3/20/2014 6:47 P.M. ET
Blue Jays don't mind not relying on speed
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A noticeable difference between this year's version of the Blue Jays and the one from 2013 is the club's lack of speed on the basepaths.
Last season, the Blue Jays began the year with Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio on the bench. Both players had game-changing speed and were especially valuable when used in late-inning situations.
Toronto doesn't have those type of impact runners this year, and there doesn't appear to be much of an emphasis on changing that any time soon.
"That's not one of our strengths," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted. "Our speed has definitely dropped off. That's not how the team is built.
"The team's built for those guys in the middle to drive in a bunch of runs, hit some home runs and [Jose] Reyes to get things going. We think we're strong. We've got some pop. We've got some guys that can produce some runs, top to bottom in the lineup."
The Blue Jays finished last season ranked ninth in baseball with 112 stolen bases, but 57 of those came from Davis and Bonifacio. Take those two out of the equation, and the club would have ranked 27th in the Major Leagues.
There likely will be a slight uptick in stolen bases at shortstop with a full season from Reyes, but the rest of the roster remains relatively unchanged. Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus will occasionally steal, but for the most part, this is a team that will rely on the hit-and-run a lot more than straight stolen-base attempts.
That's not overly concerning to Gibbons, because he puts a much greater emphasis on fielding a team with a well-balanced lineup.
"That's what wins," Gibbons said. "The days of stealing your ways to pennants [are over]. That's a big plus and it can help you win some games, but good hitters will win.
"We relied on [home runs] last year. That wasn't by design. We're trying to make some adjustments this year. We'll cut down on the strikeouts a little bit, I think will definitely help us, and [hitting coach] Kevin Seitzer's really good about that and he's working some game plans, but that takes time. I think these guys have all been receptive to him."
Rogers picks good time to turn things around
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Esmil Rogers took a step in the right direction by pitching a relatively impressive 4 2/3 innings vs. the Phillies on Thursday afternoon at Bright House Field.
Rogers allowed five hits and walked just one while striking out six in his fifth appearance of the spring. It was a much better outing than his last start against the Astros, when he allowed four runs in just three innings.
The timing of this positive start also couldn't have been any better, as the Blue Jays continue to hold open auditions for the final spot in their rotation. Rogers is assured of a job on the team, but whether that role comes as a starter or a reliever still remains very much up in the air.
"Everything was working today," said Rogers, who lowered his ERA this spring to 5.27. "My fastball command, my curveball was unbelievable, my slider, any count I want, I could throw 3-2. ... I feel great."
The positive outing did come with a couple of caveats. The Phillies didn't start all of their regulars and Rogers also received quite a bit of help in the field. Jose Bautista threw a runner out at second base and made a diving catch in right field, and catcher Erik Kratz also threw a runner out.
The bigger concern entering the game, though, was Rogers' lack of command in recent starts. He entered with four walks in nine innings, and just as alarming were the number of pitches left up in the zone. That resulted in a large number of hard-hit balls, and Rogers eliminated most of those issues on Thursday, with the exception of back-to-back doubles in the first inning.
Rogers will have one more outing to make his case for the rotation. That's his stated preference, but he's also just fine if his role were to come in relief.
"That's what I've done my whole career. When you do something your whole career you don't want to change it," Rogers said of starting. "But it doesn't matter when you help the team win. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking to win the World Series, and if I can help the team win the World Series out of the bullpen, I'll do it."
Toronto claims outfielder Tuiasosopo off waivers
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Blue Jays claimed outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks late Thursday afternoon.
Tuiasosopo appeared in 81 games last season with the Tigers, hitting .244 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 81 games. In parts of four big league seasons with the Mariners and Tigers, Tuiasosopo is a career .207 hitter with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 142 games.
The 27-year-old has the ability to play left field and also the corner-infield positions. With Detroit in 2013, Tuiasosopo appeared in 63 games in left field, 13 at first and one at third. He was originally taken in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays decided to release left-hander Luis Perez. The Dominican Republic native missed almost all of last season following Tommy John surgery, but he was very successful out of the bullpen in 2012.
Perez was a known favorite of then-manager John Farrell, and he posted a 3.43 ERA while tossing 43 innings until he got hurt during a game against the A's on July 8. Since then, there has been several setbacks from Tommy John surgery, and Perez was recently sent to Minor League camp.