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Inbox: Blue Jays' health issues and roster cuts

Inbox: Blue Jays' health issues and roster cuts

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Inbox: Blue Jays' health issues and roster cuts
With Brett Lawrie surviving the most recent round of cuts, does the possibility that he cracks the Opening Day roster become more of a reality?
-- Jonah B. Thornhill, Ontario

What the Blue Jays will do with Lawrie appears to be one of the most difficult questions to answer this spring. Lawrie entered camp without much of a chance to make the club, but there have been nothing but rave reviews for his performance in Dunedin, Fla.

Lawrie has excelled at the plate, where he is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with two home runs and five RBIs. He has displayed a keen eye for the strike zone and an ability to fight off tough pitches.

The most impressive thing about Lawrie's brief audition, though, has been his performance at third base. After coming up through Milwaukee's system as a second baseman, Lawrie made the transition across the diamond this year and has exceeded early expectations. The 21-year-old has started double plays with throws to second -- one of the toughest plays for a third baseman -- with relative ease. The area where he still needs to improve is his ability to properly attack slow grounders.

Despite the impressive performance, Lawrie still faces an uphill battle to make the team. The Blue Jays appear comfortable starting the season with Jose Bautista at third base and Juan Rivera in right field. Rivera, who has one year remaining on his contract at $5.25 million, is coming off a down year, though he did hit 25 home runs with 88 RBIs in 2009.

Having Lawrie start the year in the Minor Leagues allows the Blue Jays time to re-establish Rivera's value for a potential trade. It also delays the start of Lawrie's Major League service time and gives him the luxury of continuing to improve in a low-pressure situation. After playing a full season in Double-A, the next step for Lawrie appears to be Triple-A Las Vegas, but it might not be very long before he arrives in Toronto.

Aaron Hill hasn't played yet during the spring. Is his injury something the Blue Jays should be worried about?
-- Dave P., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Hill has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game because of soreness in his right quadriceps muscle. He has been listed as day to day for almost three weeks, which indicates the injury has lingered a lot longer than the organization originally expected.

The 28-year-old appears to be finally turning a corner, though. Hill is scheduled to go through a running program on Tuesday, and if all goes well, he will begin increasing the intensity of his baseball activities.

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The one positive is that Hill has continued taking batting practice and fielding drills. He appeared in simulated games and a "B" game against Philadelphia, which should allow him to get back into game shape relatively quickly.

At this point, there is no reason to believe the California native will require a stint on the disabled list, but that depends on how much his condition improves over the next week. If he is forced to miss the start of the regular season, John McDonald and Mike McCoy are expected to fill in on a temporary basis.

What are the chances that Travis Snider hits higher in the batting order? The organization has always said they see him as a middle-of-the-order type guy, and his hitting in the spring seems to validate that point.
-- Jemel J., Yonkers, New York

Snider's position in the batting order depends on what the Blue Jays decide to do with Bautista and Adam Lind. Both players have spent time this spring hitting third and fourth in the lineup.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell wants to split up his two main left-handed hitters -- Lind and Snider. If Lind bats third, then Snider becomes a prime candidate to be slotted into the fifth spot. If Lind bats fourth, then Snider likely drops down to sixth, with either Hill or Rivera getting the start behind Bautista.

Does Jo-Jo Reyes have a chance at making the team? If so, what role do you see him having?
-- Tim, New Germany, Nova Scotia

Reyes has a very good chance of making the Opening Day roster. The 26-year-old is out of options and must be placed on the 25-man roster, or the club risks losing him through waivers. At this point, the Blue Jays do not appear willing to give up on the former second-round Draft pick.

What his exact role will be remains unknown. Reyes is competing for one of the final two spots in the starting rotation. After getting off to a slow start, Reyes hasn't allowed a run in his past five innings. Despite the numbers, he is facing stiff competition for a starting role from Jesse Litsch, Kyle Drabek and Marc Rzepczynski.

If he is unable to secure a spot in the rotation, Reyes is expected to be used out of the bullpen. That would give the Blue Jays another left-hander to complement David Purcey, and also a reliever that has the ability to throw multiple innings and make the occasional spot start. At this point, that appears to be the most likely scenario.

