Notes: Janssen stating his case

Notes: Janssen stating his case

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Janssen learned last year that anything is possible. Just one season removed from pitching in Class A, the pitcher found himself starting in the Blue Jays' rotation by late April.

This spring, Janssen is on the bubble in terms of winning a job as a starter for the Blue Jays. Toronto added pitchers John Thomson and Tomo Ohka in the offseason, and they're competing against Josh Towers, Shaun Marcum and Janssen for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.

Given the number of more experienced arms ahead of Janssen on the depth chart, it seems likely that he'll wind up on the starting staff for Triple-A Syracuse. That hasn't stopped the 25-year-old right-hander from approaching this spring with the mind-set that he's still in the running, though.

"You've got to be ready," Janssen said. "As long as I'm still around, I guess I still have a chance. So I'm taking every opportunity I get and trying to make the most of it. Hopefully I just make their decision hard."

On Tuesday, Janssen, who went 6-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 19 games for Toronto last year, picked up his first Spring Training victory after he turned in two scoreless innings against the Red Sox at Knology Park. Janssen gave up three hits, struck out two and walked none.

In the sixth inning, Janssen gave up consecutive hits to open the frame, putting runners on first and third base with no outs. He then struck out Eric Hinske and Manny Ramirez, and induced a ground out from Wily Mo Pena to end the threat.

"In the back of your mind, you know you have to be a little more careful with those guys," said Janssen, referring to facing the Major League hitters. "But still, good located pitches are going to get them out."

For the spring, Janssen is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three relief appearances. He's yielded just one earned run with five strikeouts and no walks over five innings. That's not including the four strikeouts Janssen tallied in two shutout innings in a "B" game against the Phillies on March 5.

Janssen also pitched well last spring, which was his first in big-league camp with Toronto. Last March, the righty went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in four appearances in Grapefruit League games. His performance helped propel him to the top of the list of potential call-ups for the Jays. Janssen will probably be in a similar situation at the end of this spring, too.

"You're happy to get your opportunity, but all of a sudden you're like, 'Man, I have to pitch well to stay here,'" Janssen said. "But opportunities are great, and [the Jays] aren't afraid to move guys up if they're pitching well."

Change it up: A.J. Burnett stepped out of his comfort zone in his start against the Red Sox on Tuesday. When he found himself in a situation where he typically fires a blazing fastball, the Blue Jays starter instead turned to his changeup.

"Why even play with a changeup is a question I always get," said Burnett, whose best two pitches are his fastball and curveball. "But it's always going to give hitters something to look at besides those two pitches. It's only going to help."

"I believe it's a faith thing right now," he added. "The more I throw [the changeup], I'm going to get the feel of the strike zone with it. I just need to believe I can throw it. It's a good pitch for me."

Against Boston, Burnett also mixed in his curve for the second start in a row. The right-hander gave up no runs on one hit with five strikeouts and two walks in four innings. Burnett threw 62 pitches, including 37 for strikes.

"There's going to be days when that curveball is off," Burnett said. "When the hitters eliminate that, I'm a one-pitch pitcher. So, it's always good to have something you believe in and that you can throw besides the curveball."

In the cage: Blue Jays outfielder Adam Lind participated in batting practice prior to Tuesday's game against the Red Sox. The 23-year-old prospect hadn't hit since injuring his right ring finger on an attempted diving catch during a game against the Tigers on March 6. Lind swung the bat fine, and experienced no pain during the BP session.

On the hill: Jays right-hander Brandon League is scheduled to throw a 30-pitch simulated game against Minor League hitters on Wednesday. The reliever has been recovering from a strained right lat muscle, and he has already thrown four bullpen sessions without any discomfort.

Roster move: Following Tuesday's game against the Red Sox, the Blue Jays optioned catcher Robinzon Diaz to Double-A New Hampshire. Toronto currently has 50 players, including 17 non-roster invitees, in camp with the big-league club.

Quotable: "There's time I pitch to contact, but I'm trying to strike everybody out. I'm not going to lie. In certain situation, yes, I'm learning that, 'Hey, a sinker here is good to get a double play,' as opposed to trying to waste more pitches to get out of a jam." -- Burnett

Coming up: Toronto right-hander Tomo Ohka is scheduled to start the home half of a split-squad game against Cleveland at 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla. Thomson is slated to take the mound on the road against the Indians at 12:35 p.m. at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.