Notes: Gross makes club
Walker, Chulk nab bullpen jobs; Myers earns bench spot
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There's no more mystery. The Blue Jays made their final roster decisions on Thursday, all but setting their team before a two-game jaunt to Memphis and Louisville.
Pete Walker and Vinnie Chulk nabbed the final two spots in the bullpen, and Greg Myers and Gabe Gross were confirmed as the final pieces at the end of the bench. The pitching staff needed the most clarification: Kerry Ligtenberg, Justin Miller and Ryan Glynn -- among others -- learned they won't be part of the team.
"You've got to do it sooner or later. Millsy's not going to make the team," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "Ligtenberg's pitching today, but I don't see room. I talked to him the other day, and I know he's talked to [general manager] J.P. [Ricciardi]. It's not like it's coming out of the blue."
Ligtenberg was the only move with major financial repercussions. The Jays are responsible for his salary -- all $2.5 million of it. Glynn was outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse, and Miller has to clear waivers before the team or the pitcher can make any other decisions.
At the beginning of the spring, Walker's promotion seemed unlikely, at best. The right-hander struggled last season in Japan. He had surgery last summer to repair two herniated discs in his neck, a procedure that added vigor to his fastball and years to his career.
Walker will turn 36 during the first week of the season, but the Jays still see him playing a major role on their staff. If Ted Lilly can't make his scheduled start on April 10, Walker becomes an immediate contingency plan.
"We didn't sign him as an afterthought, but we didn't sign him with the idea that he'd come in here and make the impact he made," said Ricciardi. "I personally have a soft spot in my heart for Pete, just because I've known him for a long time. I've seen him pitch from the time he was in college.
"The one thing we have here is a comfort level with him. We know what he's about. We know he'll take the ball and can serve in a lot of different roles. All that aside, he pitched his [butt] off in the spring and deserves to be on the club."
Progress delayed, progress denied: Lilly's start in a minor league game on Thursday was interrupted after just six pitches. The left-hander took a line drive off his ankle and had to have X-rays to determine the extent of the damage. The incident puts his return date in jeopardy.
"That hurts, regardless. ... It would've been nice if it happened in the fourth inning, so he could get his arm work," said Gibbons. "It sets him back, regardless of how the X-ray comes out. Even if there's no fracture, I don't see him putting pressure on it for a few days to throw."
The X-rays came back negative, but his status is still uncertain. Lilly has spent most of the spring recovering from shoulder tendinitis, a condition that kept him off the mound for the first three weeks of the exhibition season. He threw one simulated game and one minor league game before Thursday's development.
The Jays were already set to place him on the DL before the season starts -- now, they have to start looking for other options on his activation date. It could be Walker, unless he's called upon in the first few games. Gibbons said the Jays have other choices: Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers were scheduled to get an extra day of rest before their second turn in the rotation.
"The 10th was going to be his day, but Chacin and Towers were both going to be pitching on five days' rest," Gibbons said. "They could slot in there. We really don't need a guy until the 12th, so we've got a couple more days. We'll see."
Foregone conclusion: Gross hit his way onto the roster, defying an early camp edict that said he'd likely start out at Triple-A Syracuse. The outfielder tied a franchise record with eight homers during the spring, making it hard for the team to stick to its initial decision.
"These things change, day-to-day. Right now, he's on the club, and we'll see how it plays out," said Ricciardi. "You've got to look at it this way: We didn't think he'd be on the club, starting the spring. He's on the club."
Gross said he learned of his fate Thursday morning at batting practice, but he only had time to make one phone call. He told his wife and planned to tell the rest of his family later in the day.
"I was excited to finally know, one way or the other. And definitely excited to know on that side of things," Gross said. "It's really been a great spring, obviously. I've swung the bat really well after coming into spring with virtually no chance of making the team. For enough people to have enough faith in me to swap that and give me a shot to open the season with Toronto, it's a really good feeling."
Quotable: "You never know what to expect. We've had a good spring, but that means nothing. It all starts on Monday. The guys showed me something, and I think we've got good balance on our team. I think we've got a good, exciting team -- a fun team to watch." -- Gibbons, issuing his final spring reaction on his roster composition
Coming up: The Blue Jays have two more exhibition games remaining, but both are at remote locations. Walker will get the ball on Friday in Memphis, and Dave Bush is scheduled to start Saturday's game in Louisville. After those games -- both against the Reds -- the Jays will have a workout at Tropicana Field on Sunday. The regular season starts on Monday.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.