Pitching coach Pete Walker said the veteran right-hander “is pretty much ready to go,” after recovering from a lat strain, and that the club simply has “to make a decision on how we’re going to do that.” Though he’s built up to only 50-60 pitches, using him as a starter paired with a piggyback arm is on the table ahead of some internal deliberations Sunday.
“He is in a position to help,” said Walker, “and could be in a position to help right now.”
While he wouldn’t get specific about the club’s plans for the upcoming series with the New York Yankees in Buffalo, the way the Blue Jays have things lined up suggests that Shoemaker may very well start Monday’s opener.
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Shoemaker threw a live batting practice Wednesday that “was exceptional, stuff was there, velocity was there, spin on the breaking ball, the split,” according to Walker, and his fifth day would be Monday. Giving him that start would line him up to start again versus the Baltimore Orioles on the penultimate day of the season, and then again in a Game 3 of a first-round playoff series.
That would keep him behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and Taijuan Walker, who are positioned to start the first and second games of the playoffs Sept. 29 and 30 if the club runs a regular five-man rotation.
More help could be on the way, too, as Nate Pearson (flexor strain) is slated to throw a live batting practice Monday in Buffalo, when the Blue Jays are “anticipating a couple of innings,” said Walker.
“Everything has trended in the right direction,” he continued. “The velocity is there. He feels really good. He’s recovering well. So I’m anxious to see him (Monday) and then we can then make a decision after that, move forward. He’s someone who if everything’s good, he’s feeling good, we can certainly use and he could help us out for sure, as we know.”
Without enough time to rebuild him as a starter, the Blue Jays are looking at the electric-armed righty to come out of the bullpen in a role akin to the ones filled by Thomas Hatch and Julian Merryweather where “we can utilize that velocity and his ability to throw strikes,” said Walker.
Reliever Jordan Romano (pulley strain in right middle finger) is also moving in the right direction, getting off the mound for a “touch and feel” side session. There’s still work to be done, but Walker said the reports on the leverage righty “are really good, they’re encouraging.”
“We’re building him up with the hopes of him helping us out,” he continued. “We still feel very hopeful. It will be great to see him (Monday) and have a good conversation and get a real good feel of exactly where he’s at.”