Location, not health, on Maroth's mind
Left-hander says knee feels fine following his first spring outing
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Mike Maroth was more concerned about his pitch location than his health status following his first outing of the spring for the Blue Jays on Tuesday. That was good news, considering the severity of the pitcher's left knee injury.
Maroth is fighting through a torn mensiscus in his knee, an issue that will only be completely fixed through surgery. The left-hander has decided to continue pitching with the injury, knowing that is the only way to compete for a spot in Toronto's rotation.
In a two-inning appearance during an exhbition against Team Canada at Dunedin Stadium, Maroth said the knee didn't present any problems. Neither did Maroth's left shoulder, which was surgically repaired last May, ending his season prematurely.
"It felt great," Maroth said. "My arm felt great and my knee felt great, so those were good signs. I probably felt too great. You get out there and it's been a while since I've been able to get out there, so I was probably a little excited. You get that adrenaline and you just need to be able to relax."
Maroth, 31, walked the first two hitters he faced in the first inning before settling down and escaping after inducing a double play and striking out Justin Morneau. In the second, Maroth issued a leadoff walk to Jason Bay and then struck out Mark Teahen and Matt Stairs back-to-back. The left-hander hit Corey Koskie with a pitch and then gave up a two-run double to Pete Orr before the inning's end.
"I just wasn't able to get ahead of hitters," Maroth said. "Both innings were kind of the same story. I just fell behind hitters and was going real deep in counts instead of being real aggressive and throwing strikes. But I wasn't off by a lot."
Toronto signed Maroth to a Minor League contract in December with the hope that he might be able to compete for a starting job, even though he hasn't taken the mound in the big leagues since 2007. During that season, the left-hander had stints with the Tigers and Cardinals, finishing 5-7 with a 6.89 ERA to bring his career record to 50-67 with a 5.05 ERA in 161 games.
On May 15 last season, Maroth underwent a procedure to repair some fraying of the labrum in his throwing shoulder. Prior to his surgery, Maroth had gone 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in just 7 2/3 innings for Triple-A Omaha, an affiliate of the Royals. His best season came in 2005, when Maroth won 14 games and had a 4.74 ERA in 34 starts for Detroit.
Maroth tweaked his knee earlier this spring, but isn't sure what caused the injury. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said the club will be extremely cautious with how it uses the pitcher.
"I don't ever want to end anyone's career," Gaston said this week. "I tell my guys that all the time. 'I'm not going to overthrow you. I'm not going to do anything that's going to jeopardize your career, because that's your career.' I've had mine. I think that's something that he's going to have to let us know if he has any twinge out there at all -- if things start to bother him.
"Let us know and we'll get him out of there, because sure he'd like to make this club, but it's not the end of the world."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.