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Jays cut ties with veteran Gathright

Jays cut ties with veteran Gathright

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Joey Gathright stood in front of an empty locker inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse on Sunday morning, wearing street clothes and a backpack with his arms crossed, unsure of where he was going next. The only thing the outfielder knew for sure was that he was going.

Gathright had just been released by the Blue Jays, who did not feel it was fair to send the speedy outfielder to the Minor Leagues. As Gathright's offensive woes persisted this spring, he slid steadily down the organization's depth chart. He expected and was ready for a demotion. Being released was not something that crossed his mind.

"You kind of expect something bad to happen, but not this," Gathright said. "But I can understand where the team is coming from. I had a very, very bad spring hitting-wise. You've got to do what you've got to do. A lot of guys are having good springs, so you've got to give those guys opportunity.

"I'm kind of lost right now. I'll probably go back to New Orleans for a little bit to get my head together -- that's where my parents live -- and go from there."

Outside the clubhouse, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos discussed the reasoning behind parting ways with Gathright -- a move that helped trim the roster as Opening Day approaches. Toronto also reassigned infielder Brad Emaus and outfielder Chris Lubanski to Minor League camp, reducing the body count leading up to the club's final spring decisions.

While Gathright -- brought into camp on a Minor League contract -- said on Saturday that he was willing to accept an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas, Anthopoulos said that did not make sense for the ballclub. Gathright hit .167 in 42 at-bats this spring, and outfielders such as Jeremy Reed, Mike McCoy and even Minor Leaguer Jorge Padilla passed Gathright in Anthopoulos' opinion.

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"Like I told him," Anthopoulos said, "I said, 'Joey, when we signed you, it wasn't to help us win the Pacific Coast League championship in Las Vegas, it was to try to win a spot on this team, either as an everday player or as a fourth outfielder.' With the way spring has gone, and the way our depth chart is starting to look right now, even in the Minor Leagues, he'd probably be pretty far down on the outfield depth chart in terms of callups. He might be fourth or fifth in terms of being called up and so on in terms of outfielders.

"So, I said, 'It's not fair to you, and we're telling you honestly right now that it's not fair to you to send you down to Las Vegas, and know that you'll stay there pretty much for the entire year with not a very good opportunity to get called up, because there's other guys that we have ahead of you.' The right thing for him to do is find another organization."

With third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) looking more and more like he will be able to avoid a stint on the disabled list to begin the season, the Blue Jays will likely have one bench vacancy for either Reed or McCoy. Reed has hit .420 through 50 at-bats this spring and can man all three outfield spots. McCoy can play multiple infield and outfield spots, brings speed and has hit .476 (21 at-bats) this spring.

Anthopoulos said there are even more factors being considered for the final makeup of the roster.

"We continue to talk about it," Anthopoulos said. "Jeremy Reed has had a great camp. Mike McCoy has had a great camp. We're still trying to work through the construction of the roster. There's going to be some guys who get run through the waiver wire right now. Every team is looking to make some cuts and there might be some players that are available that we're going to look into.

"It's really fluid right now. We have some deserving guys with the way that their Spring Trainings have gone."

Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays hope to have their 25-man roster finalized before the club departs Florida and heads to Houston for exhibition games on Friday and Saturday. The GM noted, though, that the final roster does not need to be submitted to the league until April 4, one day before the club opens its season against the Rangers in Texas.

"We don't want to have people flying to Houston that aren't going to be on the team," Anthopoulos said. "You always want to do it sooner rather than later, because you know that lives hang in the balance and players are on pins and needles, and we know it's a tough time for them. At the same time, we need to take as much time as we can to make the right decisions and explore all our options."

As things currently stand, the only locks for the rotation appear to be Shaun Marcum, Brian Tallet and Ricky Romero. Toronto is monitoring the health of Brandon Morrow, who has missed two starts with a right shoulder issue. Morrow is slated to work three innings in a Minor League game on Monday. Dana Eveland, Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil are also in the mix.

Eveland is out of options, meaning he would need to be exposed to waivers if the Jays wanted to send him to the Minor Leagues. This spring, the left-hander has fashioned a 1.69 ERA over 16 innings in an effort to convince the club to bring him north in some capacity. If Eveland does not win a rotation job, Toronto will consider using him as a long reliever out of the bullpen.

In the bullpen, the only players deemed virtual locks are closer Jason Frasor and veteran relievers Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg. Pitchers vying for one of the final four openings include Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, Josh Roenicke, David Purcey, Merkin Valdez and Eveland. Among that group, Camp and Valdez are also out of player options.

Frasor and Downs have been the subject of trade rumors throughout this spring, but Anthopoulos said the discussions he has had at this stage of the spring have been are on a smaller scale.

"Everyone at this time talks about more minor deals," Anthopoulos said. "Guys who are out of options who might be available, a team might have a little more depth. It's more of a minor variety at this time. I think we're always looking. We're always going to be talking to clubs and exploring things and seeing what might be out there."

Anthopoulos is quick to note that too much emphasis is often placed on the makeup of the Opening Day roster. In mapping out the team, the GM and manager Cito Gaston are trying to analyze the best way to organize the roster for 162 games -- not just the first week. Trying to maintain as much depth as possible plays into many of the decisions.

"That's exactly what Cito and I were talking about," Anthopoulos said. "We sit here and we try to figure out a team for April 4 and, really, it's the best team over six months. We know it could change so quickly. Guys don't perform, guys have options, guys get run through the waiver wire -- it could change so quickly.

"There's a significance to the date. But, as soon as the games start being played, we're all competitors and we all want to win. If guys don't perform, changes are made anyway."

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

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