Notes: Jays hope Roberts can fill role

Notes: Jays hope Roberts can fill role

TORONTO -- When one door is closed, another opens. That's the case for Ryan Roberts, who has been given the chance to emerge as the Blue Jays' super utility player. Roberts' opportunity was created when Toronto decided things weren't working out with infielder Jason Smith.

"We want to see him play a little bit," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, referring to Roberts. "I'm not sure how much playing time he's going to get, but he's a kid we've always liked in the sytem. He's done well and this is his chance."

The Blue Jays presented a similar chance to Smith by selecting him from the Cubs during the Rule 5 Draft in December. After an impressive showing at the plate this spring, Smith easily earned a place on Toronto's Opening Day roster. A subpar performance this season cost Smith his job on the Jays' bench, though.

On Monday, the Jays placed Smith on waivers and he can be claimed by another team until 1 p.m. ET, on Wednesday. If the 29-year-old infielder isn't claimed, Toronto is required to offer him back to the Cubs for $25,000 -- half the cost of drafting Smith in December. Should Chicago decide they don't have a need for Smith, the Jays then have the right to retain him and assign him to the Minor Leagues.

In 27 games for Toronto, Smith hit .212 with 22 strikeouts in 52 at-bats. The left-handed hitter had just two hits in his last 16 at-bats, which led to diminished playing time recently. Smith's woes were a drastic contrast to Spring Training, where he posted a .306 average with two home runs and eight RBIs in 23 games for the Jays -- his fifth team in seven seasons.

"I loved Smitty," Gibbons said. "He helped us win some games. He's a first-class kid. He's been on that ride, up and down, his whole career. He can get frustrated by that, but he's one of the good ones -- always ready to play and always in the right position at the right time. But, it's a business."

Smith spent most of his time serving as a backup at third base and shortstop. The 26-year-old Roberts bounced between multiple infield positions during his stint with Triple-A Syracuse this season, and he's even played some outfield. Gibbons didn't rule out using Roberts to spell left fielder Adam Lind on occasion.

"We'll work him around a little bit," Gibbons said. "There might be some times, maybe against a tough left hander, that we try to get him in the outfield."

In 19 games with Syracuse, Roberts hit .253 with three homers and 14 RBIs. He's been called up twice to Toronto this season, most recently on Saturday, but has yet to collect a hit in three games with the Blue Jays.

Big jump: Gibbons was interested to see how right-hander Jesse Litsch was going to fare on Tuesday night. Though not as rare as it once was, the 22-year-old Litsch was promoted from Double-A to make his Major League debut against the Orioles.

"They all react differently," said Gibbons, when asked how skipping Triple-A might affect Litsch. "You see so many guys come out of Double-A now anyway. It's not like it used to be, where you'd have to go to Triple-A before they'd call you up. That's changed."

Gibbons added that Toronto didn't set a pitch or inning limit on the young pitcher. In six starts with Double-A New Hampshire, Litsch went 5-1 with a 0.96 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. It's undecided whether, or not, Litsch will start for the Jays after Tuesday, considering Toronto doesn't require a fifth starter again until May 26 in Minnesota.

"There's no limitations on him," GIbbons said. "I know what he's got, but I don't know what to expect. I'm excited to see the kid. He's having a heck of a year and we like him. It's his debut -- a special day for him. We'd like to see him get a win. It's a tough assignment, though."

Still streaking: On Monday night, Toronto right-hander Jeremy Accardo turned in a scoreless ninth inning to pick up a save against the Orioles. That performance upped his season scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings. It's the longest such streak to begin a year by a Jays reliever since Paul Quantrill pitched a club-record 23 scoreless frames to kick off the 2001 season.

Not available: Gibbons said that Accardo, who has appeared in three of the last four games, was not available out of the bullpen on Tuesday night. If a save situation came up, Toronto's manager indicated that he'd likely turn to righty Casey Janssen, who has a 0.93 ERA in 15 relief appearances this season.

Did you know? The last Blue Jays starter to win his Major League debut at home was Brandon Lyon, who accomplished the feat on Aug. 4, 2001, against Baltimore.

Coming up: Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett (3-3, 4.56 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Orioles in the finale of a three-game set at 7:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. Baltimore will counter with left-hander Brian Burres (1-1, 3.68 ERA).

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