Notes: Chacin encouraged to up tempo
Jays welcoming warmth; Thomson, League show progress
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Throughout the spring, Toronto was focused on tempo. More specifically, how to increase it in pitchers such as Gustavo Chacin. While the lefty still has a bit of work to do, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was quick to point out that he can afford to be patient with Friday's starter.
"The bottom line is, Gus won a lot of games for us in the last couple of years," Gibbons said. "Nobody masters the whole, complete game; it's too difficult to play. Everybody has their chinks, ya know? There is no absolute, complete player out there anyway."
Gibbons said he'd like Chacin to work faster on the mound. It's a key component in increasing the 27-year-old's efficiency, and Gibbons has mentioned Chacin often throws more strikes as he settles into a rhythm.
The rhythm, in turn, results in minimal pitch counts, something Chacin has struggled with in the past, often unable to make his outings last into the seventh inning. He'd improved during the Grapefruit League, though, and when he debuted Friday against Tampa Bay, Gibbons said he was confident Chacin would impress.
"Ideally, yes, we'd like to see him work quicker, but the bottom line is we want him to win some games," Gibbons said. "That is of utmost importance."
Battling the elements: After Thursday's game against the defending American League champion Tigers was canceled due to snow in Detroit, Gibbons said the Jays were glad to be somewhere a bit warmer for a change.
"The next 13 are domed," quipped Gibbons, whose team will spend the next 10 games following the Rays series in their roofed home at the Rogers Centre. "We got so lucky that first game. The last couple we've had some extreme days, but that's baseball at the beginning of the year. We're just lucky to have the dome at home. It's a tough element to play in."
Updates: Gibbons took a spin through Toronto's Minor League complex in Dunedin on Thursday, and had good news to report on both John Thomson and Brandon League.
Thomson was "throwing better," but the right-hander still has no set return date after discomfort in his throwing shoulder sidelined him with tendinitis in mid-March.
League showed up to Spring Training having lost nearly 10 mph off his fastball and has been working to regain it ever since. Gibbons was encouraged with what he saw in his righty during long toss, although he said League would begin to see game action at the Jays' Class A affiliate Dunedin (Fla.) before rejoining Toronto.
"He can get away with pitching with what he's got now, but we want to get him back," Gibbons said. "I've got plenty of confidence in him.
"It'll be at least a week. We'll take our time. The sooner the better, but we're not going to push him just to push him."
Lineup shuffle: Jason Phillips will start at catcher during Saturday's game against the Rays, Gibbons said. The rest of the lineup, he added, will remain the same.
By the numbers: Entering Friday night's game, first baseman Lyle Overbay had earned a hit in each of his last six games, dating back to 2006, and in 21 of the last 23 games in which he played. Overbay, who collected two hits in the season opener at Detroit, struck out in his first at-bat on Friday.
Up next: Toronto returns to Tropicana Field on Saturday for the second game in a three-game set against the Rays. Right-hander Tomo Ohka (4-5, 4.82 in 2006) will make his season debut for the Jays, and will oppose Rays lefty Casey Fossum (6-6, 5.33 ERA in 2006) on the mound. Game time is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.