Lefty a lock? Jo-Jo hopes so

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. The fix appears to be in for Jo-Jo Reyes.

The left-hander who was acquired by the Jays last July in the trade that featured Yunel Escobar and Alex Gonzalez makes a critical start against the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday night in his bid to nail down a job in the rotation.

However, from what manager John Farrell said Tuesday, you have to figure that he has made the club either as a starter or a member of the bullpen.

Hes a candidate for both because we have to look at him as someone who doesnt have the flexibility from a contractual standpoint (hes out of options), Farrell said Tuesday. Hes pitched well enough this spring training that we feel hes going to contribute to our cause this year. Whatever role that is will be determined here shortly.

When you talk about someone who is out of options and is left-handed and is talented as he is, hes a very good pitcher that we want to continue to get the most out of here, regardless of the role at this point.

Reyes, 26, had been in the Braves organization since being taken in the second round of the 2003 draft.

Although he has nothing but good things to say about the Braves, he felt the timing was right for both parties to say their goodbyes.

I think I had my time in with the Braves and they gave me every chance possible and I wasnt putting out, he said bluntly. They had some young guys coming in and theyve done well. So they thought theres a chance for me to catch on somewhere else and hopefully Ill find it.

Asked to list his strengths, Reyes paused, broke into a wide grin and replied: Being left-handed.

With the Atlanta organization, he made steady progress in the minors but found the jump to the big leagues to be a rough landing on four different occasions. Particularly painful was 2008 when in 22 starts for Atlanta he was 3-11 with a 5.83 ERA, including a seven-game losing streak.

Its been a big learning curve, he said of the process. I only had 31/2 seasons of minor-league baseball before being called up (in 2007). Of course I wanted to be called up and I think in my case I might have been called up a little too early for my sake, not the Braves sake.

After looking over the past, I might have been called up a little too early. Im still learning a lot but the last 31/2 years of being up and down has taught me a lot.

If Reyes emerges with one of the two open spots in the rotation hes going up against a pair of right-handers in Kyle Drabek and Jesse Litsch hell have earned it. The last time out he had to face the Phillies and their starting lineup in Clearwater and Wednesday will likely get the Yankees A squad in Tampa.

Against the Phillies he gave up a two-run homer in the first but settled down and allowed three runs over five innings.

He felt the fact that he settled down after opening up single and a home run was a good sign and a by-product of added maturity.

I think I made some big strides because if I had given up a first-inning home run in the past, I would have tried to do too much after that and got into trouble knit-picking, instead of throwing strikes, Im nibbling on the corners and falling behind and thats when hitters are able to capitalize on your mistakes, he said. I think this year Ive made a big stride mentally of being able to go pitch-by-pitch and not worry about what happened the last pitch. So Im kind of happy of how Im going so far mentally this year.

Im a little older, a little more mature and Im being honest with myself about whats happened in the past.

The Jays can only pray that his on-field success matches his off-field honesty and bluntness.


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