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Jays' pitching puzzle incomplete

Jays' pitching puzzle incomplete
There are a lot of people doing a lot of math around the Toronto Blue Jays this spring.

Pitchers on the cusp, or on the bubble, are counting vacancies and candidates in trying to assess their chances of winning a spot.

Manager Cito Gaston and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg are looking at the 1,458 innings the team is scheduled to play in 2009 and trying to figure out who exactly, beyond the 225 they can count on from ace Roy Halladay, is going to pitch them.

Good thing there's still another month of camp.

"It's been, of my eight or nine years of being in the big leagues as a pitching coach, by far the toughest spring training that I've ever had," Arnsberg said yesterday, before a 6-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

"When I came in, we had seven or eight guys on the shelf, we've got seven different throwing programs, we've got two spots in a rotation and the third spot being David Purcey's is something we've got to sell him on and make sure he's ready for that, we've got the back end of a bullpen where three to seven guys are trying to take that spot.

"It's really been a rat race."

The incomplete equations come as a result of A.J. Burnett's departure as a free agent and injuries to Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum ripping out a total of 484 innings from last year's stellar rotation.

Toronto starters led Baseball with 1,021 2/3 innings pitched, allowing the team's relievers to throw a major-league low 425 innings. The combination resulted in the best earned-run average in Baseball at 3.49.

"The starters shortened the game," said Ricciardi. "At that point it was hitter to hitter or inning to inning, that definitely helped a lot."

A repeat is highly unlikely, even if McGowan comes back in May as is hoped. Marcum is out for the season.

Jesse Litsch, who threw two scoreless innings yesterday, and Purcey will follow Halladay in the rotation. Neither Litsch nor Purcey (182 in '08) has thrown 200 innings in a season.

The other two spots are up for grabs with no shortage of options.

Prospects Brett Cecil and Brad Mills have impressed but come with inning limitations on their young arms. Canadian Scott Richmond threw a career-high 164 2-3 innings last year so hoping for 200 from him is no sure bet if he wins a spot.

Casey Janssen, who will make the team as either a starter or a reliever, is coming off shoulder surgery so the team will need to be careful with him.

Reclamation projects Matt Clement and Mike Maroth are also returning from injuries and come with question marks, while Japanese experiment Ken Takahashi is a long-shot who was spanked by the Rays yesterday before he left with a right calf strain.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 2, 2009

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