Jays' Stewart Could Pitch In Rotation





DUNEDIN, FLA. — Righthander Zach Stewart was still a long shot to break with the major league team out of spring training, but he showed enough in the early going to keep him in the mix for one of the two open spots in the starting rotation.

He also has been used as a reliever in the minors, but his array of pitches and their quality has convinced the organization to give him every chance to become a starter.

"When you get big arms, you always take the shot at a starting role first," pitching coach Bruce Walton said.

Stewart was a key part of the July 2009 deal that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to the Reds. The 24-year-old righthander finished his 2010 season strong with Double-A New Hampshire to go 8-3, 3.63 in 26 starts.

"He's got such a quick arm," Walton said. "It's explosive. He can sink and slide the ball. He's very interesting, and he is one determined young man to establish himself not only in the Blue Jay organization but at the major league level. He just looks like he knows what's going on."

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Stewart was drafted in the third round by the Reds in 2008 from Texas Tech. He has the stuff to get strikeouts, but has been influenced by his coach at North Central Texas College, Mark Allen, whose philosophy is to try to get an out on three pitches or less.
      
"Whether I strike them out or make them put the ball in play, that helps me go longer into the game and keep my pitch count down," Stewart said. "I like to get a lot of ground balls and I feel like I pitch to contact. I like to work very quickly and I don't like to nibble. I don't try to mess around too much."

JAYS CHATTER

• Brett Lawrie was making a smooth transition to third base at spring training. He was making good plays there as well as hitting effectively, including a game-winning three-run homer against the Tigers on March 6. Lawrie, 21, was obtained from the Brewers over the winter for Shaun Marcum. Lawrie played second base last season at Double-A.

• Outfielder Anthony Gose, who was obtained from the Astros for first baseman Brett Wallace last year, showed his premium speed in early spring training games but also was prone to being picked off because of his inexperience and aggressiveness. Last year, Gose stole 45 bases, but was also caught stealing 32 times.