Mailbag: Can League make setup leap?
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Jays fans' questions
Does Brandon League have any chance of becoming the setup man over Jeremy Accardo this season? Any way we could see the League of 2006?
Nothing League does this spring will have any bearing on Accardo's role and, barring injury, it's doubtful that League would supplant Accardo as Toronto's primary setup man this season. That being said, League's showing this spring could indeed affect the way the Blue Jays decide to piece together their bullpen.
If League at all resembles the pitcher he was in 2006 -- and, so far, it looks like he's heading in that direction -- he could certainly win a job in Toronto's relief corps. Having League back in the 'pen could help convince the Blue Jays to move Casey Janssen from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
Last spring, closer B.J. Ryan and League came in as the projected late-inning duo, but arm injuries sidelined both pitchers. Janssen stepped up as an impressive setup man and Accardo saved 30 games in Ryan's absence. Now, with Ryan returning from his left elbow injury, Accardo is the top choice to slip into the eighth-inning role.
That chain reaction, combined with the possible presence of League again, would provide even more depth to an already stacked bullpen. Thus far this spring, the right-hander has impressed Toronto's decision-makers, which is precisely what League needs to do after a disastrous 2007 campaign.
A right shoulder injury last spring led to flawed mechanics and diminished velocity for League, who spent most of the season on the disabled list and in the Minor Leagues. This time around, League's pitch speed is up -- though 100 mph heaters may be a thing of the past -- and the movement on his pitches has been sharp.
Toronto is most interested in League regaining his ability to be a dominant ground-ball pitcher, and the downward movement on his pitches is integral for that to happen. All indications are that League is finding that form again, which could bode well for his chances of making the club out of Spring Training.
Now that Ryan appears to be recovering nicely from his arm injury, do you think the Jays are going to use him as much as they did two seasons ago? Or do you think he will share the closing job with Accardo?
--Willy W., Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland
If Ryan meets his goal of breaking camp with the Blue Jays, you'll see the club take a cautious approach with the left-hander over the season's first month. Even if Ryan is healthy, the fact is that he'll still be less than a year removed from major reconstruction surgery on his left elbow on Opening Day.
Accardo showed last year that he's more than capable of handling the closer job, if necessary. Given that, if Ryan is on the Opening Day roster, manager John Gibbons will probably turn to Accardo for some save opportunities in order to provide his closer with a few extra off-days in April.
One thing Gibbons said won't happen in 2008 is having Ryan log multi-inning saves. In 2006, Ryan led the Majors with 13 saves consisting of more than one inning. This year, Gibbons wants to limit Ryan to one-inning saves, which should be perfectly fine in light of the depth the Jays have in the bullpen.
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Do you think outfielder Shannon Stewart was brought in as a backdrop to the Alex Rios contract talks? If the Jays can't come to an agreement with Rios on a multiyear deal, could the Blue Jays look at trading Rios before Opening Day, moving Johnson to right field and having Stewart in left field?
--Neal W., Toronto
I don't think bringing Stewart in has anything to do with Rios' situation. Whether or not Toronto signs Rios to an extension this spring, he's in the fold for at least two more seasons. Stewart, on the other hand, will either be around for only this year or just this spring. One doesn't seem to be related to the other.
The Blue Jays will continue to negotiate with Rios on a long-term deal this spring, but the club isn't in a hurry to get a deal done. If it's not done this spring, Toronto can pick up contract talks with the outfielder again next winter. As of right now, Rios is considered to be a very important part for the Jays' offense in 2008.
Stewart's presence in camp is providing competition for a job in left field. Whether he or Reed Johnson makes the team, left field will feature a platoon with veteran Matt Stairs providing the other half. Basically, if the Jays don't feel Johnson is fully recovered from his back injury -- he looks fine, so far -- Stewart acts as insurance.
What are the Blue Jays' expectations for infielder Marco Scutaro this season? Do you think he will play more games than he did last season with the A's? He has demonstrated that can do the job as a regular player when he's been given the chance.
--Ramon A., Dubai, UAE
The fact that Scutaro has shown that he can be a serviceable regular is a main reason why Toronto traded for him over the winter. The Blue Jays were hit with a significant wave of injuries last year and, at times, the club was short on strong replacements. In Scutaro, they have a versatile player who can man multiple positions.
The only way Scutaro will become a regular for the Jays is if something goes wrong in the health department. If third baseman Scott Rolen faces a setback, Scutaro would probably be the first choice to move to the hot corner. Other than that, Scutaro simply provides depth around the infield and even in the outfield.
When talking about the Blue Jays' utility infielders, people always talk about John McDonald and Scutaro. No one seems to mention the Blue Jays' late-season pickup: Joe Inglett. Does he have any chance of earning a bench spot with the Jays this year?
--Dylan P., Shiloh, Ohio
Barring injury, Toronto's big league roster doesn't have room for Inglett. As of right now, Toronto plans on carrying 13 position players, with McDonald, Scutaro, Stairs, Johnson or Stewart, and catcher Rod Barajas on the bench. Inglett will likely open this year with Triple-A Syracuse and could be a top choice for a callup if Toronto needs infield help.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.