ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays appear to be leaning toward making right-hander Liam Hendriks their No. 5 starter when the need for another pitcher arises on May 24.
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the trip to watch Hendriks pitch vs Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday afternoon. Hendriks responded by allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out three over seven innings.
The 25-year-old lowered his ERA to 1.48 and after being claimed by the Blue Jays during Spring Training he has now entered the conversation for a starting job.
"He's why I came. ... You want to see the 1.50 ERA for yourself," Anthopoulos told the Buffalo News. "He was good. Throws strikes, changes speeds. ... You know you don't have to have 60- or 80-pitch first appearance. He's fully stretched out."
The same can't necessarily be said about the other two pitchers in the mix for a starting role. Right-handers Marcus Stroman and Todd Redmond have been mentioned as possibilities, but both would be under strict pitch counts for at least their first appearance or two.
Redmond has spent the entire season in the bullpen while Stroman hasn't started since he was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on May 4. That would seem to give the edge to Hendriks for a Saturday afternoon start vs. the A's on May 24.
Until this week, that news would have come at least as a mild surprise. Stroman has long been considered the next in line for a starting role but his recent stint in the bullpen means he might need more time to handle the workload.
Blue Jays shuffle roster to make room for Navarro
ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays roster shuffle continued on Saturday afternoon as right-hander Neil Wagner was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo in order to make room for catcher Dioner Navarro.
Navarro had been out since Wednesday when he was placed on the bereavement/family medical emergency list. A player is permitted to remain on that list for seven days but Navarro was in the lineup for his club's second game vs. the Rangers.
The decision to demote Wagner was made a little easier by the fact that right-hander Dustin McGowan is headed for the bullpen after spending the first six weeks of the season in the starting rotation.
"A lot of that has to do with McGowan going to the bullpen," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He'll fall into that role that Wags was going to do."
Catcher Erik Kratz is the biggest beneficiary of the decision to send Wagner back to the Minors. Kratz was a candidate to be sent down but instead he'll remain with the club as a third catcher and a possible designated hitter vs left-handed pitching.
The Blue Jays have yet to name a replacement for McGowan in the rotation, which means even after dropping a reliever on Saturday the club has an eight-man bullpen and a four-man starting staff. That roster configuration likely will remain in place until the Blue Jays need a fifth starter on May 24 vs Oakland.
The temporary four-man rotation also means the Blue Jays can carry a traditional four-man bench. That made the decision to keep Kratz on the big club a little bit easier and it will create a lot more roster flexibility for Gibbons.
"The last time we sent him down, early on, [I said] he's a big league player, he's earned that," Gibbons said of Kratz. "He has done some good things for us. He can shut down the running game, he's a threat with the bat, he has a real good idea with the pitching staff and he brings some toughness to him too."
Gose gets chance with Rasmus injured
ARLINGTON -- An injury to Colby Rasmus has opened the door for Anthony Gose to prove he still has a bright future with the Blue Jays' organization.
Gose was handed the starting duties in center field when Colby Rasmus was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this week with a strained right hamstring. He's expected to receive regular playing time and so far his impact has been felt in the lineup.
"The games he has played since he has been up, he's contributed something good in every one of those games," Gibbons said. "He's on a mission, he wants to stay. He's always felt like he belongs in the big leagues and now he's showing it. He can do a lot of things that most guys can't do out there."
Gose possesses game-changing speed on the basepaths and Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. The only question mark surrounding his ability to succeed at the next level is his offense. The 23-year-old is a career .241 hitter with a .303 on-base percentage in 113 games in the Major Leagues.
Those numbers will have to improve if Gose is going to make a case that he should be a starting outfielder in 2014. There could be a pair of openings on the Blue Jays' roster with both Rasmus and left fielder Melky Cabrera headed for free agency at the end of the season.
"The thing is, he has to find ways to get on base," Gibbons said. "If he doesn't hit a lot, or if he just holds his own, he has to get some walks too and things like that because his game is scoring runs.
"There are growing pains when you get to the big leagues at a young age because the pitching is pretty good. Like last night ... [Gose] lays down that nice bunt and gets that thing going. That's part of his game, he has to do that."