Gaston has vested interest in Hayhurst
Skipper liked what he saw out of recent callup this spring
TORONTO -- Toronto's most recent pitching callup, Dirk Hayhurst, spent Wednesday watching the Blue Jays' ace dismantle the Angels from just above center field, through windows in a room at Rogers Centre hotel, where he spent his first night in the city.
"I got to see [Roy] Halladay pitch from the best seat in the house -- a big comfy chair," Hayhurst said. "This is my first time in Toronto and I was really excited to come here."
Hayhurst joined Toronto's bullpen on Wednesday after being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace the struggling Brian Wolfe, who was demoted. Although Hayhurst's numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League have been mediocre -- he posted a 5.11 ERA in 37 innings for Las Vegas this year -- the 28-year-old impressed Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston in the spring, enough to earn a call to the Majors.
"He's here because of the way he pitched in Spring Training," Gaston said. "He's a guy I liked a lot down there. He threw strikes. I like that."
In the eight innings Hayhurst pitched in spring camp, he allowed only one run on seven hits and did not walk a single batter, while striking out 13. In fact, Hayhurst would have made the big league team out of Spring Training, but was not eligible to join the Jays until May 15 because of issues with his contract.
"I wanted to bring him north when we finished Spring Training, but we just couldn't do it," Gaston said.
Hayhurst was claimed from the Padres on waivers on Oct. 6, but after the Jays traded for Matt Bush in February -- the first overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft -- they had to take Hayhurst off the 40-man roster to clear room. Since Hayhurst was added to San Diego's 40-man roster after Aug. 15 last season, he became what is known as a Draft-excluded player, meaning that the only way to remove him from Toronto's 40-man roster was to release him.
The Jays released Hayhurst with the understanding that the pitcher would re-sign with the team on a Minor League contract. After a player is released, he is not eligible to sign a Major League contract with the team that released him until May 15, meaning that Hayhurst went through Spring Training knowing that he had no chance to make the big league club.
Still, Hayhurst -- who was free to sign with any other team -- chose to re-sign with the Jays. Gaston believes there would have been other options available to Hayhurst.
"He's a kid that had a chance to go to another organization," Gaston said. "I think San Diego wanted him -- he probably would've made that team."
Hayhurst, though, felt it was important to be loyal to a team that showed faith in him.
"I think that these guys see something in me and that was very flattering," Hayhurst said. "Claiming me off waivers -- that meant a lot to me. This team had a vested interest in me for some reason and I wanted to honor that commitment.
"I think it just comes down to your personal opinion of yourself. If you think you're the next best thing or you're the greatest player ever or something like that, maybe you could say, 'Do you know who Dirk Hayhurst is? How dare you!' ... [But] I was very flattered and I didn't want to mess that opportunity up.
"If there were other opportunities, I don't think I would have [taken them]. I think that this is the opportunity I wanted to pursue. I wanted to honor the Blue Jays for taking a chance on me, so I stuck with it."
Now that his commitment to Toronto is starting to pay off, Hayhurst is looking to use his four-pitch repertoire more effectively than he did the last time he pitched in the Majors. In a month-long stint with San Diego in 2008, he pitched 16 2/3 innings with a 9.72 ERA, allowing 27 hits and 10 walks.
"Hopefully, I have command up here," Hayhurst said. "I kind of struggled with that the last time I made my debut, but I think I'll get that rectified this time around.
"I'm kind of a four-piece combo meal out there. I throw everything -- fastball, curveball, slider, change. I'll cut it and two-seam it, run it. Everything to two sides of the plate."
Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.