Category: Dailies

Always Fun Beating the Yankees

In my last post, I was giving my views on the Jays series in Boston against the Red Sox.  My thought, given the pitching matchups, that the Jays should come out of the series at 2 and 2.  In the end, they ended up losing three of the four games at Fenway. After winning the first game Friday night (just), Jo Jo Reyes laid an egg on Saturday and the team really was never given a chance to win. Plus Josh Beckett shut down the Jays’ bats without too much difficulty. Sunday was a little more of the same. Jesse Litsch wasn’t terrible but a few bloop hits and a mistake cost him early and Jon Lester again silenced the Jays’ offence. 

I wasn’t too upset about the back to back losses against Beckett and Lester. The performance by Reyes was just painful to watch as he had no command of any of his pitches, couldn’t throw strikes and when he did get something over the plate, it was hit hard. 

I expected the Jays to get out of Boston with a split having Ricky Romero on the mound on Monday facing a struggling Daisuke Matsusaka. Instead it was Romero who struggled and Dice-K pitched great and the Jays got shelled again.

Not a great road trip in the least. They lost two of three in Anaheim, two of three in Seattle and then three and four in Boston.  As a reward, the Blue Jays got to travel home to the Rogers Centre for a two game set against the Yankees.

Last night’s game started off promising.  Jose Bautista homered off of A.J. Burnett in the bottom of the first giving the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead. Kyle Drabek was holding his own after some trouble in the second inning against the formidable Yankees lineup.  The game turned in the sixth when with the score tied 2-2, Mark Teixeira took Drabek deep for a two-run shot giving the Yankess a 4-2 lead.  At this point I was participating in Rogers Sportsnet’s live gamecast and the live chat took an ugly turn at this point.  

Many of the fans participating in this on-line chat immediately decided that the Jays recent slump was continuing and that the 2011 season was lost. In summary, many of the conclusions being reached by these negative Nancys was that Adam Lind, Aaron Hill and Travis Snider were busts and needed to be moved out of town.  Some were suggesting that guys like Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames and Zach Stewart be called up immediately.  Others suggested that the Jays loosen the purse strings and get active on the free agent market this coming offseason. 

The Negative Nancys had pretty much written this game off heading into the bottom of the sixth but the Blue Jays mounted a bit of a rally. Aaron Hill lead the inning off with a single. He then stole second but injured his hamstring doing so and was removed from the game. After a Jose Molina pop-out and a Corey Patterson walk, Edwin Encarnacion doubled off of A.J. Burnett to bring the Jays within one run and runners on second and third with only one out.  It looked as if the Jays would at least tie the game or possibly take the lead but David Patterson, in relief of Burnett, struck out both Yunel Escobar and Travis Snider to end the threat.

This put the Nancys into a frenzy. Travis Snider was being compared to Eric Hinske and they were calling for him to be sent to Las Vegas.  Jason Frasor did not help things as after getting Jeter to ground out, he surrendered a solo home run to Curtis Granderson restoring the Yankees lead to two runs.  This was it, the game was over, AA didn’t know what he was doing, the Jays will never be a contender etc. etc.

The Yankees then went to their shut-down trio of relievers to close the game out.  Joba Chamberlain in the seventh got the Jays to go three up and three down.  Rafael Soriano came in the bottom of the eighth and despite a walk to Corey Patterson, retired the Jays with relative ease.  

After the Yankees were held off the board in the top of the ninth, the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera. A two-run lead with perhaps the greatest closer the game has ever seen in the game. The Negative Nancies were ready to slam the coffin shut on the Jays. However, something very interesting happened.  Yunel Escobar doubled to lead off the inning. The Negative Nancys’ whipping boy, Travis Snider, grounded out to second advancing Escobar to third. Jose Bautista drew a walk but the last pitch squirted away from Russel Martin allowing Escobar to score from third. The Jays were within one run with one out. Adam Lind had a great at bat versus Rivera and finally singled to right allowing Bautista to go first to third.  The comeback was nearly complete. John MacDonald came up next and executed a perfect squeeze bunt up the first base line.  Teixeira charging in attempted to go home to get Bautista but his throw was too late and the Jays had tied it up.  The Jays then loaded the bases on a Jose Molina single to left. Brett Gardiner was playing shallow and got to the ball quickly so Butterfield held Lind at third. The bases were loaded with Corey Patterson at the plate who was hot of late but Rivera induced a double-play to end the inning.

