Clement to mull Minor League offer
Veteran righty to explore options before continuing comeback
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have offered Matt Clement an opportunity to continue his comeback in the Minor Leagues. The veteran pitcher plans on taking a few days to sort through his options before possibly accepting the assignment.
On Tuesday morning, Toronto returned Clement to Minor League camp, bringing an end to the right-hander's quest to grab one of the club's vacant starting jobs this spring. Right shoulder woes have kept Clement off a Major League mound since 2006, and the Jays are willing to let him work his way back to the big leagues with Triple-A Las Vegas.
"We have a job in Triple-A for him if he wants to go there, so it's his decision now," Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I think he owes it to himself to go down for a couple more months and give himself a real legit shot. He's coming back from something major, and I think he's made major strides. But right now, we don't think he can make our big league club."
With Clement out of the picture, right-hander Scott Richmond and left-handed prospects Brad Mills and Ricky Romero are the remaining pitchers vying for the two open rotation jobs. Mills is scheduled to start Thursday, Richmond is down for Saturday and Romero will receive another audition Sunday.
Clement, 34, underwent a very involved right shoulder surgery in 2006 and has had a long road back to the mound. This spring, he indicated that he felt the best he has since his operation and he performed admirably for Toronto leading up to his last spring start.
On Sunday against the Twins, though, Clement was charged with nine runs (eight earned) on six hits with seven walks over just 4 1/3 innings. After the outing, Clement was trying to pull out the positives, but he knew that earning a spot in the rotation probably wasn't realistic, adding that he was not sure if he'd accept a Minor League assignment.
Gaston said Clement took the news as well as he could on Tuesday.
"He wasn't really upset," Gaston said. "He just has to make a decision if he wants to continue pitching or if he wants to go down and deal with the Triple-A part of it. And, he really wants to know if he has a chance. Hey, everybody has a chance here. You never know."
Ricciardi couldn't make Clement any promises.
"If a guy goes down and pitches well, they get the opportunity to come back to the big leagues," Ricciardi said. "But, we can't give you any assurance that we're going to call you up to the big leagues. It's all based on performance."
Bird feed: The Jays also returned catcher Curtis Thigpen -- a candidate for the backup job -- to Minor League camp on Tuesday. With prospects J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman set to open the season as the starting catchers at Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A New Hampshire, respectively, Thigpen's status in the organization is uncertain. It's possible that Thigpen will be sent to Double-A to serve as a backup catcher and a utility man. ... First baseman Lyle Overbay (flu) was sent home Tuesday after batting practice. ... Venezuelan shortstop Marco Scutaro started Tuesday in his first game action since returning from the World Baseball Classic. ... Outfielder Travis Snider, who has been dealing with a sore left knee, was back in the starting lineup on Tuesday after exiting a game against the Phillies on Wednesday. ... Left-hander Brian Burres, along with infielders Randy Ruiz and Angel Sanchez were also returned to Minor League camp on Tuesday. Toronto currently has 38 players in Major League camp.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.