In his latest Blue Jays Notebook, Gregor Chisholm noted that Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is working his way back from a sore shoulder and is intent on using the last two weeks of camp to get himself ready for Opening Day. That work continues on Tuesday, when Janssen is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice of the spring.
Yes, you read that right. First…live…batting…practice. Not a game, but batting practice.
Of course this isn’t new ground either, as Chisholm also notes. Janssen began the spring slowly last season as well, making his first game appearance on March 22nd and only appearing in two spring match-ups before the regular season began. That worked out pretty well for the Blue Jays closer, as his 34 saves in 36 opportunities, 2.56 ERA, and 8.5 K/9 would attest to. He apparently doesn’t need a ton of time to get himself ready.
However, given the fact that it is once again a shoulder issue, and the now 32-year-old Janssen is another year older, would it be wiser to give him a bit more time and perhaps start him on the disabled list with a retroactive date than it would be to rush him this late in the spring? The Blue Jays have the benefit of falling back on Sergio Santos, who unlike last year has had a solid spring and appears fully healthy heading into the regular season. Janssen is no stranger to shoulder issues, having suffered a torn labrum in 2008, inflammation in 2009, and having AC Joint surgery prior to last season, so taking a more deliberate approach to his recovery may be in his best interest.
Health aside for Janssen, there is also another benefit to starting Janssen on the disabled list; opening his roster spot. With Janssen on the DL for the first week, the Blue Jays will have additional time to evaluate the pitchers that are out of options and competing for a spot in what is already a crowded bullpen. With out of option pitchers in Santos, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, and Aaron Loup guaranteed slots, and the expectation that the Blue Jays will carry an 8-man bullpen to begin the season, that leaves fellow out of option pitchers in Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Dustin McGowan, and Jeremy Jeffress that will all be vying to those final spots in the pen.
Now I’m not advocating that DL’ing Janssen for the sake of keeping Todd Redmond, Dustin McGowan, or Jeremy Jeffress on the roster. Both will need to find another way to make themselves indispensable to preserve their jobs, but Toronto wants to do everything it can to avoid exposing them to waivers before they absolutely have to. However, having the flexibility to do so gives the Blue Jays more time to know they are making the best decision for the team. It also allows Toronto to ensure that Janssen is fully ready to take on a full workload, without restrictions, when he returns to the team. Janssen is much more important to the Blue Jays for the remainder of the season than he is in the first week of the season.
There’s just no need to push him quickly if the availability to avoid doing so if present.