lakeland, Fla., anyway. Gibbons said that Wells wanted to get some at-bats against a left-handed pitcher, and Detroit sent southpaw Mike Maroth to the hill on Tuesday.
Say it ain't so, Jo: Left-hander Jo Matumoto -- the 36-year-old Brazilian pitcher of Japanese descent who signed a Minor League deal with the Jays earlier this spring -- is being returned to Minor League camp. In his lone outing for Toronto, Matumoto gave up two runs on one hit with three walks and a hit batsmen in one-third of an inning against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Quotable: "That looks nice, doesn't it?" --Gibbons, joking about having catcher Gregg Zaun leading off on Tuesday
Coming up: Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin and Philadelphia righty Brett Myers are scheduled to start when the Blue Jays take on the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.