With the news that Toronto has placed pitcher Brandon Morrow on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation retroactive to March 22nd, the battle between Jesse Litsch and Jo-Jo Reyes for the fifth spot in the rotation is rendered moot.
Acquired from Seattle in December of 2009, Morrow has blossomed into a top-end starter and one of the crown jewels of the Blue Jays young rotation. However, this set back is a bit disconcerting regardless of the optimism coming from team officials.
“It’s one of those things where we’re being extra cautious,” says GM Alex Anthopoulos. “Really, we’re talking about him missing a start. He is adamant that he can go. We just want to let everything (in his elbow) calm down for four or five days. Why try to rush when it’s only one start.”
Going into the season now will be a rotation of Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek (taking Morrow's spot), Brett Cecil, Jo-Jo Reyes (currently fairing well against the Yankees as I write this) and Jesse Litsch as the fifth starter.
A silver lining to this is the opportunity for Alexopoulos and skipper John Farrell to get a longer look at Jo-Jo Reyes. Acquired with Yunel Escobar from Atlanta back on July 10, 2010, for shortstop Alex Gonzales, Reyes was sent immediately to AA but has acquitted himself well so far this spring.
A former second round pick of the Braves back in 2003, Jo-Jo was once regarded as a future rotation stalwart for Atlanta and was even their top pitching prospect as late as 2007. However, after struggling with his control and getting roughed up when pitching in the bigs his star began to dim.
Subsequently, Reyes was passed over by younger prospects like Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and Kris Medlen and was deemed a AAAA player by Atlanta and thus expendable.
After his trial by fire tonight on live television versus the Yankees, Reyes has another minor league start scheduled, as well as a regular season home start against the Oakland A's on April 5th. If Morrow does indeed return in time for his second scheduled regular season start as Anthopoulos believes, Jo-Jo has three chances to make his case for a full-time gig in Toronto, otherwise he risks being claimed on waivers as he's out of options.
However, if the Morrow injury is worse than what's reported and Reyes blows it then it's conceivable that Toronto might make a move. With minor league assets like David Purcey, David Cooper, Brad Mills and Eric Thames the Jays have the chips to go get a starter.
But it won't be Kevin Slowey, in spite of how many times mlbtraderumors.com reports it.
With his salary it just wouldn't make sense to get a guy who's nothing more than a stop gap. Unless Toronto adds a starter of significant enough calibre to be a fourth or fifth starter all season, like a James Shields (who's slowly getting squeezed out in Tampa Bay), then I can't see Anthopoulos making a knee jerk move like a trade for the soft tossing Slowey.
Update: Jo-Jo-Reyes has just wrapped up his 6th inning of a two-hit shut out ball against the powerful Yankee lineup. Purcey will probably start the 7th as he's been warming up for the past 10 minutes. So much for those Slowey rumors.