DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Joey Gathright's specialty is speed. His problem is that he's not getting on base enough for the Toronto Blue Jays this spring to showcase it.
If anything is going to consign Gathright to Triple-A it's going to be his bat -- a .200 average with six singles in 30 at-bats, one walk and six strikeouts.Gathright said before the Blue Jays' game against a split squad of Boston Red Sox on Sunday was canceled because of rain that he's "a notoriously slow starter. I've just got to be patient instead of going after everything."He said he and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy have been working in the batting cage to fix the problem."I'm in the position where I'm trying to make the team," he said, "so it's either stick with what I was doing before or keep trying to get better. It's a progression. It's still early. I've got time."Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Gathright "brings that speed element that we don't have a lot of. That's a part of it, but it's not only speed. There's a lot of guys that you can get out there with the ability to run, but you've got to get on base to be able to use your speed."Rookie Mike McCoy has been doing that -- hitting .615 (8 for 13 including a double), three walks and two strikeouts."You look at the stats and McCoy's played great, he's played all over the place, and I think he's definitely opened some eyes," Anthopoulos said. "We were excited about him when we claimed him (off waivers from Colorado), but hardly anyone expected this of him. McCoy, probably more than anyone else, has really stood out."Two-thirds of the Blue Jays' outfield is set with Vernon Wells in center and Jose Bautista in right. Travis Snider is projected to start in left field, meaning Gathright, McCoy and Jeremy Reed would be competing to be the fourth outfielder.Gathright is well known for his leaping ability as well as his speed. In high school he made a running jump over his coach's car, a feat preserved on Youtube.And with Kansas City in 2008, he stole home runs from Toronto's Aaron Hill in consecutive games with above-the-wall catches."He gives me a hard time about those plays every day," said Gathright, whose locker adjoins Hill's in the clubhouse. "The other day (in batting practice) he hit me with a line drive right on the butt cheek, so I guess he paid me back."Since being taken by Tampa Bay in the 32nd round of the 2001 amateur draft, Gathright has been with the Rays, Royals, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, playing in 445 big league games and 482 in the minors, mostly in Double-A or Triple-A. He signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays in December."It can be frustrating," Gathright said. "You come out, have good a spring, and you still end up going to Triple-A or being a backup. But I'm not worried. I've still got a lot of baseball left in me."