Jays' pitcher half full

MIKE RUTSEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It was a case of good news, bad news on the Blue Jays pitching front.

First the down side. Closer B.J. Ryan has not been able to throw for a week because of a soreness in his lower back.

Thanks to an earlier bout with the flu, Ryan has made just three appearances this spring, allowing three runs on five hits in three innings and hasn't pitched since March 11.

As anybody knows who has had a sore back, it is troublesome and often recurring. That scenario would send shudders through Blue Jays management, who are currently also nursing their set-up man, Brandon League, back into pitching shape.

"His lower back is sore and we're just keeping him guarded right now," pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said yesterday of Ryan. "There's no reason we need to put him on a mound right now.

"He's the type of guy that we know that once those lights come on (start of the season) he's a different kid so we're not real worried about exposing him, especially when he's sore."

WILLING TO WAIT

If Ryan can't throw again until the final week, then so be it, Arnsberg added.

"If that means that he (only) gets a couple of couple of outings towards the end of spring training, that's what it is."

Arnsberg added that Ryan has no history of back problems.

"It just got sore," Arnsberg said. "The best thing is to let it rest, let it heal."

But it was not all doom and gloom for the Jays, though, as in their home game at Knology Park, starter Tomo Ohka rang up five solid innings against a Yankees side that included regulars Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Doug Mientkiewicz.

It was Ohka's fourth outing of the spring and his third solid start in a row. In five innings, Ohka allowed one run on three hits, walked one and struck out two.

"He's rolling right now," catcher Gregg Zaun. "He hit his spots and mixed speeds. He looks like a complete pitcher right now.

Following Ohka, right-hander Victor Zambrano allowed three hits in four scoreless innings as the Jays beat the Yankees 9-1.

Both veteran pitchers, along with right-handers John Thomson and Josh Towers, are battling for the final two spots in the rotation.

Thomson looks to be going backwards as yesterday in a triple-A game he gave up six runs on four hits and also walked three. It was his second consecutive pounding..

The next time out, Thomson will face major leaguers while Ohka will start in a minor-league game. Thomson will get to face the Yankees regulars in Tampa Bay and another poor effort would doom his fate.

By comparison, Towers has been sparkling.

Zambrano, who is recovering from elbow surgery, is likely to be either in the bullpen or extended spring training to continue to build up his arm strength.

"I think the best thing for Victor would to be in a starting role," Arnsberg said. "He can start out in Dundin (Class-A) and get a month under his belt and make sure this thing (his arm) is where we want."

A bullpen spot, though, is not out of the question.

"We'd like to maybe see him in a relief role," Arnsberg added. "If we feel like he could be vying for a spot in the bullpen in the last weeks of spring training then we could put him into that role and try to see if he can bounce back on one day's rest and see if he can go back-to-back."


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