Janssen out for season with torn labrum

Janssen out for season with torn labrum

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Janssen was excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for the Blue Jays. The pitcher was looking forward to being a part of a staff that excelled a year ago and seems primed for another strong showing this season.

On Wednesday, Janssen stood in front of his locker at Knology Park and recalled hearing that he'd have to wait until 2009 to pitch again for Toronto. An MRI exam revealed that the discomfort Janssen felt in his right shoulder during a bullpen session on Tuesday morning was caused by a torn labrum.

Janssen is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery to repair his frayed shoulder on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week in California, and the pitcher said the operation will likely be performed by Los Angeles-based surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum. It will be at least four months before Janssen will be able to throw a baseball.

"It's tough to handle just from working hard in the offseason to get ready to fight for a job," Janssen said. "It's also tough because our team is going to be really good and I want to be a part of it. You've just got to look at the positives and move forward."

One positive aspect to the situation is that, after enduring a wave of injuries last season, the Blue Jays believe that they are better equipped to absorb a few losses than they were in the past. Last year, 12 of their players underwent 13 different operations for a wide variety of injuries.

Amidst the plethora of health woes, a handful of young players -- Janssen included -- emerged as reliable regulars for Toronto. Considering the volume of injuries over the past few seasons, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said a loss like the club has experienced this week doesn't feel as devastating as it did in the past.

"I don't get disheartened anymore," Ricciardi said with a smile. "We're used to it, but I think we're in better shape to handle it now. ... I think this team is resilient. This team has been through it before. Obviously, it's a young pitcher with a good arm that did a great job for us last year.

"You've got to love everything about him -- just the way he goes about his business. He works hard and is everything we want to stand for. But I think this group has learned, more so in the last few years, it's just another bump in the road and we'll get through it."

Even so, the loss is a tough blow to the Blue Jays, who were giving the 26-year-old Janssen an opportunity to win a job in the starting rotation. Last season, after closer B.J. Ryan and reliever Brandon League were sidelined with injuries, Janssen served as Toronto's primary setup man and finished with a 2.35 ERA and 24 holds in 70 games.

With Janssen out of the mix for a job, Jesse Litsch becomes the favorite in-house candidate to depart Spring Training as Toronto's fifth starter. But Ricciardi indicated that the Jays aren't unwilling to explore trades or other options to bolster their pitching staff.

"I think we'll look at everything," Ricciardi said. "The nice thing is it's not like we have to go out and shake things up tremendously. Obviously, it's a loss that we didn't want to have to go through, but I think there's enough internal candidates and they're going to have to fight it out."

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Besides Litsch, who posted a 3.81 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie a year ago, one potential candidate in camp for a rotation job is left-hander John Parrish. Toronto has been stretching out Parrish with the thought that he could compete for a job as a long reliever, but he could possibly be in the running for the fifth spot.

The loss of Janssen also affects the makeup of Toronto's bullpen. Janssen was competing for a rotation job, but many within the organization prefered to keep him within the relief corps. Janssen's status was tied to the return of Ryan, who is attempting to break camp with the Jays after having ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow in May.

With Janssen out of the equation, League's chances of making the team as a late-inning reliever appear to be increased, though he's still fighting for a job. Beyond Ryan, League, and shoo-ins Scott Downs and Jeremy Accardo, other relievers in the mix for the seven bullpen jobs include Brian Tallet, Jason Frasor, Brian Wolfe, Randy Wells, Armando Benitez and Parrish.

"With Casey Janssen, we have a great bullpen," Ricciardi said. "Without him, we have a good bullpen. If someone else goes down, it just keeps chipping away. ... We've got some arms, but I don't know if you ever have enough."

Janssen was originally scheduled to pitch four innings in a Minor League game on Tuesday, but he cut short his bullpen warmup session after feeling discomfort in his shoulder. With the extent of the injury now known, Janssen plans on heading home to California later this week to prepare for the surgery.

Ricciardi said Janssen can resume throwing around July or August and the hope is that the pitcher will be back at full strength by Spring Training next year. That's an optimistic stance, considering that a torn labrum is a serious injury that can be difficult to come back from for pitchers.

"Every pitcher has so many throws in them," Ricciardi said. "At some point, your arm can only handle so much. He's got a pretty clean arm slot, so it's just unfortunate. Like most young pitchers, he's going to have his operation and have it behind him.

"The good news is he should be totally fine and will bounce back. In four months, he'll be throwing. Obviously, I don't think it'll be enough for him to get back and help us, but we'll have him back healthy next year and give him a long rehab process."

Janssen's already counting the days.

"What I hear is I pick up a ball four months from now," Janssen said. "I guess I'm looking forward to that day. Then, just rehab it and rehab it and rehab it and rehab it until it's a non-issue, and then hopefully come back to camp ready to go.

"That's probably the hardest part, just the part that says, 'Hey, I'll see you guys next year.' That's tough."

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