The Negative Nancys were a little subdued at this point. There were a few comments stating that it was a nice comeback but if the Jays didn’t win, it would be a disaster. More comments just simply stated that because the Jays didn’t win it in the ninth, they were still going to lose the game.  However, Jon Rauch shut down the Yankees in the top of the tenth and things got started early in the bottom half of the inning when Edwin Encarnacion led off with a single off of Ivan Nova.  After a failed bunt attempt, Jayson Nix flied out to deep right and then Yunel Escobar flied out to deep centre bringing Travis Snider to the plate with two outs.  The Nancys were already writing off the inning. However, Travis silenced them all with a double to right centre scoring Encarnacion.  Game over, Jays win!     

This was a great win for the club. Yes they had a disasterous road trip which pretty much erased a good start at home.  However, nobody is running away with the east at the moment and the Jays are still in the mix. They have one more game with the Yankees before the red hot Rays come to town. From there, the Jays head out to Texas to face the AL Champs for four games, then to New York for a three game set to close out the month.  Not easy. If they manage to get out of this month around .500, it will be a decent start to the year in my opinion.  We’ll see.

The Jays finally activated Frank Francisco off the DL yesterday but in somewhat of a surprise move, they sent Jesse Litsch to Las Vegas. If this move was predicated on performance alone, it would be a huge surprise given what Jo Jo Reyes has shown us in 2011. However, Reyes is out of options so would have to clear waivers before he could be assigned to Vegas (much like David Purcey) and he would most likely be claimed. As a result, the Jays wanted to hang on to Reyes and give him a chance to rebound (they like his arm). 

Other roster moves are imminent as Brandon Morrow is ready to make his return to the lineup on Saturday.  Morrow’s return would likely see Luis Perez returned to Vegas.  Also, the Hill injury may lead to him going on the DL and if so, would result in the recall of Mike McCoy.  Scott Posednik is also ready to get back on the field and should be reporting to Las Vegas soon to get back into game shape. Rajai Davis is also nearing a return.  Then the question will be what happens to the outfield picture for the Blue Jays with Snider, Davis, Bautista, Rivera, Patterson and Posednik all healthy.  Based on performance, Rivera should be the odd man out but he carries a large salary and would be tough to deal and get anything in return.  Another option would be to buy Rivera out of his last year of his contract and release him.  If that doesn’t occur then a decision between Patterson and Posednik will have to be made.  Given the way Patterson has performed thus far, Posednik could be the odd man out. However, Posednik may not be quite healthy yet or suffer a setback in his recovery so no need to speculate as to his fate just yet.

Well hopefully the Jays take another from the Yankees tonight before jetting off to the Lonestar State. Bartolo Colon is making his first start as a Yankee against Brett Cecil who is coming off his best start of the season last Friday in Fenway.   

Bring on the BoSox

The Blue Jays open up a four game set at Fenway Park in Boston on Jackie Robinson Day against the last place Red Sox.  I had to describe the Red Sox as last place as I really don’t think this will hold for long. 

The Red Sox have struggled out of the gate but the team is stacked and its a 162 game season. They’ll get back on track soon enough. I’m just hoping it’s not this weekend.

That being said, things look good for the Red Sox this weekend. As a result of a rainout in Baltimore, they’ve had two days off to rest and because of the extra day off they got to skip John Lackey’s turn in the rotation.  As a result, the Blue Jays get to face Buchholz in game one, Beckett in game two, Jon Lester in game three, and Matsusaka in game four. The Jays are countering with a struggling Brett Cecil in game one, Reyes in game two, Litsch in game three and Romero in game four.

