Notes: No chance to start for Thomson
Right-hander will either be traded, released or reassigned
BRADENTON, Fla. -- John Thomson's days in camp with the Blue Jays appear to be numbered. The pitcher had a pain-free bullpen session on Monday, but that didn't stop Toronto from delivering some bad news.
"I talked to him today," Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said. "We don't see him in our bullpen right now. He was signed as our four- or five-hole starter and that doesn't seem feasible right now."
In short, the Jays don't plan on taking Thomson north with the team after Spring Training. A string of poor outings combined with a recent shoulder injury sealed the pitcher's fate. Now, Toronto's options include trading Thomson, releasing him or accepting a Minor League assigment.
In January, the Jays signed the 33-year-old right-hander to a one-year deal with the hope that he could fill one of the open spots at the back end of the rotation. Since then, though, starters Tomo Ohka, Josh Towers and Victor Zambrano have passed Thomson on the depth chart.
On Monday, Thomson threw for roughly 14 minutes off a mound and was able to work with all his pitches. He experienced no ill effects from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the past week, and the Jays plan on having Thomson pitch an inning or two against Cleveland on Wednesday in Winter Haven, Fla.
"He's not going to start," Arnsberg said. "We're just going to try to get an inning out of him and see where his health is. If he goes through that, we might try to do a second inning."
Thomson, who missed more than two months with a shoulder injury in 2006, complained about a similar issue after his last outing -- a start against Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on March 19. In that appearance, Thomson gave up six runs on four hits in five innings. He yielded another six runs in his previous start, too.
Stating his case: Towers is hoping the Blue Jays let him know if he's made the rotation before the team's final game of the spring. After all, he's slated to take the mound Saturday afternoon against the Reds.
"That could be interesting," laughed Towers, who is competing against Ohka and Zambrano for the fourth or fifth starting jobs. "'Go in and pitch, and we'll decide where you go.'"
On Monday, the 30-year-old right-hander gave up just one unearned run over six sharp innings against the Pirates. The outing lowered Towers' ERA to 3.20 this spring, and he believes that he's pitched well enough to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.
"I think so," Towers said. "I have one start left and I don't know how much you can put all in one start. That's kind of tough to do, but thus far, I think I've done well."
Last season, Towers went 2-10 with an 8.42 ERA for Toronto. He said that being in a competition this spring has helped him keep his intensity level up, and that's helped him feel like a much different pitcher than a year ago.
"Last spring, I was secure because I had a job," Towers said. "When you actually have to compete and put yourself on the line against somebody else, you've got to go and do it if you want to win. We've got eight dudes that could easily fill that fourth or fifth spot. When everybody's throwing well, you've got to step up."
On schedule: The Blue Jays have been juggling their pitchers' schedules since their March 16 game against the Reds was rained out. Without his clipboard in hand, even Arnsberg gets a bit confused trying to remember who's pitching where over the next week.
The current plan has left-hander Gustavo Chacin starting against the Indians in Winter Haven, Fla., on Wednesday. Arnsberg said that Chacin got the nod because "we don't play Cleveland for the first couple months."
On Thursday, right-hander A.J. Burnett will start in a Triple-A game in the afternoon, and a Minor League pitcher will take the hill against the Yankees for the 7:05 p.m. ET home game at Knology Park. Arnsberg said Casey Janssen might've started versus New York, but the right-hander is "getting in reliever mode."
On Friday, Zambrano will hit the road for a start against Cleveland, and Ohka will make an appearance in a Minor League contest. Arnsberg noted that Zambrano is penciled in for five or six innings, because "that's what we're preparing his arm for right now, to be a starting pitcher."
Third man in: Arnsberg quashed rumors that had Ohka scheduled to start in Toronto's third regular-season game on April 5 at Detroit. Toronto's pitching coach said that Chacin is still listed as the Jays' third starter.
"I don't know where you heard that -- it wasn't from me," Arnsberg said. "I talked to [Toronto manager John Gibbons] on the way here and we plan on having Chacin start the third game."
Quotable: "Maybe it does have an effect -- I mean, in 2002, I had the job going in and then I was 0-12. Maybe I was too comfortable going in that spring -- I couldn't tell you, but it's happened twice." --Towers, on knowing last spring that he had a job secured
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Geremi Gonzalez is set to start when the Blue Jays host the Devil Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Knology Park. Toronto ace Roy Halladay is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.