DUNEDIN, Florida - It's only February but for players in situations similar to Justin Germano's, there are few opportunities to make a good impression. It's the life of a journeyman pitcher.
In Wednesday's 10-1 loss to the Astros, Germano was one of the few Blue Jays' bright spots, tossing two innings of scoreless ball, striking out four including the side in the second. Coupled with the struggles of Brad Lincoln and Jeremy Jeffress, Germano may be elbowing his way into consideration for one of the two available bullpen spots.
"Yeah, you never know," said manager John Gibbons, asked whether Germano could earn the long role in the bullpen. "We're looking for a guy who can eat some innings on the big league staff and he's a guy who could definitely fit that."
Germano signed a minor league contract on November 9, promised an invite to spring training and a chance to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. Eight days later, general manager Alex Anthopoulos swung a blockbuster deal with the Marlins and later acquired R.A. Dickey from the Mets. Without donning a Blue Jays uniform, Germano's stock in the organization dropped considerably. It's the life of a journeyman pitcher.
"(The rotation) was pretty open at the time," said Germano, 30. "Alex called me himself and told me about the opportunity that was here and it sounded too good to pass up. Obviously nobody knew they were going to do what they did and it's not the most ideal situation for me but I'm happy to be here and hope to be a part of this team because they're going to do something special this year."
Germano was a 13th round pick of the Padres in 2000. He made his major league debut with San Diego in 2004, was traded to Cincinnati a year later, became a Phillie in 2006, returned to the Padres in 2007 and spent time with the Indians, Red Sox and Cubs before joining the Blue Jays. He's been traded, waived, purchased, released. Germano didn't pitch at all in 2009.
Last July 21, two days after the Cubs purchased his contract from Boston, Germano was forced in to a game in St. Louis when Matt Garza went down with a triceps injury that would end his season. Germano pitched three scoreless innings before allowing a leadoff single in the seventh. He was removed from the game, still scoreless at the time, and three Cubs' pitchers subsequently allowed 12 runs in the inning. Chicago lost the game 12-0 and because the first base runner scored, Germano's guy, Germano took the loss. It's the life of a journeyman pitcher.
He's a survivor who believes his experiences are to his advantage and can help the Blue Jays.
"I'm sure every GM hopes they can just go through the season with just five guys (in the starting rotation) but in reality it never really happens," said Germano. "Someone comes up lame or misses a start here or there, it's not always a serious injury but someone misses a start throughout the season. Hopefully, maybe, they'll see me as a long guy at some point, I can help out there. I'm okay doing the swingman role, coming in and eating up some innings or making that spot start if needed."
Germano's repertoire includes a fastball, sinker, curve and changeup. Teams never can have enough pitching, scouts always are watching. Whether it's Toronto, Triple-A Buffalo or somewhere else, Germano will be throwing baseballs.
It's the life of a journeyman pitcher.
- It was a difficult day for singer Jeff Fuller, who tripped up on the Canadian anthem. Committed to his craft, Fuller rebooted and started from the top but made another mistake.
Flustered, Fuller kicked the second line of the US anthem and struggled the remainder of the way.
John Gibbons, feeling sorry for Fuller, extended a hand as Fuller made his way off the field. A forgiving crowd gently applauded.
- Mark Buehrle brought his American Staffordshire terrier, Slater, to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Wednesday.
The dog is a breed of pit bull, which is banned in Ontario. As a result, Buehrle's wife and two children will live in St. Louis, the family's hometown, during the season and make periodic visits to Toronto.
Buehrle has made it clear he and his wife, Jamie, disagree with the province's law and intend to use their time with the Blue Jays to push for the ban's repeal.
- First baseman Lars Anderson, claimed Monday off waivers from the White Sox, has arrived in Dunedin.
"The vibe is incredible here," said Anderson, 25. "People are having fun. It's nice and relaxed and guys are getting their work done. I'm happy to be here."
Anderson was selected by Boston in the 18th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He spent six years in the Red Sox organization but has since bounded around. Anderson has been part of the Indians, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Blue Jays organizations since last July 31.
- When asked about the battle for the backup catcher's spot, manager John Gibbons commented on Henry Blanco's work ethic. The 41-year-old is among the earliest to arrive each day and works out with some of his fellow Venezuelans.
"They go in there and do that Insanity workout, they're in that back room, I get here and they're working out," said Gibbons. "I actually did P90X, was it two years ago? I lasted 75 days, so it was P75X, then I hurt my back. I lost about 22 pounds and I didn't even worry about the diet part."
Gibbons says he hurt his back doing the yoga component, forcing him to "shut it down."
- Astros manager Bo Porter, 40, will begin the season as the youngest skipper in the major leagues. Appropriate, perhaps, given the youth on his roster.
Included on his coaching staff are ex-Orioles manager Dave Trembley (third base) and former Expos great "El Presidente" Dennis Martinez (bullpen.)
- After four consecutive home dates the Blue Jays take their act on the road, Thursday, making the short trip to Tampa to play a split squad Yankees team.
Brandon Morrow will make his second start of the spring and will throw two innings. The rest of the pitching lines up like this:
Happ's appearance at Steinbrenner Field will come just four days after he hit Curtis Granderson with a pitch, breaking the Yankees' centrefielder's forearm. Granderson is expected to miss the first month of the regular season.
Many Blue Jays regulars will play, too, with Gibbons working an early two days on, one day off approach.