Buchholz has pitched well against the Jays in the past but sports a 7.20 ERA heading into tonight’s game.  That coincidentally is Brett Cecil’s ERA as well.  So you have two starters who both had impressive 2010 campaigns but struggling so far in 2011.  It should be interesting tonight to see if either of these two pitchers regain their 2010 form. 

For the rest of the series there appears to be pitching mismatches. Saturday and Sunday appear to favour the Red Sox with Beckett and their ace Jon Lester throwing against Reyes and Litsch respectively.  Beckett looked horrible in his first start but then looked like his old self against the Yankees last week. Lester is a Cy Young contender and will be tough to beat.   So I give the edge to the Red Sox for these two days.

Monday sees a Romero vs. Matsusaka matchup with definitely favours the Blue Jays. Matsusaka has been anything but impressive this year.  Romero has been lights out in his three starts.

The Red Sox lineup is as impressive as any despite the team’s early struggles. Adrian Gonzalez just inked an new contract extension so he’ll be ready to live up to that contract to the Red Sox faithful. Another newcomer is of course, Carl Crawford.  Crawford is struggling but the Jays have seen him enough times in Tampa to know what he can do.  These two added to an already formidable lineup that includes the likes of Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ellsbury.  Also given how well the Red Sox play at home in Fenway (to me, the biggest home field advantage in the majors), it’s going to be a tough series.

To me, if the Jays come out of this series at 2 and 2, it will be a success and anything more would be a bonus. 

How do the Jays look 12 Games In?

Well here we are 12 games into the the Blue Jays’ season and the team sits comfortably at 6 and 6. This record could be better for certain as in five of the six games that the Blue Jays lost, they lost by only one run and the other loss was by two runs. They’ve been in every game to date.  There was also the horse-bleep baserunner interference call in Anaheim that cost them a game and of course the disaster in Seattle where the bullpen blew a five-run lead.

So twelve games in, here are my first impressions on the 2011 Blue Jays

The Offense/Lineup

There have been some bright lights and some disappointments thus far.  To me the brightest lights have been Yunel Escobar, J.P. Arencibia, and Jose Bautista.

Escobar has been on fire since the start of the season. He leads the team in  average and OBP and has reached base safely in every game. He also, of course has that walk-off homerun against the A’s on April.  Hopefully there will be no lingering effects from that mild concussion he suffered.

Arencibia started the season off with a bang with two homeruns in the season opener. He leads the team in slugging percentage and has legged out two triples as well. His defence has not been an issue.

Bautista hasn’t been hitting balls out of the park like a mad man but he still has three to lead the team including that big 3 run homerun in the series finale against Seattle that turned the game around for the Blue Jays. He’s hitting at a .353 clip so far and has drawn ten walks already this season despite missing three games for the birth of his daughter.

Honourable mentions go to Jose Molina, John MacDonald and Jason Nix who have performed well in part-time roles.

The biggest disappointments for me thus far have been Juan Rivera and Aaron Hill.  Rivera had a decent spring and swung the bat well but so far this season he has been absolutely terrible. He’s slow, he looks uninspired and is next to useless in the field. So when Rivera is not swinging the bat well, he doesn’t add too much to the equation. 

Aaron Hill continues to struggle.  He has an OBP below .200 and has only 8 hits so far this year. Quickly perusing the Jays’ box scores this year, I don’t believe he has a multiple hit game yet but I could be wrong there. Either way, Hill continues to scuffle. Perhaps the missed time during spring training has affected him.  One bright spot is that he does have seven RBIs thus far, only one behind the team leaders; Adam Lind and Travis Snider.

Speaking of Lind and Snider, they haven’t exactly torn the cover off the ball but despite slow starts to the season, they still have been contributing.  Snider has impressed me with his play in left field and his newfound ability to gun runners out trying to take that extra base.  He seems to have more plate discipline this year and he is advancing runners even if he’s not reaching base.  Lind is playing a decent first base and has hit relatively well so far this season. He’s not putting up the numbers that fans expect of Lind but I think that will come. He’s impressed me with his ability to hit lefties (batting .357 against them so far) but for some reason he has struggled against righties (batting .206).  After batting .360 in the opening two series at Rogers Centre, he has struggled on this road trip only batting a buck thirty. 

