Camp Report: Jays Looking for Leadoff Hitter

Adams is likely to bat leadoff

The spotlight in todays Camp Report is the No. 1 hole in the Jays lineup, the leadoff spot. General Manager J.P. Ricciardi and manager John Gibbons talks about the leadoff spot and what is likely to happen this year. We also take a look at how the Jays will begin to prepare Scott Downs to enter the starting rotation, why Halladay will be pitching to minor leaguers on Thursday, why Pete Walker will remain in the bullpen, and much much more,

The Jays simply don't have a Johnny Damon or a Scott Podsednik atop their lineup. They don't have a player with a better-than-average on-base percentage, don't have a player who takes a lot of pitches that leads to walks, don't have a player with exceptional speed.

The best that manager John Gibbons can come up with is to have left fielder Reed Johnson, who had just 22 walks in 398 at-bats last year, lead off against left-handers, and shortstop Russ Adams, who batted .245 (71-for-290) in 69 starts in the leadoff position, be the No. 1 batter against right-handers.

"I think we're just going to have to be flexible and use different people," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said of the rotating leadoff spot. "Besides those two, maybe at times we'll have Cat (Frank Catalanotto) and (Aaron) Hill lead off.

"We'd like to have everything you're supposed to have, but we don't, so you've just got to make it work."

Gibbons said that it will up to the players he puts atop the lineup to adapt to the role, which is to get on base any way they can.

NEWS AND QUOTES

--With the Jays not knowing if RHP A.J. Burnett will be ready for the start of the season after he experienced pain in his right elbow in his last start -- the diagnosis being that scar tissue from his Tommy John surgery in 2003 was breaking apart -- LHP Scott Downs is being stretched out as a precautionary measure.

Downs, who was slotted for the bullpen, threw three innings March 18 in a minor league game. He will start Friday's game against Cleveland and is scheduled to throw four innings.

"We need to have someone who can start just in case Burnett can't go," manager John Gibbons said.

Burnett will throw on the side Friday, at which time the Jays should know if he'll be available for duty in the opening week.

--RHP Roy Halladay will go up against Tampa Bay in his second start of the regular season, which means that he won't be throwing against them Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Fla. Instead, Halladay will throw Thursday in a minor league game.

Last year when both Halladay and LHP Ted Lilly were injured, the Jays had veteran RHP Pete Walker make four spot starts, but this year they plan to keep him exclusively in the bullpen.

"It's difficult to go back and forth, it's a tough job to do," Walker said. "I'd do it if they asked me, but I think I was a lot more consistent out of the 'pen."

--The Jays are banking on receiving another solid season from RHP Jason Frasor.

In his second season with the Jays last year, Frasor improved upon his numbers. His appearances went up from 63 to 67, his ERA went down from 4.08 to 3.25, his walks dropped from 36 to 28 and his strikeouts rose to 62 from 54.

"My first year here I was a nervous wreck," Frasor said. "It was overwhelming at times, but I'm better for it now. Right now I feel so much more comfortable going into my third year."

In six appearances this spring, Frasor has yet to allow an earned run and has given up just three hits in 7 1/3 innings.

--The Jays have started allowing RHP Jason Frasor and RHP Vinnie Chulk, two of their setup men, to work more than one inning and have brought them into games in the middle of innings with runners on base.

"I think it's important to be used like that at the end of spring training," Chulk said. "It helps set you up for the regular season and helps build you up."

--RHP Ben Weber was reassigned to the Blue Jays' minor league camp.

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