Janssen will close for Blue Jays to start 2013

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Saturday that Casey Janssen should be ready to break camp with the Blue Jays and be their closer on Opening Day. But Janssen wasn't quite as certain.

Asked if Janssen will head north with the club next week, Gibbons responded, "I don't see why not, if there's no setbacks."

Janssen, who had minor shoulder surgery in November, said several times he is still "working toward" being ready for the Blue Jays' season opener on April 2. But he stopped short of saying he had doubts about his Opening Day availability.

"Not doubt. I don't want to give false hope," he said. "I'm probably more a little on the conservative side. I want to."

He admitted he was sore a day after his perfect Grapefruit League debut -- the kind of normal soreness most pitchers feel when they ramp up their pitch count and velocity in Spring Training, but not something he'd experience the day after an 11-pitch outing in the middle of the season.

"I think [being able to pitch on Opening Day is] everybody's hope. At the same time, like I said earlier, I want to be good," Janssen said. "I want to be in on all my pitches. I want to be able to throw a backdoor curveball whenever I need to, so if it's the first outing and there's a runner on second and I need to hit on that pitch and I'm still trying to figure it out, it would potentially cost us a loss or something like that. I think it's only fair to them, and I've got to be honest with myself."

Janssen is scheduled to pitch again Monday, but he was unsure when his next appearance after that will be. He said he felt good Friday and appreciated Gibbons' vote of confidence in him, but he doesn't want to come back unless he's 100 percent healthy and capable of throwing all his pitches at any time.

If Janssen isn't ready, Toronto will turn to Sergio Santos as its closer to begin the season. Santos, who had season-ending surgery last July, hasn't flashed excellent command this spring, but he's throwing hard and, more importantly, seems to be completely healthy.

"Sergio's throwing the ball really well, and he's done it before," Janssen said. "I think we've got all the confidence in the world in him. If it doesn't work out April 2, then I don't think we'll miss a beat."

It's less clear where Santos will work when Janssen assumes the ninth-inning role. Gibbons said he could "mix it up" with any number of relievers in the eighth inning, and he wouldn't hesitate to use Santos in a higher-leverage situation earlier in the game.

"The thing we've been watching is how healthy he is, and that's behind us. Now it's just bringing it all together with his command and stuff like that," Gibbons said. "But yeah, I've got no problem bringing him in in the middle of the game going into the season."

Lawrie working his way back from strained rib cage

TOR@DET: Lawrie ties it up with a two-run single

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was hopeful Saturday that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion -- day to day with a jammed index finger -- will be back in the lineup Monday, when Toronto will begin using as much of its regular lineup as possible on an everyday basis.

He was not quite as optimistic about third baseman Brett Lawrie's return from a strained muscle in his rib cage.

Gibbons said Lawrie, who hasn't played since March 2, felt good after hitting off a tee and taking ground balls Friday. Lawrie is still working through the program the club set up for him, but Gibbons noted that the third baseman needs to be in a game by the beginning of next week to be ready come Opening Day.

Since there is some degree of uncertainty, it would be reasonable to have Lawrie play in Minor League games the rest of the spring so the Blue Jays can backdate his disabled-list stint to March 22, making Lawrie eligible to return April 6. Gibbons mentioned the idea Saturday morning but said he hasn't heard from general manager Alex Anthopoulos about it.

"I don't know what Alex wants to do with that," Gibbons said. "He didn't really talk to us about that, how he wants to approach that."

Right-hander Dustin McGowan, working his way back from another operation on his right shoulder, faced five batters in a Minor League game Saturday morning.

Morrow solid except for one stretch in fifth inning

Outlook: Morrow is poised for a big 2013 season

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow said he felt good about his 5 1/3-inning start Saturday afternoon, even if he would have liked to pitch a full six innings and even if his statistical line didn't look all that great.

Morrow gave up five runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out two in Toronto's 10-5 loss against Atlanta at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He had been cruising until he recorded the second out of the fifth inning, having retired nine straight batters. Then the Braves put six straight runners on base and scored four runs.

"It looked like he ran out of gas a little bit. Early on, he was sticking it pretty good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Maybe he did run out, get a little bit tired. It was a little humid. Overall, good."

Indeed, Morrow said, the Florida heat and humidity got to him a little bit, especially given how cool it's been most of the spring, but he also said the Braves simply "singled me to death" when they compiled four straight two-out base hits in the fifth inning. If anything, he said, maybe that was good preparation should he run into long innings during the regular season.

"There's going to be innings like that during the year. You're going to have to bear down and, if you're getting tired, trick your body into getting through it," Morrow said. "Mind over matter kind of thing, sure."

Morrow has given up 13 earned runs on 21 hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in 15 innings this spring, but he said he's been happy with his work overall. His next start will be his last of the spring, and he'd like to keep his pitch count around 85 so that he can throw 100 in his regular-season debut.

Other than that, Morrow would like to pitch more or less the way he did Saturday. But it would help if the weather cooperated.

"Mother Nature flipped the switch on us, went from winter to summer in 48 hours," Morrow said. "My legs were getting a little tired."

Worth noting

• Lefty Aaron Loup continued his excellent spring Saturday, allowing just one hit while striking out a batter in a scoreless seventh inning to lower his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.13. Loup has allowed just one run on six hits while recording eight strikeouts in eight appearances. Gibbons said he has been impressed by Loup this spring.

"These guys all talked about him coming in. They said this guy can really, really pitch. He's steady. You can't rattle this kid," Gibbons said. "Everything they said has come true. I've seen the exact same thing."

• The Blue Jays won't send many of their starters to Fort Myers, Fla., to face the Twins on Sunday. Outfielders Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus are expected to make the trip, as is catcher Josh Thole. Most of the other Major Leaguers will get the day off, but not left-hander Mark Buehrle, who will pitch in a Minor League game at Toronto's Minor League complex.