Notes: Overbay adjusting to No. 2 slot
Jays first baseman comfortable after trial-and-error process
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Lyle Overbay has used this Spring Training as a testing ground. Toronto's first baseman has been moved into the second spot in the batting order, and he wasn't sure if that would affect how pitchers worked against him.
"At first, I was just trying to get a feel of how they were going to pitch me -- if they were going to pitch me different or not," said Overbay, who drew three walks against the Indians on Wednesday.
What Overbay found out is that he's seeing the same assortment of pitches that he was accustomed to facing in various situations. Now that he knows that's the case, Overbay is comfortable heading into the season as the Blue Jays' new No. 2 hitter.
"They're pitching me the same," Overbay said. "But I wanted to kind of see and make sure I wasn't going to be coming into the season blindsided."
At first glance, it looks like Overbay -- Toronto's primary No. 5 hitter last year -- has been slumping at the plate. In 18 games, the left-handed hitter has posted a .196 average with two doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. That's quite a drop off from the career-best .312 average he had in 2006.
Overbay attributes his offensive woes this spring in part to the trial-and-error process he's gone through while adjusting to the second spot in the batting order. While gaining an understanding of how pitchers were going to face him, Overbay has spent a lot of time watching pitches during at-bats this spring.
"You kind of get a game plan," said Overbay, who had 22 home runs and 92 RBIs last season. "I'm taking pitches that I normally would swing at, but in the same token, I was kind of frustrated, because I wasn't getting good at-bats."
He's confident he'll have plenty of good plate appearances during the season, especially with Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus and Alex Rios hitting behind him in the lineup.
"I think it plays into my game a lot better," said Overbay, referring to batting second. "[Pitchers] might be a little more aggressive in the strike zone, just because we've got so many good hitters behind me, but hopefully that'll play to my advantage."
On second thought: The Blue Jays originally planned on having starter John Thomson pitch one or two innings during Wednesday's road game against the Indians. Instead, Toronto pulled an audible and had the right-hander make an appearance in a Minor League game. In one inning of work, Thomson allowed one hit.
"We left him down there," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We thought, 'Why travel all the way to Winter Haven for one inning?'"
A string of poor outings and a minor shoulder injury have cost Thomson, who signed a one-year deal with Toronto in January, a shot at making the Opening Day roster. The Jays either have to release, trade, or outright Thomson before breaking camp.
"We're trying to figure out right now what we're going to do with him," Gibbons said.
Final tuneup: Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin turned in his final outing of Spring Training on Wednesday. Chacin gave up two runs on seven hits, with four strikeouts and a walk, in five innings. He was scheduled to pitch seven frames, but was pulled because his pitch count climbed to 88.
"[Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] told me they didn't want to put me in the next inning. That was enough," said Chacin, who's slated to start on April 5 in Detroit. "I felt great. I was feeling good and strong. I think I could've gone more, but he said it was fine and I agreed with that."
Eight ball: Gibbons isn't completely sure who will be Toronto's primary eighth-inning pitcher, and he hasn't ruled out using more than one hurler. Gibbons said Wednesday, though, that he'd prefer to stick with one reliever in the setup role. As of right now, he's believes the duties might fall to Jason Frasor, who saved 17 games in 2004.
"I'm leaning toward giving Frasor a shot at it," Gibbons said. "He's got the experience."
Minor matters: Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan are both scheduled to pitch in Minor League games at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Thursday. Burnett is penciled in for seven innings in a Triple-A contest and Ryan will pitch one inning in a Double-A game. Both games have scheduled start times of 1 p.m. ET.
Welcome back: The Blue Jays signed Wayne Lydon to a Minor League contract, bringing the speedy outfielder back after a stint with the Nationals this spring. On March 19, Washington released Lydon, who hit .263 with nine home runs, 46 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 132 games for Syracuse, the Jays' Triple-A affiliate, in 2006.
Ouch: In the first inning on Wednesday, Jays left fielder Reed Johnson lined a pitch up the middle that bounced off Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia's left forearm. Sabathia, who was immediately pulled from the game, suffered a contusion and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays.
Quotable: "Gibby's already told me, 'Don't change a thing,' and I don't plan to. I'm just going to get on base and do what I've been doing. That's why I'm in there." -- Overbay, on batting second
Coming up: Toronto will use a mix of relievers on Thursday, when the Blue Jays host the Yankees at 7:05 p.m. ET at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla. Toronto pitchers Shaun Marcum, Jason Frasor, Casey Janssen and Brian Tallet are all scheduled to make appearances.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.