Notes: Halladay to stay on schedule?

Notes: Halladay to stay on schedule?

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- One thing is for certain: A.J. Burnett will be making his first start of the year when the Blue Jays play the White Sox in Chicago in April. Exactly which pitcher will take the mound for Toronto before him depends on who you talk to.

On Wednesday, Toronto announced that Burnett would begin the season on the 15-day disabled list and he wouldn't make his first appearance until April 16 against the White Sox in Chicago.

The way that plan was presented, Burnett would slide into the No. 2 hole behind staff ace Roy Halladay, who would pitch the day before versus the World Series champions.

It doesn't look like that's going to be the case.

Having Halladay pitch in Chicago on April 15 would mean he would get an extra day of rest due to the team's off-day on April 10. Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg wants to keep Halladay on his normal five-day schedule, though. So, after the season opener, the right-hander would make starts on April 9 at home and on April 14 -- the first game of the three-game series against the White Sox.

Even on Thursday, Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that the plan was for Scott Downs, the temporary fifth starter, to pitch the first game in Chicago, with Halladay and Burnett throwing the subsequent days. Ricciardi said that it would be better to give Halladay an extra day off early in the season, because the team might not have the same luxury later in the year.

When Arnsberg was asked about that scenario, he flipped open his day-by-day schedule for April and revealed that Halladay was, in fact, slated for April 14, followed by Downs and Burnett. Arnsberg admitted his schedule wasn't set in stone, but it was his tentative plan all along.

"I'm going to have to talk with him," Arnsberg said, referring to Ricciardi.

On the mound: Burnett and Downs both threw off a mound in the bullpen at Knology Park on Thursday.

Burnett, who is recovering from an injured right elbow, threw around 40 pitches and is scheduled to pitch two or three innings in an exhibition game against Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday. Downs, who suffered a minor case of patellar tendinitis in his right knee on Tuesday, threw for about 12 minutes with no lingering issues.

Arnsberg was very impressed with the results of Burnett's session.

"I'm really excited, and I think he is, too. It was a lot better," Arnsberg said. "He wants to pitch to his contract and he wants to show why he's worth $11 million a year. A.J. has aspirations of that happening real quick, but we've got to also do it a smart way, and we don't want this to be a recurring thing."

"Today was probably the best I felt all spring," added Burnett, who said he was throwing at around 80-90 percent arm strength. "I was real smooth out there."

Arnsberg said that everything seems to be fine with Downs' knee. The left-hander will not make any appearances on Friday or Saturday against Syracuse, but he'll pitch five or six innings on Sunday at extended Spring Training. Downs is on pace to make his first start of the year on April 8.

"He threw [Thursday] and he looked just fine," Arnsberg said. "As long as [the knee injury] doesn't bite on him again, I think, hopefully, we're pretty clear."

About that rotation: Ricciardi said that the second and third starters are projected to be left-hander Ted Lilly and righty Josh Towers, respectively, for the start of the season.

"Lilly is the No. 2 starter," Ricciardi said. "I've got to believe that's the way it lines up. It's not concrete, though."

Arnsberg agreed that Lilly would probably follow Halladay to begin the year. That means that the first five starters would be: Halladay, Lilly, Towers, lefty Gustavo Chacin and Downs.

If you build it... Toronto's busy offseason has made for a even busier ticket office. As of Tuesday, the Blue Jays had sold just under 42,000 tickets for the Opening Day contest against the Twins. To put that into perspective, at the same point last year, Toronto had sold under 40,000 tickets for the Friday night home opener against the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

Also on Tuesday, Toronto passed 1.1 million tickets sold for the entire season. That total is much higher than the amount sold by the day before Opening Day in 2005 (945,000), 2004 (940,000) and 2003 (770,000).

Toronto's season-ticket renewal rate currently stands at 98 percent.

Going blue: The Blue Man Group Toronto is going to be adding its unique style to the Opening Day festivities before the Jays' game against the Twins on April 4 at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Man Group will offer their first public performance of Canada's national anthem before the contest. The artists will also perform the American national anthem as part of the ceremony.

The Blue Man Group's appearance is just one of the events scheduled for the home opener. The lights in the stadium will be turned off when the ceremonies begin at around 6:45 p.m. The Jays also plan to have tributes to the late Kirby Puckett and Tom Cheek, the longtime radio voice of the Blue Jays. Shirley Cheek, Tom's wife, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Quotable: "Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it." -- Burnett, on attending Opening Day

Coming up: The Blue Jays play the first of two exhibition games against Triple-A Syracuse at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla. Saturday's game against the SkyChiefs will be at 10 a.m. Admission to both games is free. On Friday, Lilly is scheduled to pitch. The lefty finished 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA in five starts this spring. The exhibition games do not count toward Spring Training statistics.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.