From the rest of the lineup, I think we’re getting about what I expected. Encarnacion can be productive but is unreliable in the field. Davis has been impressive when he’s got on base but has struggled to do so consistently and is battling an ankle injury.  Corey Patterson has just returned to the lineup after missing most of the start of the season with a concussion (thank you Josh Beckett) but has been impressive in the games he’s played and has more than made up for Davis being absent.  As I noted earlier, the part-time players like Molina, MacDonald and Nix have all contributed nicely. Nix has hit some timely homeruns and played better defence at third than Encarnacion. MacDonald is stellar defensively but has also had a few decent games at the plate.  Molina has shown some power with a .706 slugging percentage thus far in limited action.

In general the baserunning game and aggressiveness has been impressive. Yes the team has been caught in a few run downs and there have been a few baserunning mistakes but on the whole, this new philosophy of being aggressive on the basepaths has paid off. 

Starting Pitching

The starters have, on the whole, been effective.  Ricky Romero has been brilliant in all of his three starts. Kyle Drabek has shown he has impressive stuff and the ability to get outs even when he’s struggling with control. Jesse Litsch has been solid in his two starts.  Jo Jo Reyes has been both ugly and good. He was awful in his first start against Oakland and then in his second start against the Angels, he was effective holding the Angels to three runs (only 1 earned) over seven innings. 

Brett Cecil has struggled in his first two starts.  In his first start against Minnesota, he really only had one bad inning but he was only around for five. His last outing against the Angels he struggled again and despite the run support provided by the offence he could never keep the lead.  Much has been made about his lack of velocity coming out of spring training but from what I’ve seen, the bigger problem is his location. He seems to have struggled with keeping the ball down in the zone and has been hurt when the ball is up. 

The big question is who will be the odd man out when Brandon Morrow returns.  Odds on favourite is Jo Jo Reyes but the Blue Jays love his arm and if Cecil continues to struggle they may decide to keep Reyes in the rotation and have Cecil work out his issues in Vegas.

The Bullpen

It’s hard to really put a gauge on this bullpen so far. They’ve looked good in some games and terrible in others (see Seattle!).  To me, the mid relievers like Janssen, Camp, Villeneuva, et. al have been impressive.  Mark Rzepczynski has been lights out for the most part (again see Seattle) and seems to have found his niche in the pen.  The back end of the bullpen hasn’t been so good in my opinion. Jason Frasor is Jason Frasor. He can be effective and strike out the side but he also can come into the game with the game on the line and give up that key hit/homerun etc. I don’t like him as a late-inning reliever but over the years he has not been terrible in this role. Jon Rauch as closer does not instill a whole lot of confidence in me but I think Frank Francisco’s return is imminent so Rauch can slip back into a set-up type role with Octavio Dotel.  Dotel looked great in his two appearances against Anaheim but was also part of that disaster in Seattle. I think he’ll be effective as well as a set-up man as long as he doesn’t get to face lefties too often.

 

It’s Opening Day!

It’s finally here! I’m in Windsor, Ontario today for work, just across the river from Detroit, and just got back from watching the Tigers lose to the Yankees at a local watering hole.  The place was full of Tigers fans as one could imagine but of course there were two loud and obnoxious Yankees fans there spoiling everybody’s mood!

I will tell you this, if the Yankees get past the seventh inning with a lead, it’s going to be really tough to beat them with Soriano coming in the eighth and Rivera closing out ninth.

