Notes: Towers, Zambrano swap roles
Righty prefers move to bullpen over demotion to Triple-A
TORONTO -- The news could've been worse for Josh Towers. On Saturday, the Blue Jays informed the pitcher that he was being pulled out of Toronto's rotation in favor of Victor Zambrano. Towers was just glad the move didn't include a trip to the Minor Leagues.
"That's the best news about it," said Towers, who will take Zambrano's spot in the bullpen. "They could've done whatever they needed to do again. But I think they agree to an extent that I haven't been throwing the ball that bad. I've been throwing pretty well, with the exception of an inning here or an inning there."
That was the precise case on Friday night, when Towers' only lapse in a loss to Texas came in the third inning. Towers yielded five runs on three homers during that frame, but gave up no hits in the other 3 2/3 innings he turned in.
For the year, Towers is 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts for the Blue Jays. Last season, Toronto waited until the right-hander fell to 1-8 with a 9.00 ERA over 10 starts before demoting him to Triple-A Syracuse on May 24.
"He's going to go [to the bullpen] and pound the zone as he would as a starting pitcher," Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said. "I said to Josh, 'This probably beats the alternative.' That's going down to Triple-A and being the No. 1 starter in Syracuse. I think his spirits are all right, and maybe it's a little bit of a relief."
In January, the Jays signed Zambrano, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last May, to a Minor League contract, with a $4 million option for 2008, in the hope that he might be available by May or June. Zambrano had an impressive spring, though, posting a 2.29 ERA in six games for Toronto.
"He's still coming off that injury, but he's far enough along," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's won in the big leagues for teams that were struggling. That's one of the reasons we signed him. We thought he might be able to fill this role sometime this year and next year."
Toronto waited until the final day of Spring Training to announce that Towers had edged Zambrano for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Jays added Zambrano to their bullpen, where he's gone 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in six appearances this year. In six seasons with the Devil Rays and Mets, the 31-year-old Zambrano went 34-35 as a starter with a 4.38 ERA.
"It was a group decision, just to see if we can try to get a little more continuity out of that role," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I don't know if it's the right move, but it's something we're trying at this point."
Glaus activated: Toronto's lineup card was noticeably missing from its usual spot outside the doors to the Jays' clubhouse prior to Saturday's game against Texas. Jays bench coach Ernie Whitt, who normally posts the order before each game, simply smiled when asked about its whereabouts.
"Secrets, secrets," said Whitt, grinning as he headed for Toronto's dugout.
What wasn't much of a secret was that third baseman Troy Glaus was inside Gibbons' office, discussing his availability for Saturday's contest. Glaus, who has been bothered by a bone spur in his left heel all season, told his skipper he was ready to go, prompting the Jays to activate the slugger from the 15-day disabled list.
"The decision was left pretty much up to me, just based on how I felt today," said Glaus, who had been sidelined since April 12. "I went out and ran earlier today and did all the warmups and everything I needed to do to get ready. It felt the same as it did yesterday, which is basically what we were looking for."
Glaus, who led Toronto with 38 homers last year, said that the discomfort in his heel isn't likely to go away any time soon. The pain had lessened to a point where it was "manageable," which is all the Blue Jays needed to hear.
"We told him, 'The No. 1 thing for us is that you can go out there and play,'" Ricciardi said. "'We don't want to have a situation where you play two games, and then you have to sit.' We don't think that's going to happen, but we really won't know until we run him out there. He seems to be feeling a lot better, though."
Lining things up: On Saturday, Gibbons slotted Glaus into the sixth spot in the batting order. The manager said the reason was that he didn't want to put the third baseman in the No. 5 hole when he hasn't played in so long. Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay hit fifth, but Gibbons wasn't sure if that would be a long-term plan.
Honoring VT: On Saturday, the players and coaches for the Syracuse Chiefs wore Virginia Tech hats during their game against Triple-A Louisville to honor those who lost their lives in the tragic campus shooting on April 16th in Blacksburg, Va.
Chiefs first baseman Kevin Barker, who attended Virginia Tech, donned a Hokies jersey with the No. 32, honoring the 32 people killed during the incident. The hats and jersey will be autographed and auctioned with the proceeds going to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund for the victims of the shootings.
Roster move: In order to clear room on the active roster for Glaus, the Blue Jays optioned infielder Ryan Roberts back to Triple-A Syracuse. Roberts appeared in two games for Toronto with one run scored and no hits in just one at-bat.
Quotable: "Right now, we just think Zambrano may give us a better chance to win. We've got to start trying to figure out who we are now and make adjustments on a few things. I think this is one way of trying to make adjustments." -- Ricciardi, on the rotation switch
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Tomo Ohka (1-2, 6.23 ERA) is slated to take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Rangers at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday at Rogers Centre. Texas will counter with righty Brandon McCarthy (1-3, 9.00 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.