Notes: Ohka strong in start
Rotation hopeful tosses four scoreless innings against Indians
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Gregg Zaun now knows not to judge pitcher Tomo Ohka on his pregame bullpen sessions. According to Toronto's catcher, Ohka didn't look sharp before Wednesday's game.
That all changed when the right-hander took the mound against the Indians, who managed just two hits and no runs in four innings against Ohka at Knology Park. It was Ohka's second strong outing in a row, and he continues to look like a front-runner for a job in the Blue Jays' rotation.
"I was a little worried about him, because he didn't warm up so good in the bullpen," Zaun said. "But I told [Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] that I guess I can add [Ohka] to the list of guys who you don't have to necessarily go by how he's warming up."
The Blue Jays added Ohka, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, along with starters Victor Zambrano and John Thomson, this past winter. Those three are competing with Josh Towers and Shaun Marcum, among others, for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.
Ohka needed just 39 pitches -- 27 for strikes -- to dispose of the Indians in four frames on Wednesday. In his previous trip to the mound, the Japanese pitcher yielded just one hit in three shutout frames against the Red Sox. Ohka doesn't strike a lot of batters out, but he's found success with late movement on his pitches and uses a sinker to create ground-ball outs.
"That's what guys like him can do to you," Zaun said. "You'll go up there and have a comfortable 0-for-4, and you go back to the dugout scratching your head, going, 'How did I not get a hit today?' But it's that late movement on his pitches that keeps people off balance."
To the Victor ... : The Blue Jays continue to be amazed by the rapid recovery Zambrano is making. The 31-year-old right-hander is 10 months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, but he's working himself into the competition for a job on Toronto's pitching staff.
"I honestly don't know how he's doing it," Zaun said.
Zambrano struck out three and turned in 2 2/3 shutout frames against Cleveland, low[er]ing his ERA this spring to 1.59. He was pulled with two runners on base and two outs in the seventh inning after he reached 52 pitches.
"We're watching him. We're not going to abuse the guy," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "The whole idea behind spring is to build [the pitchers] up. He was where we thought he should be. I'm surprised that he's this strong this early."
Rough start: Ohka and Zambrano haven't been the only pitchers impressing the Blue Jays this spring. Toronto has also had strong performances from Thomson, Towers and the other starters in the mix for jobs.
Thomson did "flinch" on Wednesday, though. The right-hander started in a split-squad game against Cleveland in Winter Haven, Fla., and allowed six runs on five hits, including three home runs, with three walks and two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.
League update: Right-hander Brandon League, who has been making his way back from a strained right lat muscle, pitched against Minor League hitters on Wednesday. Gibbons said League threw well, experienced no pain, and is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday.
Back at it: After missing a week with a strained right ring finger, outfielder Adam Lind was back in the lineup for the Blue Jays on the road against the Indians on Wednesday. Lind started in left field and went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk for Toronto.
Quotable: "If it keeps going like this, we may have to put [Roy] Halladay in the bullpen. We may have to do that. May the best man win." -- Gibbons, joking about the rotation competition
Coming up: Towers is scheduled to start against Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels when the Blue Jays take on the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday 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.