The Blue Jays kick off their season tomorrow night with a lineup that should look something like this:

1. Davis 8

2. Escobar 6

3. Bautista 9

4. Lind 3

5. Hill 4

6. Rivera DH

7. Snider 7

8. Encarnacion 5

9. Arencibia 2

Now this is not exactly what we were looking at from the beginning of Spring Training. It’s close but Encarnacion was to be the DH, Bautista at third and Rivera in right.  For whatever reason, John Farrell is opting to put Bautista in right, move Rivera to DH and (shudder) Encarnacion to third.  The Blue Jays are citing that this makes them better defensively and that a leaner more agile Encarnacion will be just fine at third. Now all Blue Jays fans know that Encarnacion’s mobility was never really questioned. What was questioned was his ability to throw the ball to first base accurately! I suggest those taking in games at the Rogers Centre sitting anywhere in the vicinity of first base either bring a glove, wear a helmet or be prepared to duck!

Either way, the lineup is solid offensively one through nine.

The rotation is set as we all know until Brandon Morrow comes back. Morrow’s return will result in one of Litsch or Reyes moving to the bullpen or Drabek going to Las Vegas.

John Farrell announced that his bullpen will shake out like this:

  • Rauch will close with any combination of Camp, Frasor or Rzepczynski working late inning relief.
  • Mid to long relief will go to Purcey, Janssen, and Villenueva

Now this will all go into flux when Dotel and Francisco return (not to mention Brandon Morrow). I think Dotel will be back first and in that case you might see Camp or Frasor move to a mid-relief role and Janssen is a prime candidate to get sent down only because he has options left. He’s actually pitched very well this spring.  When Morrow returns to the rotation there is a possibility that Reyes or Litsch could be sent to the pen but that would mean one of Purcey or Villenueva would have to be exposed to waivers. The more likely scenario is Drabek gets sent down and Morrow slides into the number two spot in the rotation.

Anyways, I have to run to go have dinner with some work colleagues. I should be posting later tonight with my thoughts on how the Jays will fare this season!

 

 

 

Six days and counting…

I’m sitting here on my couch listening to the Jays take on the Phillies split squad and just counting down the days until the Blue Jays open up the 2011 season against the Twins this coming Friday in Toronto. Jays are up 6-5 in the eighth as I type. Jon Rauch getting some work with the game on the line.

There were some surprising and not so surprising developments that have taken place since I last posted five days ago. 

From the not so surprising category, Brett Lawrie was sent down to minor league camp earlier this week and will open the season in Las Vegas. Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco both won’t be ready for opening day but Dotel should be close to being ready but there is no timetable on Francisco yet. The good news is that Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage in Francisco’s shoulder. 

From the surprising category, out of nowhere and after having a lights out spring, Brandon Morrow was placed on the DL with tightness in his right forearm.  The Jays maintain that this is just a precautionary move and that Morrow should only miss one start but anything in the forearm/elbow area is cause for concern. However, I refuse to panic just yet and hope to see Morrow healthy and throwing soon.

With Morrow’s injury, the starting rotation is now set. Ricky Romero is in the #1 slot, followed by Drabek, Cecil, Reyes and Litsch. The rotation was apparently set by sticking with the spring training schedule but what pops out at me is Drabek being in the #2 slot. This would have been Morrow’s slot so when Morrow comes back does this mean Drabek is headed for AAA? One start for each pitcher is surely not going to trump what management saw over the course of the spring. Well we’ll just wait and see.

Brett Cecil appears to be having some issues with the velocity on his fastball. Apparently this is not uncommon for Cecil so we’re being told not to be concerned. However, count me as one who is concerned!

In other injury news, Scott Richmond has been sent down as he continues to battle back from shoulder surgery. He will be used as a starter in Vegas. Jesse Carlson still is experiencing discomfort in his elbow and still hasn’t resumed throwing.  Corey Patterson got beaned by Josh Bard in Friday’s game against the Sox but appears to be fine.

I’m hoping the injury bug is not going to linger around the 2011 Blue Jays. The pitching staff has been dinged but the lineup appears to be healthy with the exception of Scott Posednik.  Aaron Hill is playing regularly and seems to be recovered from is right quad injury.  I’m very nervous about not having Morrow, Dotel, and Francisco ready for opening day. The Jays have a brutal April schedule so the probability of them getting into a big hole early is getting higher everyday. 

