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04/23/08 11:50 PM ET

Despite slow start, Litsch's spot secure

Gibbons shows patience as youngster struggles on the mound

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The sense of urgency that the Blue Jays have talked so much about this season was on full display this past weekend, when the club released veteran Frank Thomas in light of his subpar production.

With its offense laboring, Toronto didn't believe it could afford to wait for Thomas to dig himself out of his early-season slump, and risk slipping too far behind in the American League East race in the process.

That being the case, it seems fair to question how long the Jays are willing to keep Jesse Litsch in their rotation, considering the struggles he's experienced out of the gate. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn't believe the issues were related at all, and said that Litsch didn't need to worry about job security.

"What are you going to do?" Gibbons said. "Get rid of everybody when they struggle? You wouldn't have a team. Everybody is going to struggle in this game at some time or another. Some guys do it early and some guys do it late. That's just baseball.

"You've still got to keep the big picture in mind," he continued. "The whole idea is to win, but you can't just start discarding guys left and right every time something goes bad or, you know what? You've got nothing."

Through four starts, Litsch has managed a 2-1 record despite a lofty 6.16 ERA. The 23-year-old right-hander was chased after just 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Rays on Tuesday night, surrendering five runs on eight hits and continuing to struggle with his location.

So far this season, opposing batters have hit at a .350 clip against Litsch, whose longest start of the season was 5 2/3 innings on April 11. He's averaged more than 18 pitches per inning and has given up 28 hits in 19 innings -- an average of more than 13 hits per nine innings.

It's been a drastic contrast to last season, when Litsch posted a 3.81 ERA over 20 starts as a rookie for the Blue Jays. Gibbons believes it's only a matter of time before Litsch works his way out of his early slump.

"He's due for a good one. I'm not even concerned about that," Gibbons said. "He's just got to get his game going, that's all. But like I've said, Jesse competes as hard as anybody. He works at everything."

Gibbons steered away from speculation when asked if the situation might be viewed differently later on, should Litsch's issues persist for another three or four starts.

"That's a long way down the road," Gibbons said. "That's a month from now."

One issue facing the Blue Jays is a lack of organizational depth behind Toronto's five-man rotation. At Triple-A Syracuse, the Blue Jays have a cast of relatively inexperienced starters. The top candidate for a promotion would seem to be left-hander David Purcey, but he only made his Major League debut with the Jays on Friday.

Entering the season, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi indicated that Purcey, Kane Davis and Josh Banks headed the list of potential replacements, if Toronto's rotation faced any setbacks. On Wednesday, Banks was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.