Notes: Frasor steps into closer's role
Injuries to Ryan, League put right-hander into key spot for Jays
TORONTO -- Jason Frasor simply wanted to make sure he had a job in Toronto's bullpen. The last thing the pitcher was thinking at the onset of Spring Training was that he'd wind up as the Blue Jays' closer by the third week of the season.
An unfortunate series of events has befallen the back end of the bullpen, though. Brandon League -- originally penned in as Toronto's top choice for a setup man -- showed up this spring void of his usual velocity and landed on the 15-day disabled list as a result. That bumped Frasor into the eighth-inning role.
On Sunday, the Blue Jays added All-Star closer B.J. Ryan to the 15-day DL with a strained left elbow. Once again, a domino effect within the relief corps meant another adjustment for Frasor, who will serve as Toronto's primary closer until Ryan is able to return.
"It's funny how things work out. I didn't foresee any of this," Frasor said. "At the beginning, I was just hoping to make the team. Now, they're really counting on me, and that's great. That's why you play. You enjoy the pressure, and I'm looking forward to it."
The ninth-inning role isn't an unfamiliar spot for the 29-year-old right-hander. In 2004, Frasor recorded 17 saves during his rookie season with Toronto. The reliever enjoyed that experience and believes it will make it easier to step into that role this time around.
"I've always thought that's the best job in baseball -- that closer role," Frasor said. "I think it does help that I've done it before. Until he comes back, I'm going to hopefully save every game and do what he would've done if he was out there."
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that manager John Gibbons "has some options" beyond just Frasor, though. Toronto's GM said that pitchers Shaun Marcum and Victor Zambrano could also see some action in the ninth inning on days when Frasor isn't available.
"The guys in the bullpen, they've all done a nice job," Gibbons said. "When we lost League, we thought, 'How are we going to get the ball to B.J.?' Now that he's gone, losing your two top-end guys, that's a pretty big blow. But the game goes on, and we have to regroup."
Vermilyea gets the call: After placing Ryan on the DL, the Blue Jays purchased the contract of right-hander Jamie Vermilyea from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the empty spot in the bullpen. Vermilyea, who has never pitched in the Majors, will serve mainly as a long reliever for the Jays.
The 25-year-old reliever made three appearances this season at Triple-A, where he gave up no runs over 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. Last year, Vermilyea, who was drafted by Toronto in the ninth round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, went 6-7 with a 3.85 ERA in 25 outings, including 17 starts, for Syracuse.
"We went with Vermilyea because he's pitched really well for us ever since he's been in our system," Ricciardi said. "He's had three years of Triple-A experience. He can be a long guy. He can pitch two innings. He's got a sinker. So, we're going to give him a chance. He's deserved a chance."
Johnson update: Toronto left fielder Reed Johnson, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disc in his lower back, visited a spine specialist on Saturday to try to determine the next step in his recovery.
Ricciardi said that Johnson has "a decision to make," but the general manager didn't want to elaborate. It's likely that the left fielder will have to decide whether or not to undergo surgery on his back, which could cause him to miss at least two months.
"He's got a decision to make," Ricciardi said. "I'll leave it at that. Reed's not going to play for us a little bit."
Honoring Jackie: Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, shortstop Royce Clayton, designated hitter Frank Thomas and hitting coach Mickey Brantley each wore a No. 42 jersey on Sunday in honor of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of Robinson's first appearance in a Major League game, breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947.
Quotable: "The good news is we're all upright with no toe tags." -- Ricciardi, on having Ryan, Johnson and third baseman Troy Glaus each out with injuries
Coming up: After an off-day on Monday, Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin (1-1, 4.91 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Red Sox in the opener of a three-game set at 7:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. Boston will counter with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzka (1-1, 2.57 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.