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Motivated Laffey eyes Blue Jays' rotation

Motivated Laffey eyes Blue Jays' rotation

Motivated Laffey eyes Blue Jays' rotation play video for Motivated Laffey eyes Blue Jays' rotation
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Aaron Laffey got his first opportunity to audition for a role in Toronto's starting rotation with a two-inning performance against the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at McKechnie Field.

Laffey was perfect through one frame, then pitched his way into trouble in the second. He finished the afternoon with one earned run on three hits while striking out three.

There are some kinks to be worked out, but overall, Laffey was pleased with his spring debut in a Blue Jays uniform.

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"I felt free and easy, nice and loose," Laffey said. "I obviously have some work to do, but first time out, I was happy with it, and for the most part, I kept the ball down, changed speeds, threw all of my pitches over the plate for strikes. So I was pleased."

Laffey joined the Blue Jays during the offseason by signing a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He was promised an opportunity to compete for a starter's role. But it won't be an easy road.

The Blue Jays' starting rotation currently includes Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan. That leaves Laffey on the outside looking in, but if anyone gets hurt this spring, he will receive consideration, along with Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison.

It was the opportunity to be in the rotation that attracted Laffey to Toronto. The former 16th-round Draft pick of the Indians has appeared in 126 games during his Major League career, but only 49 of them have been starts, and it's something he would like to get back to doing.

"I've been a swing man earlier in my career in the big leagues, and that's helped and hurt me from time to time," Laffey said. "But coming here and having an opportunity to start and also -- if I don't fit into the rotation -- a possibility in the bullpen as well.

"Just a good opportunity for me, I have some guys on the coaching staff who know me, who have seen me in the past and have seen me at my best. Coming off a good season last year and having some guys here who know me well, know what I can do, know what I can accomplish on the mound, was a big lure for me."

Laffey crossed paths with John Farrell when the Blue Jays manager was the farm director in Cleveland. Laffey also spent time in the same organization as first-base coach Torey Lovullo and coach Luis Rivera, so there were a lot of familiar faces when he arrived in Blue Jays camp last month.

That helped ease the transition, which came as a welcome change following a year of uncertainty. Laffey enjoyed his best season in the Major Leagues last year by posting a 3-2 record and 3.88 ERA in 47 appearances, but he also bounded between three different organizations.

He began the year in Cleveland before he was traded to the Mariners during Spring Training. Laffey was later designated for assignment by Seattle, then found himself in a playoff race after being claimed by the Yankees.

The constant change took its toll, but once on the field, Laffey was able to set aside all the turmoil and post an ERA under 4.00 for the first time in his big league career.

"It was definitely a great swap for me [going to the Yankees], but there were some struggles in transition -- just with travel, your body breaking down and stuff like that," Laffey said.

"But to handle the adversity the way I did last year, I was very pleased with how I went about it, handled it, was able to come through and finish the year strong and put up good numbers."

If Laffey is unable to crack the Blue Jays' 25-man roster, he likely will end up in Triple-A Las Vegas. The 26-year-old hopes it doesn't come to that, but said he's prepared for whatever comes next.

"My goal coming into Spring Training was to make the big league club," Laffey said. "I feel that I'm a big league pitcher with big league stuff, I think I've proven that I have consistency up here.

"If not, if I do happen to go to Las Vegas, they told me I would be starting. So I'll just go down there and continue to work; go about your business every day that you would regardless of where you are, whether it's Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues -- it doesn't matter. You need to approach the game the same every day and take the same mentality to try and get better to get back to where you need to be."

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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