Notes: Halladay making lives easy
Blue Jays ace keeps infielders busy with lots of grounders
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Royce Clayton has gloved a few grounders in his career. After 16 seasons in the Majors, it's doubtful that the Blue Jays' shortstop will be caught off guard often by the route a baseball takes off a bat.
Clayton's experience doesn't stop him from wanting to be prepared, though. When he arrived at Spring Training last month for his first season with the Blue Jays, the 37-year-old wanted to discuss defense with Toronto's starters, especially staff ace Roy Halladay.
Halladay keeps the infielders busy by inducing a barrage of grounders every time he takes the mound. Knowing that, Clayton wanted to learn more about Halladay's approach, and more specifically, where the pitcher would like him to be in certain situations.
"I talked to him earlier this spring and asked him questions about positioning," Clayton said. "When a guy can go out there and hit his spots, and basically do exactly what he's talked about, it makes my job a lot easier. He's just an outstanding pitcher."
On Sunday at Knology Park, Halladay continued to make life easy for his infielders, forcing seven Minnesota batters to ground into outs -- four to Clayton at short. In four innings of work, Halladay was perfect. The right-hander gave up no runs and no hits and he struck out two.
"He knows the tendencies of what guys do, as far as hitting balls through the holes," Clayton said. "He gives you a lot of confidence that you're positioned in the right place, because he knows what he's going to do."
Last year, Halladay led the league in fewest pitches per inning (13.85), and the former American League Cy Young Award winner ranked third in ground-ball outs (356). Halladay appreciated the fact that a veteran like Clayton approached him to discuss how to continue that trend in the upcoming season.
"To have a guy who's heads up on his own looking out for those things, I think that makes a big difference," Halladay said. "They don't get caught sleeping, because you know they're aware of the situation -- who's hitting. So to have him kind of take it upon himself is nice."
Halladay made quick work of the Twins, throwing just 36 pitches -- 23 for strikes -- in the outing, which lowered his ERA to 1.00 this spring. He didn't throw more than 11 pitches in any inning, and did so using mainly his sinker and changeup.
Halladay mixed in his curveball for the first time this spring, too. He threw four breaking balls during the game, and then worked in another six in the bullpen, where he tacked on 20 additional pitches after his start. Halladay said he's started to throw his cutter during side sessions, but he's still holding off on using it in games for now.
"One step at a time," Halladay said. "I don't want to throw everything in there at once. I want to stick with our plan."
League throws again: Right-hander Brandon League pitched off a mound for 11 minutes on Sunday, and he was able to mix in split-finger fastballs and sliders for the first time this spring. League, who entered spring as the top candidate for Toronto's setup job, is recovering from a strained right lat muscle.
"It was very encouraging," said pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, referring to League's fourth bullpen session. "He was a little rough in the beginning, but he looked very good for the last seven or eight minutes."
League is scheduled to take the mound again on Wednesday, when he's slated to throw to hitters in a 30-pitch batting practice session -- possibly at Toronto's Minor League complex. If that goes well, League would pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday before working into Grapefruit League games next week.
Patterson update: Minor League outfielder Ryan Patterson, who broke his right forearm after getting hit by a pitch during Thursday's road game against the Red Sox, is expected to undergo surgery on his arm on Monday. The injury could sideline Patterson -- one of Toronto's top outfield prospects -- for up to three months, according to Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.
Still going: Blue Jays infielder Jason Smith continued his hot streak on Sunday, when he went 2-for-2 with an RBI double against Minnesota. Smith, who the Jays picked up in December's Rule 5 Draft, has hit .800 (8-for-10) in his last five games. The left-handed hitter has posted a .529 average so far this spring.
Roster moves: On Sunday, the Blue Jays optioned infielder Sergio Santos, right-hander Josh Banks and righty Ismael Ramirez to Triple-A Syracuse, and returned righty Beau Kemp to Minor League camp. Toronto now has 54 players, including 17 non-roster invitees, in camp with the big-league team.
Going fast: Toronto crossed the million tickets sold mark earlier this month. Toronto president and CEO Paul Godfrey, who was at Knology Park on Sunday, said the club reached the number about three weeks faster than last season. By Opening Day, he estimated that the Jays will have sold roughly 1.2 million tickets.
Quotable: "When you start getting those swings where they're fooled a little bit, it helps with your confidence." -- Halladay
Coming up: Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin is scheduled to take on Cincinnati righty Matt Belisle when the Blue Jays play the Reds at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.