03/30/06 5:10 PM ET
Zaun aiming to avoid stint on DL
Jays would likely keep Quiroz as backup if Zaun isn't ready
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Zaun has been recovering from a sore right calf muscle that has kept him out of Spring Training games since March 16. The catcher has been able to throw, hit and take part in defensive drills, but he's had some lingering pain while running, and that could land him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season.
The injury isn't expected to keep Zaun on the DL for long, which means Toronto might look to Quiroz -- the only extra catcher on the 40-man roster -- as the temporary replacement.
Quiroz is out of options and will have to clear waivers when the Blue Jays opt to send him to the Minors. If he begins the season as the backup to Bengie Molina on the big-league team, though, his chances of being picked up by another club might decrease because other rosters around the league will have been set.
"If you think about it, if a team goes all through Spring Training, they get their 25 guys, and on the last day they're going to claim someone and put them on the roster?" Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "It's kind of hard to do that to guys that have been there. That's how I look at it, but there might be other teams that look at it differently. All it takes is one team that wants a guy and then you lose the guy."
The Jays haven't announced that Quiroz would be the definite choice if Zaun does land on the disabled list, and the young catcher said that no one has approached him yet about the possibility.
"No one has said anything to me, no," Quiroz said on Wednesday. "I'm hoping, though."
The other option would be catcher Jason Phillips, who signed a Minor League contract with Toronto in the offseason. In order for him to join the club, though, the Blue Jays would have to purchase Phillips' contract and make room for him on the 40-man roster -- something that seems unlikely for a short-term solution.
Of course, there would be an open spot if Toronto attempted to pass Quiroz through waivers before the rosters had to be set on Saturday and another team picked him up. Phillips also said on Wednesday that the team hadn't discussed the situation with him, either.
The reality is that Zaun, who has been Toronto's primary catcher for the last two years, may actually avoid the DL and could begin the season with the Jays. He was able to work up to a slow jog on a treadmill on Wednesday after taking batting pratice at the Minor League complex in the morning.
Zaun said that the calf muscle has responded well recently and the only activity he has skipped has been ball blocking, which can put a lot of stress on the calf due to the lateral movement. He added that he would accelerate his workouts on Friday -- running harder on the treadmill and possibly on the field -- which is when the final decision will be made on his status for Opening Day.
"Over the last three days, I've readjusted the timetable," Zaun said. "I've kind of mapped out a plan of attack, which in my mind had me starting the season on the DL and possibly only missing a few days -- four or five days.
"I have no doubt in my mind right now that, if it weren't for the running, I could step into a Major League game."
Ricciardi has been happy with Zaun's progress.
"He's feeling better. I don't think we're going to know [if he'll be placed on the DL] until [Friday]," Ricciardi said. "I mean, he may break with us."
Zaun isn't worried about breaking camp with the team, though. He knows that if he does land on the disabled list, it won't be for an extended period of time. The backup catcher is going to make sure he takes his rehabilitation process slow in order to be able to play for the entire season.
"I had a severe double tear of my left calf in '01, so I know what can happen," Zaun said. "I know how long the rehab can be. If I go out there and tear one again, we're looking at pretty much the entire season gone. It's not like a quad or a hamstring. It takes a very methodical rehabilitation process. It's inch by inch."
So far, the process has gone well and Zaun has been reassured that placing him on the disabled list isn't the only option for Toronto.
"J.P. has been very forthcoming with me," Zaun said. "He doesn't want to put me on the DL. There's a lot of other things I bring to the team other than just being able to play."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.