ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – The Blue Jays remain hopeful that Jose Reyes's and Casey Janssen's stints on the disabled list will be brief and with that, roster decisions are looming in the next 10 to 14 days.
“Ideally, we wouldn't carry three,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos of the club's current catching situation. “It's really game-to-game right now.”
Dioner Navarro is locked in as the starting catcher and Josh Thole broke camp as the back-up specifically because of his history and comfort level with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Erik Kratz, a late-camp cut, ended up beginning the season with the Blue Jays as Janssen's roster replacement.
If all else was equal, it would have been Kratz in Thole's spot. The prevailing opinion during spring training was that Kratz would be the backup because, while not a batting average or on-base percentage hitter, Kratz offers a power threat that Thole doesn't. Kratz hit 18 home runs in 375 at-bats playing behind Carlos Ruiz in Philadelphia over the last two seasons. In a pinch-hit at-bat on opening day, his first at-bat as a Blue Jay, Kratz launched a two-run home run over the centre field fence.
Thole hit .175/.256/.242 for a .497 OPS last season. A left-handed bat, his insertion into the line-up on days when Dickey lines up against the division's top left-handers like David Price, CC Sabathia and Jon Lester, creates a significant hole at the bottom of the order.
The back-up catcher likely will have to play more this season – Navarro hasn't appeared in more than 89 games since 2009.
One wonders if there's wisdom in tying another roster spot to Dickey, one pitcher who throws a specific pitch.
“The thing is Josh has had some offensive success,” said Anthopoulos. “I know he didn't have it last year and the second half of the year with the Mets in 2012 but in the past, if you look at it, he's been a .700 OPS guy, he can draw some walks, low strikeout rate, he can put the ball in play and grind out some at-bats.”
Anthopoulos cautions against jumping to conclusions, reminding that rosters can be changed in a heartbeat. The Blue Jays could play an 18-inning game, necessitating the recall of a reliever in support of a tired bullpen; somebody else could get hurt. There are a number of variables, a number of possibilities.
“Obviously, Josh was the guy who made the team out of spring,” said Anthopoulos. “That hasn't changed at all and we'll see as the year goes along.”
J.A. Happ threw a light side session on Wednesday as he works his way back from a back problem.
He's eligible to come off the disabled list on April 13 and, at the moment, there isn't a spot for Happ in the starting rotation.
Anthopoulos hasn't yet approached Happ about being a reliever.
“We'll deal with all that,” said Anthopoulos. “Hopefully, like anything, we have five starters that are rolling and they're winning all their games and we have too many starters. That'd be a great problem to have. I'd sign up for that right now. You deal with those things as they come. Everyday something else can happen, in the next 10 days, two weeks. You can't plan that far ahead.”
ANTHOPOULOS ISN'T SHOPPING FOR INFIELDER
A self-explanatory headline. Anthopoulos isn't looking to swing a deal for a middle infielder to support the club while Reyes is out.
“We expect Jose to be back somewhat soon,” said Anthopoulos.