Gathright not faring well in his audition
Trying to make Jays, outfielder enduring spring slump
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Joey Gathright knows that time is running out. The outfielder needed to have a strong showing this spring in order to convince the Blue Jays to hand him a spot on the Opening Day roster. A slow start evolved into a rough slump, and the start of the season is now less than two weeks away.
"It hasn't been a good spring," said Gathright, shortly after taking batting practice at McKechnie Field on Saturday. "I can't get down on myself. You can be a little frustrated, but you can't get hits all the time. I've always had good springs. This is the first time I've ever had a bad one, so I just have to live with it.
"We've got a few games left. Hopefully I can get some games in."
Gathright entered camp on a Minor League contract and was considered a favorite to land a spot on manager Cito Gaston's bench early in the spring. As Spring Training has progressed, though, bench candidates Jeremy Reed and Mike McCoy have climbed above Gathright on the depth chart.
If the Jays don't have a job to offer, Gathright is willing to accept an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas.
"I like this team and I like the organization," Gathright said. "I like everything about it. I don't mind -- if it does come to that -- going down to Triple-A, because I think eventually I'll be up there [with the Jays]. I always have great seasons at Triple-A. I'm not really worried about anything.
"If that's what it comes to, I'll go. I have no problem with going. I like the team and I like my teammates -- big leagues or Triple-A."
While Gaston is not ready to reveal which players will be included on the Opening Day roster, the manager was candid about Gathright's situation. The Jays wanted to see results from the bench candidates this spring, and the reality is that Gathright had a .167 batting average after going 0-for-3 in Saturday's 11-2 win over the Pirates.
Gathright may have been a favorite to make the team a month ago, but things have changed.
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"We haven't made any decision on him, but he hasn't had a good spring," Gaston said. "We'll play him, but there's guys ahead of him right now. I won't sit here and lie to you. You know that as well as I do. There's guys ahead of him."
Spring Training statistics are not always a great indicator of how a player will fare in the regular season, and Gathright is quick to point out that 42 at-bats is a small sample size. That said, the 28-year-old Gathright -- best known for his speed -- has managed just seven singles and two stolen bases over that span of plate appearances.
Gathright said one issue has been that he got away from his typical approach at the plate early in the spring. The outfielder added that he has had poor starts in previous spring, but this year was the first time his offensive woes persisted throughout the preseason.
"The thing is, when I got here I was hitting like I usually hit," Gathright said. "Then, for some stupid reason, I put it in my head that I wanted to try to pull the ball more, which you should never do. [On Friday], I was back on to what I was doing last year. I still didn't get the results, but it was my first day back."
Assuming third baseman Edwin Encarnacion's left wrist issue does not warrant a trip to the disabled list to open the year, the Jays will likely have one vacancy on their bench for Reed, McCoy or Gathright. Outside of the starting lineup, Toronto will carry a backup catcher (Jose Molina or Raul Chavez), infielder John McDonald, backup first baseman and designated hitter Randy Ruiz and an additional player.
Reed -- in camp on a Minor League contract -- has impressed the Blue Jays at the plate (.420 average through 18 games) and he has the ability to man all three outfield positions. McCoy, who was claimed off waivers from the Rockies in the offseason, brings speed like Gathright, has shown a good on-base ability and can man multiple outfield and infield spots.
It will probably come down to Reed or McCoy.
"That's going to be a tough one," Gaston said. "It will be a tough one."
Gathright is trying not to focus on Toronto's upcoming decision.
"I don't think about it," Gathright said. "Guys who are having good springs are more worried about if they're going to be on the team or not. For me, I've been playing long enough to know that you can have good springs and not make it and you can have bad springs and you do make it.
"So, I try not to let it get in my head. I'm used to battling."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.