TORONTO -- Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton narrowly avoided a serious injury after being hit by a broken bat during Thursday night's 8-3 victory over the Mariners.
The incident occurred when Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder in the first inning, and a shard of the bat flew into the dugout and hit Walton. The bat was headed for Walton's head, but he was able to get his arms up in time.
Walton left the game and was sent for precautionary X-rays before being diagnosed with a contusion on both of his forearms.
"It was just to protect his face," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He's toward the end of the bench where there's people going to the bat rack. So, there's people in front of him, and as people are moving out of the way, here comes a bat flying through the air.
"In this case, while he's sore and there's definite bone bruises that are there, it could have been a whole lot worse."
The scary incident prompted Farrell to speak out against the use of maple bats. Maple bats are legal, but have a tendency to shatter with a lot more frequency than their ash counterparts.
Some players tend to prefer maple because it's a harder wood and they believe balls come off the bat with more velocity. But there's also the increased danger of shards causing serious injuries on the field.
Farrell thinks it's an issue that should be looked into by Major League Baseball.
"They're dangerous, and it's repeatedly every night we see a bat fly through the air and hopefully no one gets injured by it," Farrell said. "But you'd think that Major League Baseball would do something about it, because it's to the point now that you have shrapnel flying everywhere and it's a pointed object.
"It has some weight and some velocity too as it's flying through the air. It's a dangerous situation. Fortunately, he was able to get his arms up in front of his face, and that's where it was headed, right into his head."
Bullpen coach Pete Walker later assumed Walton's spot on the bench for the remainder of the game.
Filling second-base hole a top offseason priority
TORONTO -- One of the big unknowns for next season is where the Blue Jays will turn for an everyday second baseman.
Incumbent Kelly Johnson is a free agent at the end of the year and not expected to make a return. That would open the door for a potential trade or free agent signing with infield prospect Adeiny Hechavarria also receiving some consideration for the role.
The pending crop of free agent second basemen is not an enticing one, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn't seem too concerned with the lack of options.
"I would agree, but sometimes you'd be surprised, players become available that you wouldn't expect and you scratch your head," Anthopoulos said. "We always say in the office that the landscape changes so fast, and especially if we're committing big dollars, or payroll, we want to make sure this is a move that we definitely want to make, because one month from now, three months from now, players are going to be available."
That would seem to suggest the Blue Jays won't be in a major rush to find an immediate solution at the end of the year. If a viable candidate does not emerge, the club likely will turn to Hechavarria, who is a natural shortstop, but could easily make the transition to second base because of his well-above-average abilities in the field.
Hechavarria received his first career start at second base on Wednesday night, but has previously spent some time at the position with Triple-A Las Vegas. Hechavarria is still somewhat of an unknown commodity with the bat, but there's little debate within the organization that he would be able to handle the defensive responsibilities.
"He played a bunch in Las Vegas, certainly wasn't the everyday second baseman there, but he played there and is an option internally," Anthopoulos said. "I really don't know which way we're going to go. This is cliche, but you're going to look to get the best players you can, and if that means that someone comes up in trade -- or someone comes up in free agency -- and Adeiny's optioned down, he's right there and can be called up again."
One thing does remain certain: the Blue Jays should have some financial flexibility to fill the holes on their roster during the offseason. In addition to second base, the club also will potentially be in the market for a left fielder, first baseman/designated hitter and two starting pitchers.
With attendance on the rise this year, there should be more money to work with and Anthopoulos is already on record saying that an increase will happen. To what level still remains uncertain.
"Our payroll is going to go up, that I know," Anthopoulos said. "No doubt about it.
"It has climbed each year, and it will continue to climb. To what level does it end up climbing? That remains to be seen. ... I think our payroll will continue to climb into a pretty good area."
Jenkins could be stretched out in instructional league
TORONTO -- Right-hander Chad Jenkins likely will be sent to the instructional league early next week to prepare for an upcoming start later this month.
Jenkins, who spent the majority of this year starting for Double-A New Hampshire, has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays since being called up in early August.
The 24-year-old is a prime candidate to receive a start before the end of the year when the Blue Jays move to a six-man rotation. Before that happens, though, Jenkins will need to be appropriately stretched out.
"If he doesn't get into a game over the weekend, we could send him back to Florida for a [simulated] game [in the] instructional league to stretch back out," manager John Farrell said. "That's something that we've kicked around just to make sure that once he does get a start, at least we've stretched him out in some setting."
The timing of Jenkins' stint in the instructional league depends on when he is scheduled to start with the Blue Jays. Toronto is currently debating whether to use him during a doubleheader against the Orioles on Sept. 24. Another option is to start him one day earlier so that left-hander Ricky Romero can receive an additional day of rest in between outings.
The decision to move Jenkins into the starting rotation follows a more traditional approach to easing a prospect into the Major Leagues. Historically, teams often promoted their top young pitchers to a bullpen role before giving them a spot in the rotation.
That's changed in recent years, as teams have preferred to avoid bullpen roles, but Farrell sees a lot of benefit in the old approach -- one that is expected to be used in Jenkins' case.
"As the bullpen has become so specialized, I think there has been a movement toward that situational guy rather than a multi-inning reliever that transitions that way," Farrell said. "I think there might also be, in some cases, the thought that there's this natural innings buildup progression, that if you interrupt that for a year does that limit him the following year.
"There's a lot of benefit for a young guy to get exposure at the Major League level in shorter stints. That way they don't feel like, or they're not overexposed as a young pitcher and they can get their feet on the ground in that role that can be a little bit more protective."
Jenkins entered play on Thursday night with a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings this season. He has allowed 19 hits while striking out eight and walking five.