That prospect came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, when pitcher Casey Janssen cut a bullpen session short due to discomfort in his right shoulder. Janssen, whose chances at winning a rotation job now appear bleak, was scheduled to have an MRI exam on his ailing arm later on Tuesday.
Janssen was slated to throw four innings in a Minor League game at the Bobby Mattick Training Complex, but said he felt something in his shoulder during his warmup routine in the bullpen. At that point, Janssen met with team trainers and promptly left the complex to meet with team physician Steve Mirabello.
"It's frustrating, but I don't know what it is," Janssen said at Knology Park. "I'm just ready to get going and see what's up. I got loose and said it wasn't worth it. Let's see what's going on and go from there."
Last season, the 26-year-old Janssen served as Toronto's primary setup man, posting a 2.35 ERA with 24 holds in 70 appearances out of the bullpen. With closer B.J. Ryan attempting to come back from a left elbow injury in time for Opening Day, the Blue Jays were stretching Janssen out with the intention of giving him a shot at making the rotation.
Janssen's longest outing of the spring was a three-inning appearance against the Pirates on Thursday in Bradenton, Fla. Now that Janssen will be shut down by the team for an undetermined amount of time, it seems unlikely that he'd be able to prepare for a role as a starter in time for Opening Day.
"It's always a concern any time anyone gets hurt," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "We'll see how it plays out. We'll see what the doctors say and then we'll deal with it from there."
It seems more probable that Janssen would return to a relief role if he's able to recover in time for the season's opening month. With Janssen's status now uncertain, right-hander Jesse Litsch is the frontrunner for the fifth spot in Toronto's rotation, which also includes Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum.
"Who knows if it's something long-term or short-term," said Janssen, who added that Tuesday was the first time he felt anything in his shoulder. "I felt good. I felt strong and ready to compete for a spot. But something's up and we just need to see what it is."
McGowan, who completed a four-inning outing against Minor League hitters on Tuesday, said that Janssen will definitely be missed, no matter how long the pitcher is sidelined. Whether or not Janssen was going to be a starter or a reliever, the right-hander is a valuable piece within the Jays' pitching staff.
"You just hope for the best for him," McGowan said. "It's going to be a big blow. Everybody saw last year how valuable he was in the 'pen. Obviously, we don't know what his role is going to be this year, but he'll be missed if he can't come back."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.