8/27/2013 8:30 P.M. ET
Blue Jays' top two arms headed to Fall League
By Gregor Chisholm and Evan Peaslee / MLB.com
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will be sending two big names to the Arizona Fall League this offseason, as it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman will be among those representing the organization.
In addition to Sanchez and Stroman, the Blue Jays will be sending left-handers Sean Nolin and Tyler Ybarra, catcher A.J. Jimenez, infielder Andy Burns and outfielder Kenny Wilson.
"No, I think it's as much [about] being able to get them innings and things like that," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said when asked if sending Stroman and Nolin to Arizona would prevent them from potentially being called up to the Majors in September.
"We did it years ago -- Marc Rzepczynski was up here in September, we were stretching him out as a starter and we got him some innings there. You can always send arms out to the Fall League. That's one thing it seems teams are reluctant to do because of innings."
The Fall League will allow the players to extend their seasons by more than a month and increase their workload. That could prove especially valuable for Stroman, who was forced to miss the first month of the season following last year's 50-game suspension for using a banned substance.
Stroman was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 Draft, and among Toronto's pitching prospects, he's arguably the closest to being a finished product, having attended Duke University. Stroman was originally selected with the belief that a bullpen job awaited him, but the Blue Jays have opted to use him out of the starting rotation at Double-A New Hampshire.
The 22-year-old Stroman is 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 18 starts this season, having struck out 117 in 100 2/3 innings. The 5-foot-9 righty possesses an overpowering fastball to go along with a power breaking ball and a changeup that is still a work in progress.
Sanchez was taken with the 34th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, and he quickly became part of the "Lansing Big Three," alongside fellow prospects Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard. Both Nicolino and Syndergaard were traded away last offseason, but Sanchez was the one pitcher Toronto was adamant about keeping in the fold.
The 21-year-old Sanchez has thrown only 79 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Dunedin this season, in part because of a minor shoulder injury. He is 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA and possesses a plus fastball and advanced curveball, which should provide him with a legitimate chance to become an impact pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Nolin is the only player heading to Arizona who has any experience in the Major Leagues. He made one start for the Blue Jays, in late May, but spent most of the year with New Hampshire despite a recent promotion to Triple-A Buffalo.
Jimenez is the other main prospect of note. He has appeared in just 66 games this season but is now fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last year. He's a defensive-minded catcher who has struggled with the bat at times in the Minors, but he should help ease the transition of Toronto's pitchers to the Fall League.
In 2012, the Blue Jays sent infielder Ryan Goins, outfielder Jake Marisnick, outfielder Kevin Pillar and catcher Sean Ochinko to the Fall League. They were joined by pitchers Deck McGuire, Ryan Tepera and Ian Kadish.
The six-team Arizona Fall League, owned and operated by Major League Baseball, will play six days per week in five Cactus League ballparks in the Phoenix area. All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible, provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than Aug. 15. In addition, each organization is permitted to send two Class A players, while foreign players are allowed, as long as a player is not on his native country's primary protected player list.
No surgery needed for JJ, but season's over
TORONTO -- Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson is officially done for the season due to a strained right forearm.
The news hardly comes as a surprise, considering Johnson hasn't pitched since Aug. 6, but after a visit with renowned surgeon James Andrews, it was determined that Johnson should not throw for at least a couple of weeks.
Dr. Andrews confirmed the original diagnosis and ruled out surgery, which is welcome news for Johnson, but it doesn't change the fact that he won't pitch again for the Blue Jays this year.
"We expected a lot, he expected a lot -- it just didn't happen," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Johnson's disappointing season. "He had the best spring of our staff; he looked better than most guys we faced on other teams. Who knows [why it didn't work]? Nobody knows."
Johnson's season ends after just 16 starts, two wins and an ugly 6.20 ERA, with free agency looming at the end of the season. He originally appeared headed for a big payday, but following a disappointing performance, he may need to settle for a one-year contract on the open market.
Toronto could opt to make Johnson a qualifying offer at the end of the season, but even that seems unlikely at this point. A qualifying offer would cost the Blue Jays approximately $14 million if accepted, but it would also guarantee the organization a first-round Draft pick if Johnson were to sign with another team.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos remained noncommittal when asked about the qualifying offer. Toronto won't have to make that decision until the offseason, and that will give the organization more time to view Johnson's medical records and see how he responds to rehab.
"I think you wait, because you see how he recovers and responds," Anthopoulos said. "They want him to get up off the mound at the end of the season, so that will tell us a lot as well. The fact that we don't have to make a decision today, why not take the time to get more information?
"Who knows? Along the way, maybe he does great. Maybe there's -- obviously we hope not -- a setback. So we'll take the full time. ... It's also the prognosis going forward -- what's the element of risk? You rely a lot on your medical staff and your doctors."
Mo shares 'Boss' memories with Toronto staffers
TORONTO -- There has traditionally been very little for the Blue Jays to smile about while "Enter Sandman" by Metallica has blared from the Yankee Stadium speakers whenever Mariano Rivera has stepped onto the field during his illustrious 19-year career.
It's easy to see why, as Rivera entered Tuesday's game at Toronto with an 8-2 record, a 1.83 ERA, 53 saves and 106 strikeouts over 103 career innings against the Blue Jays.
But as Rivera stepped into the executive lounge at Rogers Centre on Tuesday to meet with 20 Blue Jays employees, there were more than just a handful of smiles.
The all-time saves leader delighted those in attendance during a 45-minute question-and-answer session that included a photo opportunity and a signed ball.
Rivera and Jason Zillo, the Yankees' communications and media relations director, addressed the room full of some long-time and deserving behind-the-scenes employees, including one who's been with the club since before it even had a name.
The 43-year-old Rivera answered questions ranging from his retirement plans to how it feels to stand on the mound and how he learned his famous cutter.
Rivera's most poignant and thoughtful answer, however, may have come as a surprise. Answering the final question, Rivera discussed what it was like to know late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, giving a brief glimpse of "The Boss" when the cameras weren't rolling.
Rivera called Steinbrenner "loyal" and "loving," adding that he wanted his players only to try their best, regardless of the outcome.
Rivera then told the story of the Yankees' dramatic loss to the D-backs in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. With Rivera on the mound in the ninth inning, Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez stroked a single past a drawn-in infield, plating the final run of the Series and saddling Rivera with a crushing loss.
After the game, Steinbrenner was the first to approach Rivera in the clubhouse at the ballpark that's now called Chase Field.
Rivera turned to Steinbrenner and told him he had done his best. Steinbrenner simply said, "I know."
It was a simple yet fitting way for Rivera to end the brief but lasting session.
On his way out, Rivera again thanked the group for everything they've done for baseball, then made his way down to the field to get back to what he does best.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @EvanPeaslee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.