Blue Jays Add Triple-A Depth

TORONTO—During an organizational meeting early in the offseason, the Blue Jays put their potential roster for Triple-A Buffalo on a board and saw a gaping hole for the Bisons rotation.

“There were five guys named ‘blank,’ ” team president Mark Shapiro said. “The guys named blank don’t contribute many innings. We had to deal with that challenge.”

Those blank spaces were filled in late December by the signings of Roberto Hernandez, Brad Penny, Scott Copeland and Wade LeBlanc to minor league deals with invitations to spring training. Combined with an earlier minor league deal with Scott Diamond, the Blue Jays now have depth.

“All five of those guys have major league experience, have had success in the big leagues in some capacity,” assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish said.

Hernandez, who has history from his Cleveland days with both Shapiro and new general manager Ross Atkins, may end up in competition for the fifth starter’s spot with the Blue Jays. His career ground ball percentage of 56.5 percent is a good fit for Rogers Centre. In 20 games with the Houston Astros last season, 11 of them starts, he went 3-5, 4.36 with a 1.37 WHIP.

“What’s appealing about him and what he could potentially bring to us is the ability to sink the ball and get ground balls,” Tinnish said.

Penny spent the year with Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox system, recording a 1.98 groundout-to-airout ratio, while walking just 33 batters over 135 innings

“He’s another guy who gets a ton of groundballs,” Tinnish said. “Not a huge strikeout rate, but threw a ton of strikes and got a bunch of ground balls. There’s track record there. Guys who have that history, who have done it and can show they can still pitch, why not take a shot?”


• The Blue Jays claimed Junior Lake on waivers from the Orioles, and he’s out of options like fellow outfielder Ezequiel Carrera. Both are unlikely to win a big league job if Michael Saunders is healthy, but will need to clear waivers.

• Among the club’s other 40-man roster players who head into spring training out of options are relievers Steve Delabar and Chad Jenkins plus catching prospect A.J. Jimenez.

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