03/19/2013 5:45 PM ET
Blue Jays get in work beyond Grapefruit League game
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays had a Grapefruit League game against the Astros on Tuesday afternoon, but most of the real action could be found at the club's Minor League complex.
A series of Toronto pitchers made the short drive across Dunedin to appear in a Minor League game. R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Darren Oliver all received some work as they continue to get ready for the start of the season.
Johnson was originally expected to pitch Wednesday, but the club altered his schedule because the Minor League game that day was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET. He pitched Tuesday instead and proceeded to allow four earned runs on eight hits in four-plus innings of work while focusing mostly on sinkers and a backdoor slider to lefties.
"It's a little bit different just because you're a little more daring I guess," Johnson said of pitching in a Minor League game. "You can try some things you might normally wait until the season to feel comfortable doing.
"I got to work out of the stretch a lot, which was good; I wanted to work on that. I got to incorporate a few more things, which I wanted to do. It was good."
Dickey was originally supposed to throw a side session Tuesday but instead opted for a Minor League game. He pitched just two innings and will still make his next scheduled outing Friday in a Minor League game.
The decision to pitch in a game instead of a bullpen was made at Dickey's request. He had not faced hitters since Thursday after spending the past couple of weeks with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
Oliver's three innings might seem odd for a relatively short-stint reliever, but it is part of a process he goes through every Spring Training. Before Oliver declares himself ready for the season, he likes to throw multiple innings in the Minor Leagues in order to build up some endurance in his arm.
Oliver got through his scheduled workload in relatively short order. He allowed just two hits while striking out two and using just 28 pitches over his three innings.
"It's time to get yourself ready to go and get your arm in shape," Oliver said. "For me, it's the best way to do it. It's kind of an old-school approach."
Romero adjusts mechanics for consistency
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are hoping that an alteration in mechanics will lead to a bounce-back year for Ricky Romero.
Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen noticed a flaw in Romero's delivery this spring and are now making a series of adjustments prior to the start of the regular season.
Romero had been throwing across his body, with a lot of his momentum heading toward the third-base line instead of directly to home plate. That has stopped Romero from properly following through on his delivery and creates problems with location.
"I think over the last couple of years he has gotten himself into a position where it's difficult for him to repeat pitches where his initial stride is going," Walker said. "We're trying to get him cleaner to home plate, more of a straight line, which frees up his arm a little bit.
"It can be a gradual thing over time, or something that isn't easily seen to the naked eye in the short term, but over the long term you notice differences in the delivery from a couple of years ago to now, and that's when you need to address it."
Romero has always thrown across his body, but he began doing it in a more pronounced way last season. The coaching staff made its discovery while going through video from previous seasons and have since made the necessary changes.
The 28-year-old Romero has made the adjustments off dry ground and in the bullpen but is still in the process of attempting to carry that work into game situations. That was the goal for his last outing, against Detroit, but as Romero's competitive nature took over he reverted back to his old ways instead of sticking with the game plan.
That's one of the main reasons why Romero's next start will come in a Minor League game Thursday. The hope is that Romero will settle into a scenario where he can focus on working with the new mechanics as opposed to trying to retire every hitter he faces.
"You just have to let your athleticism go out there and let that take over," Romero said. "The bullpen and whenever I'm on my own with no ball, I exaggerate it and try to do it as perfect as I can.
"Obviously during the game in the middle of the competition you're going to shift over a little bit, but the more you get the muscle memory under control I think the better off I'm going to be."
Romero also has adjusted where he sets up on the rubber for each pitch. He now positions himself in the middle of the rubber as opposed to the first-base side. With his across-the-body throwing motion, the previous positioning made it difficult to locate fastballs on the inner part of the plate to right-handed hitters.
The goal for all of this is to put Romero in a better position to throw with consistent command. That's something he struggled with last season as he issued a career-high 105 walks in 181 innings of work.
"It's really the direction of his hips and where he's going out of his initial break in his stride," Walker said. "I want him taking those hips directly to home plate. When guys go across their body, they typically take their hips in the direction opposite of where they're throwing the ball.
"It's not a huge adjustment for him, or else we wouldn't be doing it right now. It's an adjustment we think he can make, he's confident he can make, and it'll only help him out being more consistent."
Janssen makes progress in recovery
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Janssen's seemingly slim chances of being ready for Opening Day received a boost this week with his first appearance in a Minor League game.
Janssen threw an inning Sunday and two days later reported no lingering soreness in his right shoulder. That is a positive step for a pitcher who still has several obstacles to overcome before he can be cleared for action.
Toronto's closer is slated for another Minor League game Thursday, and from there he could become eligible for the Major League portion of Spring Training.
"We're going to see how he feels tomorrow; it's a day-by-day thing," pitching coach Pete Walker said of Janssen, who had offseason shoulder surgery. "We're still hopeful that he'll be ready for Opening Day, but I'm adamant that he's not going to go unless he's 100 percent, not 95 percent, not 97 percent. We want him feeling great, recovering, bouncing back and closing out games."
In theory, Janssen could still be ready for Opening Day, but there is not much time remaining in camp for that to happen. He would need at least a few appearances during Grapefruit League play and would likely need to throw on back-to-back days before being declared ready to go.
That will be a daunting task to accomplish with just two weeks remaining until Opening Day, but it is a scenario that has yet to be ruled out. Right-hander Sergio Santos is expected to serve as closer until Janssen is ready to go.