TORONTO -- The Blue Jays appear to have narrowed their search for a fifth starter to a pair of pitchers in the Minor Leagues.
The top two candidates are Double-A right-hander Drew Hutchison and Triple-A righty Jesse Chavez. The club has yet to make any final decisions, but an announcement is expected either Thursday or Friday afternoon.
"I think that's the most likely outcome," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said when asked if it was between Chavez and Hutchison for the final spot. "There's still a chance that guys can get claimed on waivers, an outside chance there's a trade. I don't expect that to happen, but that's part of the reason we're waiting a bit, but most likely it ends up being one of those two."
The omission of right-hander Joel Carreno from the list of candidates came as somewhat of a surprise. Carreno opened the year in Toronto's starting rotation, but was demoted after just one outing.
At the time, the reason behind optioning Carreno back to the Minors was because Toronto didn't need a fifth starter again until this Saturday. Carreno apparently has been passed by Hutchison and Chavez.
"[Carreno] was a candidate, I think the other two guys are throwing a little bit -- I don't want to say they're ahead of him, but they've thrown well the last few outings and for this turn, they've moved ahead of him a little," Anthopoulos said.
"The other two guys have just thrown a little bit better at this point.
Hutchison, who is ranked as the Blue Jays' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com, has gotten off to a fast start at Double-A New Hampshire. He has allowed just four runs in 16 1/3 innings this season and previously became a favorite of manager John Farrell with an impressive performance in Spring Training.
The decision ultimately will come down to whether the Blue Jays feel Hutchison is ready to make the jump to the big leagues at age 21, or if he would be best served with more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.
Hutchison's slider a work in progress, but his ability to command the strike zone has prompted a lot of talk that he could continue his development in the Majors. It's a similar situation to what the Blue Jays did with Henderson Alvarez last season when he went straight to the big leagues from Double-A.
"Alvarez wouldn't have been hurt staying down a little bit longer to work on his slider a little bit more, but he had enough to come up and he wasn't going to be set back from a developmental standpoint," Anthopoulos said. "Drew's the same way. He pitched well enough in Spring Training, stayed with us deep in camp, but in a perfect world could he get a few more starts to tighten up his slider a little more, tighten up his changeup a little more? Sure, but are those things he can still do here? Sure, and he's throwing the ball well enough.
"If there was a major developmental component he wouldn't even be a candidate. He's a strike thrower, he's got a slider, he's got a changeup, he just needs to be more consistent and rather than hitting on his slider one out of every four, you'd like it to be one out of every two."
McGowan returns to his throwing program
TORONTO -- Dustin McGowan resumed a throwing program earlier this week at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla.
Toronto's oft-injured righty was expected to open the year as the club's No. 5 starter, but a right foot injury forced him to be shut down late in camp.
McGowan had to stop throwing for almost a month, meaning he will be out for at least the next six weeks as he tries to build up arm strength.
"In some ways, he's starting Spring Training again," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
McGowan's work will start with throwing off flat ground from 60 feet every two days. He will eventually be extended to 90 feet and then 120, before getting back onto the mound.
A decision on who will be McGowan's replacement is expected later in the week, but whoever it ends up being, Toronto hopes to settle on one person.
"You don't want to have a revolving door and you're hoping you can have someone who can stay," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "That's where you're relying on your staff. [Triple-A righty Jesse] Chavez really made a good push with his last start, he pitched great, and the staff was very excited about him. I'm not saying that to lead the witness or to drop the hint, but it's the truth. He wasn't as strong a candidate until that last start, he really looked good."
Jays Care homers with Grand Slam Grants
TORONTO -- The Jays Care Foundation announced on Wednesday that it will be donating $520,837 through its Grand Slam Grants Program.
The influx of money will provide funding to 13 charitable organizations to aid children in areas of physical activity, education and life-skill development.
"We have focused our community investment efforts on providing opportunities for children and youth in education, physical activity and life-skill development, where possible, through the great sport of baseball," Jays Care Foundation executive director Danielle Bedasse said.
"We are pleased to have such tremendous partners in all of our Grand Slam Grant recipient charities. Through our grants, legacy initiatives and program partnerships, Jays Care served more than 17,000 children and youth across the country in 2011 alone."
Last year, Jays Care contributed more than $1.4 million through the Grand Slam Grants, Field of Dreams, Home Run Scholars and Rookie League. Representatives from each of those partner organizations will be honored at the Blue Jays game on Thursday night against Tampa Bay.