Notes: Ryan to take a few days off
Walker weighing his future; League could be headed to DL
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It wasn't hard to miss B.J. Ryan as he sauntered by, walking from the weight room to his locker inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse on Monday at Knology Park.
As easy as it is to spot the 6-foot-5 hulk of a pitcher, it's also apparent when Ryan's missing -- or when his name is absent from the list of pitchers scheduled to take the mound in the next few days.
"It's just been told to me that his lower back is sore and we're keeping him guarded right now," Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said. "There's no reason that we need to put him on a mound right now."
Ryan, who had a 1.37 ERA and 38 saves last season, hasn't pitched in a Spring Training game since March 11. In that one-inning outing, the left-hander gave up three runs on four hits, which raised his ERA to 9.00 for the spring. Jays manager John Gibbons said Ryan was fighting flu-like symptoms at the time, though.
Arnsberg didn't know what the exact timetable was for Ryan's return, but he didn't believe the injury was that serious. Ryan, who signed a five-year deal worth $47 million with Toronto prior to last season, will probably continue to rest this week.
"He's getting better," Arnsberg said. "We just have to give it some time and make sure he's at 100 percent when he does come back. If that means that he gets a couple outings toward the end of Spring Training, then that's what it is."
Walker weighing futue: The Blue Jays have put the decision in Pete Walker's hands. On Saturday, Toronto informed the veteran reliever that there wouldn't be room for him in the Jays' bullpen, or in the 'pen at Triple-A Syracuse.
Toronto did, however, offer Walker a spot at either Double-A New Hampshire or high Class A Dunedin. Walker, who is eight months removed from major surgery on his right shoulder, is taking a few days off to discuss his future with his family.
"To see this 37-year-old man recuperate in the way that he has, we tip our caps to him," Arnsberg said. "We just didn't feel like he was going to be one of the 12 [relievers] that we were going to be leaving with.
"So, we let him know that, and he just wanted to take a couple days to think about where he's at in his career and in his life."
Last season, Walker went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 23 relief appearances for the Jays. This spring, the right-hander has posted a 2.25 ERA in four outings, but Walker's velocity hasn't been as high as in the past.
League heading to DL? Brandon League is feeling great. On Monday, he needed just eight fastballs to work through an inning in a Minor League game against Double-A Trenton.
The 23-year-old reliever had one strikeout, allowed one hit and then induced an inning-ending double play. Afterward, League said he didn't think being ready for Opening Day posed a problem. The Blue Jays aren't as certain, though.
The club wants to take every precaution to make sure League is completely over the strained lat muscle he suffered about a month ago. That's why League, who is currently slated to pitch every other day, might continue to work in Minor League games.
Arnsberg indicated that Toronto is discussing having League begin the year on the 15-day disabled list. In order to still have the pitcher available during the first week of the season, though, the Jays would need to keep him out of Grapefruit League contests. By doing that, the club could make his DL stay retroactive to March 22 -- 10 days before the regular season begins.
"If it means he has to throw in five Minor League games," Arnsberg explained, "that keeps him retroactive to where we can get him early if we feel like he's ready. You'd be stupid to pitch him in big-league games at the end of the month, because, what if he's ready April 4 or 5?"
The plan for Zambrano: Considering the way Victor Zambrano has been pitching, the Blue Jays are seriously thinking about utilizing him as a starter. That doesn't necessarily mean he's in the running for a spot in the rotation right away, though.
Arnsberg said Toronto might consider keeping Zambrano, who is 10 months removed from reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, in Dunedin for a month or so after Spring Training ends. That way, the pitcher could continue to build up his innings. Arnsberg added that the Jays also might try Zambrano in a few relief-type situations before the spring is over.
"I think the best thing for Victor would be to be in a starting role," Arnsberg said. "The best case scenario is that he stays in a starting role, where he gets his work days ... where you keep him rolling like we have this spring."
On Monday, Zambrano turned in four scoreless innings against the Yankees. For the spring, the 31-year-old pitcher has a 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings over four appearances.
Sorting things out: Right-handers Tomo Ohka and John Thomson are both vying for a spot in Toronto's rotation. On Monday, Ohka continued to impress and Thomson took another step backwards.
Ohka gave up one run on three hits in five innings against New York. The right-hander allowed four runs in his first inning of the spring, but has only yielded one run in his last 13 innings.
Thomson pitched in a Minor League game against Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and gave up six runs on four hits in five innings. Thomson has now given up 12 runs on nine hits with six walks and six strikeouts in his last 8 2/3 innings.
"They always say these things sort themselves out," said catcher Gregg Zaun, referring to the competition. "But you hate to see it sorted out like that."
Roster moves: Following Monday's game against the Yankees, the Blue Jays reassigned Walker, outfielder Mike Vento and infielder Ray Olmedo to Minor League camp. Toronto now has 35 players, including eight non-roster invitees, at Spring Training with the big-league club.
Coming up: After an off-day on Tuesday, Toronto right-hander Josh Towers is scheduled to make his fourth start of Spring Training when the Blue Jays host the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Knology Park.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.