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Notes: Faster is better for Chacin

Notes: Faster is better for Chacin

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gustavo Chacin didn't give the Phillies a chance to get comfortable in the batter's box. The Blue Jays left-hander would already be in his delivery by the time a hitter began peering toward the mound.

Toronto believes that a faster tempo on the mound, combined with Chacin's unorthodox throwing motion, can help the 26-year-old Venezuelan be more effective and efficient. He successfully tested that philosophy versus Philadelphia on Wednesday at Bright House Networks Field.

Chacin worked three crisp innings, holding the Phillies scoreless and limiting them to just one hit. The lefty threw 35 pitches, including 25 for strikes, and he struck out two. Philadelphia also grounded out five times against Chacin, who is more of a fly-ball pitcher.

"We think he gets in a better rhythm and throws strikes [when he works faster]," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "But he's pitched good for us the last two years. We're not too worried about him."

Maybe Toronto isn't worried about Chacin, but the club would like to see him become more efficient with his pitch count. Chacin averaged just over five innings per outing and 16.75 pitches per inning in 2006. In 2005, when Chacin won 13 games as a rookie, he averaged nearly six innings per start and 15.99 pitches per frame.

On Wednesday, Chacin didn't throw more than 13 pitches, or more than four balls, in any of his innings. The southpaw also threw a strike on the first pitch against each of the final seven batters he faced in the outing, which was his second of the spring.

Chacin wasn't as efficient in his first start of Spring Training on March 2 against the Red Sox. In that trip to the mound, he threw 20 pitches in the first inning and was later pulled from the game after yielding a two-out, three-run homer on his 37th pitch in the second.

"Everything was fine [against the Phillies]," said Chacin, who is 23-14 in his career as a starter for Toronto. "I just worked ahead a lot, throwing first-pitch strikes. I think that's the key: working ahead. That's what I did today.

"[Working quick is] really important, because you don't give time to the batters," he added. "The tempo of the game is really fast and that's what most guys do. I just try to work that in, and it's worked."

Super sub: When the baseball left Jason Smith's bat in the eighth inning Wednesday, it was obvious that he had just belted a home run. What the crowd probably didn't expect was to see it travel well out of the stadium after clearing the right-field wall.

"The wind was blowing pretty good," Smith said with a laugh. "That's what helped it get that far out. I'm not a home-run hitter by any means, but I can run into one every now and then."

Power wasn't why Toronto selected Smith in the Rule 5 Draft in December. The Blue Jays added the 29-year-old because of his position versatility -- Smith can play each of the four infield spots -- and because he can provide a left-handed bat off the bench.

"He's played very good [this spring]," Gibbons said. "He's a guy who's been around a little bit -- kind of been a journeyman. But we think he's going to be a big help for us."

Toronto likes the infield's depth with Smith in the mix, and the club has even given him some playing time in left field this spring. He's only been an infielder in the Majors, but Smith pointed out that he played about a dozen games in the outfield a couple seasons ago while in Detroit's Minor League system -- one of five organizations he's been a part of in his career.

"That's probably the least comfortable place that I'm at," said Smith, referring to left field. "But, if there's always that extra body on the bench that you can throw out there and feel comfortable with, that makes the team that much better."

Hurtin' to play: Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas didn't want to wait another day. The Big Hurt will get his first spring at-bats in a "B" game against the Phillies at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday at Knology Park. A "B" game has flexible rules and it doesn't count toward the standings or statistics in the Grapefruit League.

Thomas, who has spent the early portion of Spring Training building up the strength in his legs, isn't scheduled to make his first official Grapefruit League appearance until Friday's 1:05 p.m. ET home tilt against the Astros.

Extra! Extra! Each of Toronto's last three Spring Training games have lasted 10 innings, and the Jays have played four extra-inning contests this spring. Toronto also had its game against Tampa Bay on March 3 shortened to six innings due to rain. Only two of the Jays' seven Grapefruit League games have been regulation nine-inning affairs.

Quotable: "For whatever reason, I don't know why, I haven't stuck anywhere. But the Blue Jays are giving me the opportunity this year, and I'm going to try to run with it." -- Smith

Coming up: Blue Jays right-hander Tomo Ohka is scheduled to make his second start of the spring in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Red Sox on Thursday at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Right-hander A.J. Burnett will start against the Phillies in the "B" game at Knology Park.

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

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