What is the latest update on Chad Cordero? Is he still competing for a spot in the Blue Jays' bullpen?
-- Michael H., Thornhill, Ontario

Cordero has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game after being shut down early in camp with inflammation in his right throwing shoulder. Cordero has since made all of his scheduled bullpen sessions and last week pitched in a simulated game. On Monday afternoon, he was scheduled to throw one inning in a Minor League game.

Farrell already has ruled out Cordero having a chance of making the Blue Jays at the start of the season. Instead, Cordero likely will begin the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he will continue to build up his arm strength and look to regain some of his old form, which saw him post 128 saves over seven seasons.

Now that Dustin McGowan has turned into a reliever, does this mean he is the Blue Jays' closer of the future?
-- Andrew G., Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Any talk of what role McGowan will eventually have on the Blue Jays is a little premature. McGowan, who hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2008, is coming off two major shoulder surgeries.

The Blue Jays' medical staff decided that moving McGowan to the bullpen is best for his long-term health. The native of Savannah, Ga., is still in the early stages of his rehab, though, and there remain a lot of obstacles on his path to Toronto. McGowan will eventually need to prove he can pitch on back-to-back days before any role can be established.

McGowan is currently on the 60-day disabled list and will have plenty of time to work his way back to full health. If he is able to regain some of his old form, he would become a candidate to pitch in late-inning situations, but there are too many questions that need to be answered before that type of speculation can begin.

How long until Eric Thames cracks the Blue Jays' roster? It seems like he deserves a shot at the big leagues.
-- Alex B., Whitby, Ontario

Thames has been one of the standout performers during Spring Training. The native of California is hitting .294 (10-for-34) with two home runs and eight RBIs. He has yet to play above Double-A, though, and is scheduled to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

His arrival date in the Major Leagues remains up in the air because there does not appear to be a spot for him on the roster. Lawrie is the third baseman of the future, and Bautista will move back to right field, where he spent the majority of his time in 2010. With Bautista in right and Snider in left, Thames' two positions appear to be blocked for the foreseeable future.

If Thames is able to have a successful year in Triple-A, he would become a prime candidate to be traded or he could become the club's designated hitter in 2011. The Blue Jays' current DH, Edwin Encarnacion, is signed to a one-year contract with a club option.

Is Drabek on some sort of pitch count, similar to Brandon Morrow last year?
-- Christina S., St. John's, Newfoundland

Drabek won't be on the same type of innings limit that Morrow was. Morrow's situation was unique because he had spent the previous year as a reliever and the club didn't want to burden his arm with a large increase in innings.

Drabek threw 162 innings for Double-A New Hampshire and an additional 17 in the Major Leagues, so he already is used to pitching for an entire season.

How many bench players will the Blue Jays have this season, and who are the likely candidates to be in that role?
-- Brad B., Timmins, Ontario

The early indications from Spring Training are that the Blue Jays will have a four-man bench to start the season. That number ultimately depends on how many relievers the club opts to use, but Farrell has stated that it is his preference to go with a seven-man bullpen.

Catcher Jose Molina and McDonald have guaranteed roles with the club while Scott Podsednik, Corey Patterson and McCoy are competing for the final two spots. Podsednik and Patterson have more established careers, but both players can only play the outfield while McCoy can be used all over the field.

Farrell has yet to tip his hand as to which two players he prefers, and the decision likely won't be made until the final week of Sprng Training. Further complicating the issue is that Podsednik has only played one game because of a left foot injury.

What does the future hold for Deck McGuire, and what are the plans for Chad Jenkins?
-- Teagan B., Moncton, New Brunswick

Jenkins and McGuire were the Blue Jays' first-round Draft picks from 2009 and '10, respectively. Both players received non-roster invites to Spring Training but were among the first cuts at camp.

McGuire will begin the year with a full-season Class A team in Lansing or Dunedin. Jenkins, who went 2-6 with a 4.33 ERA in Dunedin last season, will either return to that team or begin the year with Double-A New Hampshire.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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