Notes: Marcum moved into rotation
Right-hander will take injured Zambrano's spot vs. Rays
TORONTO --- Right-hander Shaun Marcum came into Spring Training this year believing he had a chance to make the Blue Jays' starting rotation. Strong performances by right-handers Josh Towers and Tomo Ohka stopped that from happening, though, and Marcum had to settle for a job in the bullpen. On Sunday, Marcum will have the shot he has been waiting for.
A spot in the Jays rotation became available on Thursday afternoon, when Toronto placed right-hander Victor Zambrano on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain. Zambrano's next appearance was scheduled for Sunday afternoon against the Devil Rays, but that start will now go to Marcum.
Last season, Marcum entered the rotation on July 18 and made 14 starts. He went 3-4 with a 4.72 ERA, while collecting 54 strikeouts over 68 2/3 innings. He got stronger as the year went on and his best start of the season came in his second-to-last outing. In that start against the Red Sox, Marcum didn't allow a run over eight innings of work, while striking out a season-high 10 batters. He thinks that experience will help him out this time around.
"I ended the season the way I wanted to," Marcum said. "I had some starts there at the end that got my confidence going pretty high. Coming into this spring, I thought I was actually going to have a shot at the rotation, but they ended up getting some guys. Those guys are going to help us win ballgames. We're just not getting it done right now, but it's early and we still have a lot of games left. I'm looking forward to helping this team win."
Marcum threw an extended bullpen session on Thursday to help prepare him for his start vs. Tampa Bay. Jays manager John Gibbons said that Marcum will not be on a strict pitch count and that they will wait and see how he feels during the game before deciding how long the 25-year-old will be allowed to pitch. Marcum is hoping he can get through at least five innings.
"I think I can easily get [to] 70 pitches," Marcum said. "I would hope that would be more than five innings, but you never know. I'm just going to go out there and do what I can."
The Jays considered moving righty Casey Janssen from the bullpen to make the start instead, but with B.J. Ryan out for the season, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi felt his team could not afford to lose Janssen's late-inning presence.
"I think we'd like to see Janssen ultimately be a starter," Ricciardi said. "But being so depleted at the back end of the bullpen -- he's done such a good job there, so it would probably be more advantageous to have him in that role."
Zambrano to the DL: Ricciardi said the Jays became concerned about Zambrano's health when he complained about some discomfort in his right arm following his start against the Red Sox on Tuesday. In that outing, Zambrano was pounded for eight runs on eight hits in just 2 2/3 innings. All eight of those runs came via the long ball.
"He came up with some tightness there," Ricciardi said. "Instead of waiting until the weekend to see if he could throw -- we just shut him down."
When Zambrano is able to resume throwing he will likely be assigned to extended Spring Training in Dunedin, Fla. That will give the Jays an opportunity to stretch Zambrano's arm out as they try and get him back into a starting role. Zambrano, who is roughly one year removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, showed up to Spring Training ahead of his rehabilitation schedule, but Ricciardi thinks the pitcher might have pushed things a little too hard early on, leading to the forearm strain.
"He worked so hard, so fast, he probably put a little more strain on his arm," Ricciardi said. "He's got a good arm and he was a good gamble for us. We just got to back him off and let him get himself right and get him back into the system."
Vermilyea gets the call: With Marcum replacing Zambrano in the Jays rotation, a spot opened up in the bullpen for right-hander Jamie Vermilyea. During his previous stint with the Jays, the 25-year-old pitched three shutout innings on April 22 against the Orioles, but he was sent down later that day to make room for lefty Brian Tallet. Vermilyea was 0-1 with a 7.63 ERA over 15 1/3 innings while playing for the Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs.
In the Minors: On Wednesday afternoon, Josh Banks threw his International League-leading second complete game of the season for the Syracuse SkyChiefs. Banks allowed just one earned run on five hits, while striking out one. The 24-year-old improved his record to 4-0 with a 3.57 ERA.
Did you know? On Wednesday night, right fielder Alex Rios became the first Major League hitter to reach base five times against Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. Rios recorded four hits and one walk in the game, and when he singled in the first inning, he also became just the second leadoff man to open the game with a hit against Matsuzaka.
Quotable: "I don't know how many pitches I threw, but it felt like I threw 160. I still have a couple of days to rest and I'm looking forward to getting out there Sunday." -- Marcum, on how he felt after Thursday's extended bullpen session.
Coming up: A.J. Burnett (2-3, 5.09 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Devil Rays at 7:07 p.m. ET on Friday at Rogers Centre. Tampa Bay will counter with ace Scott Kazmir (2-1, 3.71 ERA).
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.