Outlook: Happ will battle for rotation spot in 2014

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- J.A. Happ didn't report to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Saturday, the second day in a row the veteran left-hander has been absent from the Blue Jays' clubhouse.

Some might view it as an odd coincidence that Happ hasn't been seen since general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Happ's spot in the rotation was no longer guaranteed, but manager John Gibbons said Saturday there's nothing to those conspiracy theories. Instead, Happ is simply staying off his feet and resting his sore back at home.

"Why is that odd? I think they just want him to stay off his feet," Gibbons said. "If the doctor tells you stay off your feet, stay off your feet.

"He's not dead, I'll tell you that," Gibbons added, laughing.

Anthopoulos said Thursday that Happ, who had been considered a lock for the Opening Day rotation along with R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle, has been battling a sore back amid two rough Grapefruit League appearances, but the club expects the lefty to be a part of the rotation. Still, Anthopoulos told reporters, "there could be two" rotation spots up for grabs this spring.

Gibbons insisted Saturday that Anthopoulos' comments and Happ's absence were unrelated.

"He's staying off his feet. There's no conspiracy. You follow the doctor's orders," Gibbons said. "Put it this way: I wouldn't read too much into it."

Rotation contenders look sharp on Saturday

MIN@TOR: Hutchison fans five over three innings

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons expects the wide open competition for the final spots in Toronto's rotation to bring out the best in the potential candidates, and he got a taste Saturday of how that might play out.

Three of the pitchers in the running -- Drew Hutchison, Esmil Rogers and Kyle Drabek -- acquitted themselves well in the Blue Jays' 4-3 win over the Twins at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Hutchison struck out five and allowed two runs, both on a Byron Buxton homer, on two hits and a walk in three innings. Rogers followed that up with a four-strikeout, two-hit performance over three scoreless innings. Then Drabek pitched two effective innings, giving up one run on three hits with one strikeout.

"We've got some good options and we've got some good guys to choose from. It'll go down to the wire, probably, that's the way it's going to work out," Gibbons said. "They're all throwing good. I'm very pleased."

Hutchison said his goal was to pound the strike zone, and he was particularly pleased with how well his changeup has come along.

"I feel really, really confident with my changeup. Today, I wanted to throw it more," Hutchison said. "I talked to [catcher Dioner Navarro] a little bit about that, and I threw some really good ones today."

Rogers also said he felt "great" as he mixed in all his pitches Saturday, and he was encouraged by the way he got out of a fourth-inning jam.

Drabek, meanwhile, is still searching for a smooth delivery after tweaking his mechanics. The right-hander said he's been trying to raise his hands slightly before releasing the ball in an effort to avoid falling off to the side quite so often.

"Coming back, I had lowered them and it felt good, and I guess at the time I had lost it. I'm just trying to get that back," Drabek said. "Once you stop feeling it, I feel like that's kind of when you've gotten where you need to be, once you're starting to get smooth and repeating it the whole time. That's what I'm looking for."

Rasmus, Janssen recovering from minor injuries

PIT@TOR: Rasmus' RBI single makes it 1-0

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays received positive reports on two recovering players Saturday, as centre fielder Colby Rasmus resumed baseball activities and reliever Casey Janssen played catch.

Rasmus, who's been out more than a week with a stiff neck, played catch and hit off a tee in a batting cage, and he is scheduled to do the same routine Sunday. If all goes well, Toronto manager John Gibbons said, Rasmus could return to the Blue Jays' lineup for Tuesday's exhibition against the Canada National Junior Team.

"[Rasmus] said he's fine," Gibbons said. "He'll do it again tomorrow and should be ready to play in a game Tuesday."

Gibbons also offered an encouraging update on Janssen, who's been limited by a sore shoulder. The manager said "it won't be long" before Janssen is back on schedule, though he will have to throw off a mound a few times before he's ready to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.

"I would think maybe next weekend he might get in a game, or maybe the following week," Gibbons said. "As long as he's got a couple weeks left [before the regular season begins], he should be fine."

Worth noting

• The Blue Jays optioned pitchers Liam Hendriks and Mickey Storey to Minor League camp following Saturday's 4-3 win over the Twins.

• Right-hander Dustin McGowan was scheduled to pitch in Saturday's game, but he had to stay home due to an illness that kept him up all night Friday.