As pitchers and catchers report, Blue Jays have interesting pairings for first bullpens
The words we’ve waited all winter for have finally been spoken, “Pitchers and catchers report.” After a long offseason of speculation and anticipation, the Toronto Blue Jays have gotten their 2015 season underway with the first official workouts of Spring Training.
As we discussed earlier this weekend, some of that anticipation revolves around the unresolved catching situation. Currently, the Blue Jays have three catchers in camp with Russell Martin expected to handle the majority of the innings and the pair of Josh Thole and Dioner Navarro vying for the back-up duties.
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Of course, some of that still has a chance to change, especially if Navarro is dealt at some point this spring. He expressed earlier this winter, and after the Martin signing, that his preference would be to be traded to a team where he would have the opportunity to start. However, the Jays have been unable to accommodate that request yet this winter.
Instead, what we’ve created is an open competition with many moving parts. The Blue Jays will spend the spring evaluating the best available option between the three, and the pairing of the catchers with their respective pitchers could be the first signs of what is to come. That said it comes with the requisite disclaimer that it is way too early to read anything substantial into anything yet.
However, it is interesting to see that some things never change:
After spending a decent portion of the winter trying to champion the cause of keeping his personal catcher on the roster, it is noticeable that R.A. Dickey chose to throw to Josh Thole for his first bullpen session of camp. Knowing that Russell Martin had expressed a desire to catch Dickey’s knuckle-ball, I would have expected to see the two paired off early in camp in order to get some rhythm down. Then again, knowing Dickey’s preference in the matter, this is hardly surprising.
The Blue Jays do have the ability to conditionally option Josh Thole to Triple-A, but they would have to put him through optional waivers at this point in his career. Given the lack of solid catching depth out there, the chances that Toronto could sneak him through without another team putting in a claim may be minimal.
So where was Russell Martin?
So maybe this was by design. Instead of having Martin working with the staff “Ace” on the first day of bullpens, the team opted to have him work with the team’s top prospect instead. By catching Daniel Norris, Martin is fortifying what many believed was the biggest benefit of signing him; the ability for the veteran signal caller to help groom the team’s top crop of young pitchers. With Norris possibly in line to win the 5th starter spot in the rotation, having him develop a rapport with Norris, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman will certainly be something to watch this spring.
That leaves Dioner Navarro as the wild card. His fate though is likely tied into the Dickey, Martin, Thole love triangle, not to mention the Blue Jays ability to find a trade partner at some point this spring. It is doubtful that the team will carry all three when they head back north, but we’ll see how things continue to shake out from here.