Notes: Janssen gets the call
Rookie right-hander will make debut in place of Burnett
TORONTO -- The unofficial word around Toronto this week had Casey Janssen tagged as the Minor Leaguer on the verge of getting the call to join the Blue Jays' starting rotation. On Wednesday, Toronto manager John Gibbons confirmed what had already been churning in the rumor mill.
Janssen will indeed be called up from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday to start in place of A.J. Burnett, who landed back on the disabled list on Friday with a right elbow injury. Janssen's outing against Baltimore in the series finale will be his Major League debut, but the Jays are hoping its the first of a few solid starts while Burnett is on the shelf.
"That'll be his debut," Gibbons said. "But hopefully he pitches well and has a chance to stay here a while."
Janssen was in the Blue Jays clubhouse after the game against the Orioles on Wednesday night. To make room for the pitcher on the 25-man roster, Toronto optioned reliever Shaun Marcum to Triple-A. Marcum, who was recalled from Syracuse when Burnett landed on the DL, had appeared in just one game in his brief stint with the Jays.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Janssen will be making his first big-league appearance on just three days' rest. Janssen started the back end of a doubleheader on Sunday, but he only threw 40 pitches in three innings for Syracuse. So far this year, Janssen was 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA in four starts at Triple-A. He had 18 strikeouts and one walk over 20 innings.
When Toronto's Ted Lilly was fighting nagging back pain at the end of Spring Training, Janssen was one of the pitchers named as a possible replacement if the lefty couldn't make his first start. In five spring appearances, including one start, Janssen was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA for the Blue Jays.
"We kind of had him, coming out of Spring Training, ahead of the group that's starting [at Triple-A now]," Gibbons said. "Experience-wise, they're all pretty similar. We know he's going to come up and throw strikes. You expect him to because he's always done that. It's his opportunity."
Janssen, 24, has climbed the organizational ladder at a rapid pace. Last season, he began the year with low Class A Lansing. He was moved up to high Class A Dunedin, though, after starting the year 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in seven starts. While with Dunedin, Janssen went 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 10 starts before being moved up again, this time to Double-A New Hampshire, where he went 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA. Janssen had 136 strikeouts in 148 2/3 innings combined in the Minors last season.
Running wild: Toronto's catchers may have a tall task ahead when it comes to facing Baltimore this year, considering the early-season statistics.
The Orioles came into Wednesday's game with a perfect record on the basepaths -- 16 stolen bases and no runners caught stealing. On the other side, the Blue Jays catchers have only thrown out one baserunner in 13 tries. That glaring differential was put to the test in the series opener on Tuesday, when Brian Roberts successfully swiped second base in the first inning.
On Tuesday, Gibbons said that he didn't need to prep his pitchers and catchers any more than he normally would -- that they were aware of Baltimore's running ability and Toronto would try its best to stop it.
"We know what these guys are doing. They're a very aggressive team and they're playing really good baseball right now," Gibbons said. "That's the way they play. They've got some guys that can run the bases. ... Let's just keep the guys off the bases. Then they can't steal."
In a pinch: During Tuesday's win over Baltimore, Gibbons made an in-game switch that he normally might not make.
In the seventh inning, Toronto's skipper pulled Lyle Overbay, who was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, in favor of having Shea Hillenbrand pinch-hit. Fortunately, the move paid off when Hillenbrand pulled a two-run single to left field as part of a four-run inning.
"That's not something we do all the time. When does anybody do it?" Gibbons joked. "You can do it if you get away with it. That's the key -- [Hillenbrand] came through. See, if he doesn't come through, that was a stupid move."
Lofty numbers: Toronto entered Wedesday's game ranked first in the American League with a .310 batting average. The Blue Jays were also first in the league in slugging percentage (.508), second in on-base percentage (.367), fourth in home runs (28), and sixth in runs scored (108).
Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells entered the game against the Orioles ranked third in the AL with a .387 batting average. The Jays' outfield as a whole was hitting a combined .387. Left fielders Reed Johnson and Frank Catalanotto were batting .438 and .421, respectively. In right field, Alex Rios had a .367 average and Eric Hinske was hitting .321.
Quotable: "They all looked good, but he looked very good." -- Gibbons, on how Janssen compared to the other Triple-A pitchers during Spring Training
Coming up: Janssen will make his Major League debut against Baltimore right-hander Kris Benson (2-2, 3.70 ERA) when the Blue Jays host the Orioles at 7:07 p.m. ET on Thursday at Rogers Centre.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.