DUNEDIN, Florida - Casey Janssen threw Sunday in a competitive game for the first time this spring. Perhaps St. Patrick's Day was a fitting date; Janssen may need the luck of the Irish for his surgically-repaired right shoulder to allow him to head north with his Blue Jays' teammates.
Worst case, he's hopeful he won't be too far behind.
"I'm a pretty impatient person when it comes to this stuff," said Janssen of the rehab process. "You don't want to feel bad ever, you just want to feel good and you don't get why you don't feel good all the time. They're trying to slow me down at times and understand that I did have a surgery. All in all it's another step in the right direction."
Such is life for a rehabbing pitcher who's circled a return date on his calendar, in this case opening day April 2, but who can't guarantee he'll make it.
"I have my good days, I have some not amazing days but hopefully those are becoming less and less," he said.
Pressed further, there must be a difference between "not amazing days" and "bad days," Janssen said it's not shoulder soreness that sometimes holds him back but arm strength, which takes time to build.
"Not necessarily pain but not how you would feel when you're 100-percent," said Janssen. "You can tell that you're grinding just a bit."
Janssen, 31, faced four batters in Sunday's Triple-A game against a contingent of Phillies' minor leaguers. He retired all four, including a strikeout of Tyson Gillies, Canada's centre fielder at the World Baseball Classic. Janssen threw mostly fastballs, mixed in the odd changeup, for a count of 16 pitches.
"Definitely (there's) a little more adrenaline," said Janssen. "These guys are competing, who knows what their situations are, but they're either trying to make the team or impress so it's as much a game as anything else other than actually being in a stadium."
The next step is to wake up Monday feeling good. If Janssen passes that test it's off to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium for a day of work, while his teammates enjoy a day off, to throw long toss and undergo treatment.
Depending on Janssen's status the Blue Jays have either one or two openings in the bullpen. If Janssen's hurt, expect Aaron Loup, Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress to break camp.
If Janssen's healthy, general manager Alex Anthopoulos must pick two of the three, which is where things get complicated.
On merit, manager John Gibbons said earlier in the spring the Blue Jays would take their "best roster" north, Loup has earned a spot (1.29 ERA in seven Grapefruit League innings.) However, Loup has options; Cecil and Jeffress don't, meaning to get either to the minors the Blue Jays must first waive them and risk having them picked up by another club.
Cecil has struggled this spring (6.35 ERA in 11.1 innings.) The Blue Jays are intrigued by Jeffress' lively arm, which produces a mid-90s fastball. He has 10 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA in eight innings; Jeffress also has walked five batters.
Decisions will be made by the end of March, as the calendar dictates, but Janssen can look no further than the coming days.
"This week is going to be a big week for me," said Janssen. "They're going to present me with some challenges that I'm either going to be able to take on or not and everyone will have a pretty good idea (of where I'm at.")
- Adam Lind is hitting .424 (14-33) with a .488 on-base percentage this spring. He's trying to recapture the magic of his 2009 season (35 HR, 114 RBI) and one key will be his health. Lind has previously battled back problems; he credits his yoga regimen for a pain-free spring.
"I've had no back pain at all," said Lind. "Last year at this time, maybe a week prior to this, I missed a week of camp with back pain. I've been pain free this whole camp, which is a much better spot than I was last year."
Lind missed almost five weeks last July/August with a back injury.
- Veteran left-hander Darren Oliver, 42, will pitch three innings in a minor league game on Tuesday.
On a 40-pitch limit, Oliver prefers extending himself in one minor league game each spring due to its controlled nature. The rules are lax so if Oliver struggles, he can request the inning be stopped. He'll sit down to simulate a half inning of rest and then return to the mound for more work.
Oliver, entering his 20th major league season, has appeared in three games for a total of three innings of work. He isn't likely to see much more Grapefruit League action.
- The Blue Jays lost 11-2 to the Astros in Kissimmee, FL, on Sunday. Following an off day Monday, Toronto will host Houston on Tuesday.
Mark Buehrle (0-0, 5.00 ERA) will make his fifth Grapefruit League start.
Sergio Santos and Esmil Rogers also are scheduled to pitch in the game.
Also on Tuesday, Josh Johnson (five innings) and R.A. Dickey (two innings) will pitch in a minor league game.