Camp Report: Speier and Johnson Back

In today's spring training report we focus in on Justin Speier and Reed Johnson. Both players are on the road to returning, and are likely to play in games this week. Bengie Molina is not worried about his .190 average and we talk to him to find out why. With spring training halfway done, we talk to J.P. Ricciardi to ask about the progress of second baseman Aaron Hill, and right fielder Eric Hinske. All this and more in todays Camp Report.

Both Justin Speier and Reed Johnson got the green light Tuesday morning.

Speier, who has been out of action with an injured tendon in the middle finger of his right hand, threw a simulated game against batters including Johnson, who hasn't seen any game action because of a sore right elbow. Johnson is progressing rapidly and could be back in left field in another couple of days.

Speier, meanwhile, threw about 30 pitches and is scheduled to make his first appearance Friday.

"I let it go and I was really happy," Speier said. "It felt great. There was no pain and I was throwing free and easy. My location was a little bit off, but that's to be expected."

Speier said that with 17 games remaining in the Jays' spring training schedule, he should be able to make seven or eight appearances, which he says is plenty.

Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg liked what he saw.

"He threw very well, much better than I expected," Arnsberg said. "He had good velocity, his slider was tight and he was able to throw to both halves of the plate."


--C Gregg Zaun, who had been out of action since March 8 with a sore calf muscle, was back behind the plate Tuesday.

--RHP Josh Towers walked three batters in four innings Tuesday in a split-squad game against Cleveland. Towers, a strike-throwing machine, last year issued two or fewer walks in 32 of his 33 starts and didn't walk a batter in 12 of them. His high last year was a four-walk game. --C Bengie Molina is hitting just .190 (4-for-21), but at this point, that's the least of his concerns.

"When there's a week left and I start to play more, then I start thinking about hitting," Molina said. "I've got a lot of things in my head right now with the pitchers, and I'm trying to get in tune with them, so I don't care about hitting right now."

--One of the question marks for the Jays this season is how INF Aaron Hill, a shortstop by trade, adjusts to being the fulltime second baseman as Orlando Hudson's replacement.

"I think Aaron's a work in progress," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He's done a good job turning the double play, and the more repetitions he gets, the better he's going to be."

When asked to compare him to Hudson, a Gold Glove winner last year, Ricciardi replied: "He won't have the range that Hudson did, but I think his hands are as good and his arm is stronger than Orlando's. I think he'll be fine."

--The other question mark this spring is how former 3B/1B Eric Hinske adapts to right field.

With Reed Johnson out with an injured elbow and Frank Catalanotto, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells involved with the World Baseball Classic, Hinske has received plenty of playing time.

"I think he's been fine," GM J.P. Ricciardi said. "He hasn't had a ton of exceptional chances, but on the routine ones he's done fine and he gets the ball in quick."

--RHP Jamie Vermilyea, who was selected by Boston from Toronto in the Rule 5 draft, was returned to the Jays and has been assigned to the team's minor league camp.

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