The Blue Jays were willing to let Walker get back on a pitching mound. After signing a Minor League contract with Toronto, that's exactly what he's doing this spring. That way, maybe Walker can prove to the Jays that he's been healing rapidly since having surgery on his right shoulder in July.
"We had a lot of conversations with other teams, but everything was contingent on me being off the mound," Walker said on Tuesday. "Most teams were looking at me being ready in May or June. The Blue Jays were willing to let me come to Spring Training and do what I need to do here."
Walker, who went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 23 relief outings before injuring his arm last season, began throwing in January and trained seven days a week. Toronto gave the 37-year-old Wallker a throwing program that was built for a May return, but he picked up the pace and now believes he could be ready to rejoin the 'pen by the end of Spring Training.
"I think that would obviously surprise some people, but I feel like I can be ready," Walker said. "I'm not going to push it too hard with the possibility of a re-injury or a setback, but I'm definitely going to push it with the anticipation of being ready in April."
Toronto manager John Gibbons didn't sound as optimistic.
"I've got a special place in my heart for Pete," said Gibbons, who also managed Walker in the Mets Minor League system. "But I have a hard time seeing where he's ready to go by the time Opening Day rolls around. He's a quick healer, so maybe I'm wrong, but I have a hard time seeing that happening."
Walker hesitated when asked if he'd be willing to accept a Minor League assignment if he didn't make Toronto's bullpen this spring. He said it'd depend on how healthy he feels at that time.
"If I'm really at 100 percent at the end of spring and feeling great, maybe we'll re-evaluate where I'm at in my career," Walker said. "This organization has been great to me and giving me the opportunity to come back to Major League camp right now at less than 100 percent is fantastic."
Cleaning up: Troy Glaus provided most of his thump from the cleanup spot in Toronto's lineup last season, when he logged 491 at-bats in the fourth position and led the Jays with 38 home runs.
Now that the Jays also have designated hitter Frank Thomas in the fold, though, there's a strong chance that Glaus will be bumped down into the fifth slot. Last year, Thomas had 39 homers and 114 RBIs for Oakland.
Gibbons plans on discussing the lineup situation with Glaus before making any final decisions about how the middle of the order will shape up.
"He's been around the league and he's been a very productive hitter," Gibbons said. "I think you owe [it to him to talk to him about it] out of respect. I think that's the right way to do things."
Thomas, who arrived at Toronto's Spring Training site on Tuesday, said that he's not picky about where he hits. As far as he's concerned, it doesn't matter if Gibbons wants him in the fourth of fifth spot.
"Where I fall in the lineup, I'm sure it'll be deserved," said Thomas, who batted fifth during the first two months of last season with the A's. "If I have to go down further in the lineup, that's fine by me, because we have a special core of hitters on this team.
"I definitely am at an age now where cleaning up isn't bad for me, but fourth or fifth is great," added the 38-year-old. "Fifth wouldn't bother me at all. I wanted to hit fifth last year, but things didn't work out for a couple hitters over there and I was quickly moved back into the four hole."
It's official: The Blue Jays officially announced on Tuesday that they had signed Gibbons to a one-year contract extention for the 2008 season. Gibbons is scheduled to make $500,000 in 2007, and his salary will rise to $650,000 under the new contract in '08.
Be our guest: Toronto's pitching staff has a pair of pitchers from Blue Jays' past in camp to lean on for information. Former hurlers Pat Hentgen and Dave Stieb are on hand at the Bobby Mattick Training Center as guest coaches.
New arrivals: Besides Thomas, Glaus, first baseman Lyle Overbay and new shortstop Royce Clayton were among the new faces in camp on Tuesday. Position players aren't required to report to Spring Training until Wednesday, and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Thursday.
See you tomorrow: Pitcher Tomo Ohka, whose travel from Japan has been delayed due to visa issues, is expected to be at Wednesday's workout for pitchers and catchers.
Quotable: "Oh, God. Ugly." --Gibbons, giving his review of the extra-long goatee that outfielder Reed Johnson is currently sporting
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less