Notes: Ryan, Thomson make strides
Closer, starter candidate hoping to break camp in good health
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What a difference a day makes. Or, at least, that's what the Blue Jays hope.
On Thursday morning, pitchers B.J. Ryan and John Thomson, who appeared to be in dire straits with injuries, threw in side sessions, indicating that they may be able to return before the team breaks camp.
Ryan, who hasn't pitched in a Grapefruit League game since March 11 because of a sore lower back, played catch with Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. The 6-foot-5 left-hander tossed 25 throws from 75 feet and 75 from 90 feet.
"He threw fine and looked good, but you never know from one day to the next how pitchers will feel the following day they pitch," said Arnsberg, who considers Ryan in a day-to-day situation. "If he says he's alright, then I guess it's all right with me."
Ryan, who had a 1.37 ERA and 38 saves last season, will take Friday off and will toss from a greater distance on Saturday, said Arnsberg. Depending on Ryan's condition, the left-hander will throw from 110 and 120 feet and may possibly pitch off the mound.
It is still unclear, though, when and if Ryan will appear in another spring game.
"There's always worries whether a pitcher will be ready, whether he's healthy or not," said Arnsberg. "The way it looks now, he may only get one or two more outings down here, if he does get out there again. We'll see how his arm feels and go from there."
Thomson, who is battling for one of the starting jobs, made a surprising return on Thursday as well. Arnsberg said the 33-year-old right-hander, who is nursing a sore shoulder, threw 25 times from 45 feet, 60, and 90 in what the pitching coach described as "free and easy."
"He said it felt really good and that there were no twinges in there," said Arnsberg. "The next day is always the most important, though, so we'll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there."
Arnsberg said that Thomson, who sat out more than two months last season due to pain in his throwing shoulder, felt the muscle grab during his outing in a Minor League game on Monday. The righty complained of the pain following the inning, and then Arnsberg said Thomson felt it grab again when he put his seatbelt on in his car following the game.
An MRI exam which showed no indication of structural damage, according to Arnsberg. The pitching coach said that the Blue Jays will put Thomson on an accelerated program to try to get him ready for the regular season.
Thomson, who has given up 12 runs on nine hits in his last 8 2/3 innings, is in competition with right-handers Victor Zambrano, Tomo Ohka and Josh Towers for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Zambrano, who has a 0.93 ERA this spring, will take Thomson's place in the start against the Yankees on Saturday. Ohka, who has allowed 11 hits and five runs in 14 innings this spring, is scheduled to pitch in a Triple-A game that day. Towers, who entered Wednesday with a 2.00 ERA this spring, allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Phillies Wednesday.
Cuts like a knife: Roy Halladay worked in his cutter during his six-inning outing against the Pirates on Thursday. The right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits and was admittedly not as sharp as he has been earlier this spring, but he said that he's happy that he was able to work in the cutter today.
"There's no question I wasn't as sharp today and, location-wise, I wasn't as good as I've been," said Halladay, who tossed 81 pitches, 53 for strikes. "But I wanted to throw the cutter today, mostly to lefties. I'm happy with it, and I can increase it now to about 25 pitches without a problem the next time out."
Halladay cruised along through the first three innings on 36 pitches, 23 strikes, but then found trouble in the fourth when he allowed two consecutive singles to Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson and designated hitter Michael Ryan before giving up a homer the opposite way to first-baseman Brad Eldred. The 6-foot-6 righty, though, worked out of it with a strikeout, ground out, single and flyout to the next four batters.
"Obviously, you want to throw zeroes, but I think it was good that I was able to be in this situation where I had to make adjustments," said Halladay, who now has a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings this spring. "Last year, it was almost a little too easy during spring. I've definitely had to do a lot more adjustments anytime during the spring in this game. But I felt good and I now have been able to work on a lot so far."
Jason Phillips caught Halladay on Thursday and felt that, more than anything else, the righty's use of the cutter and increased number of curveballs are a positive sign at this point of spring.
"It's all about grinding it out now," said Phillips, who estimated that Halladay threw eight to 10 cutters. "He worked on everything and he seems to be getting his arm strength up there. He looked good with his pitches, and it's an indication that he's where he needs to be. It's a good day at work."
A Major League: Brandon League, who has been dealing with a strained lat muscle over the last month, allowed two runs on two hits in one inning in a Minor League game on Thursday, but he came away feeling strong.
"I feel good, and I'm pleased with everything," said League, who tossed about 30 pitches during the outing. "I was pounding the zone and I threw everything."
The 23-year-old reliever, who tossed 10 more pitches in a side session following the one inning, said he hopes to pitch again in some facet in a couple of days, depending on how he feels tomorrow.
Arnsberg indicated that Toronto is discussing having League begin the year on the 15-day disabled list. In order to still have the pitcher available during the first week of the season, though, the Jays would need to keep him out of Grapefruit League contests. By doing that, the club could make his DL stay retroactive to March 22 -- 10 days before the regular season begins.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow and then we'll go from there," said Arnsberg. "We want to have him build his arm strength, and if he's feeling good, then we'll see if we can get him going every other day."
Bits and pieces: Royce Clayton, who had been battling the flu, started at shortstop on Thursday and went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly. ... Right-hander Matt Roney was outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse. ... Frank Thomas homered in his second consecutive game. ... Right-hander Shaun Marcum pitched a scoreless ninth and had two strikeouts, tossing 12 pitches, nine for strikes. ... Right-hander Pete Walker was granted his unconditional release on Thursday.
Up next: The Blue Jays visit the Twins on Friday for their second meeting of the spring. Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin (0-1, 4.15 ERA) will make his fourth start of Spring Training in the 1:05 ET afternoon game at Bill Hammond Stadium in Lee County. A.J. Burnett is scheduled to pitch in a Triple-A game at the Blue Jays Minor League complex in Dunedin.
Pirates right-hander Shawn Chacon, who has a 3.12 spring ERA, is slated to start his fourth spring game when the Pirates host the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday in Bradenton.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.