In the next few days, I’ll write about where I think the Blue Jays will finish this year and what kind of season I expect some of the Jays will have.  Stay tuned….

 

Less than Two Weeks to go!

I’ve been busy at work and with a 20-month old son at home, time has been sparse to post but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention to what is going on in Florida.  Here is my take on some of the stories playing out

Brett Lawrie

With less than two weeks to go, the focus is beginning to shift from how the organization’s prospects are performing in Spring to how the actual regulars are performing and how the opening day lineup is going to look.  There is one exception and that is Brett Lawrie (pronounced “Lorry” or “Lori” or “Laurie” but definitely not LAW-rie).  Lawrie is still performing well and Jays fans everywhere seem to be asking whether he is going to make the team out of spring. 

I’m not the first to say this and I won’t be the last but Brett Lawrie is not going to be in the Blue Jays opening day lineup.  He’s 20. He’s adapting to a new position. He’s never had a AAA at bat.  He is definitely knocking on the door and I think we’ll see him in the lineup at some point in 2011 even if it when rosters are expanded in September but there is no rational reason to bring him to the majors just yet.

Besides the reasons I listed above regarding Lawrie’s age, his lack of any AAA experience and adapting to a new position, the Blue Jays have a starting third baseman in Jose Bautista who just happened to hit 54 homeruns last year.  Now I know the popular argument is that the Blue Jays can just move Bautista to right field. What do you do about Juan Rivera then? I know he is viewed as just a throw in on the Vernon Wells deal and considered a spare part but he is a proven major league outfielder who is capable (and has) put up respectable numbers.  If you put Bautista in right then Rivera ends up splitting time with Snider in left or Encarncion in right. Then you also lose a bench spot that could go to a Corey Patterson, Scott Posednik (if he ever gets healthy) , or Mike McCoy.  

Lawrie is going to Las Vegas!

The Final Spots in the Rotation

Romero, Cecil, Morrow then ????

At the beginning of spring the #4 and #5 spots were open to any of Jesse Litsch, Kyle Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Jo-Jo Reyes or Zach Stewart.

Stewart has been sent to minor league camp and clearly needs more work.  We learned this weekend that Rzepczynski is no longer being considered for a spot in the rotation and is now competing for a spot in the bullpen (more on that below) leaving three arms for the final two spots in the rotation.

After another strong start yesterday, Jesse Litsch has, in my opinion, locked down one of those two spots. He’s been steady all spring, has regained velocity on his fastball and has experience at the big league level.  That leaves Reyes and Drabek for the last spot in the rotation.  What Reyes has going for him is that he is out of options so would be exposed to waivers if the Jays try sending him down to Vegas.  That being said, Reyes could also be used in the bullpen. What Drabek has going for him is that he has performed well in three big league starts and has fared well in spring thus far.  What Drabek has against him is that he can be sent down to Las Vegas and by doing so for at least a month, the Blue Jays keep him under control for one more season.

So this is where I’m not quite sure where Anthopolous and Farrell are headed. Prior to spring training I thought Drabek was a lock for the fourth spot but when I learned that the Jays could delay Drabek’s free agency eligibility by one season by keeping him in AAA for one month I started to wonder if that is what the Jays would do.  However, I don’t think this is weighing into their thought process too much. I think they’re weighing whether Drabek has anything left to prove at the AAA level vs. what they should do with Reyes.  In one scenario, the Blue Jays think Drabek is ready and they don’t want to risk losing Reyes so they slot Reyes in the bullpen as long relief and Drabek gets the spot. In the second scenario, where they think Drabek is ready and don’t think they have a spot for Reyes, they give Drabek the spot and lose Reyes on waivers.  In a third scenario, they thing Reyes will make a capable fifth starter and Drabek would benefit from additional time in AAA.  Of these scenarios I think the first is the most likely followed by the third scenario, but to me this is the biggest question.

The Bullpen

At the start of spring the focus was on not so much who was going to be in the bullpen but who wasn’t.  The team had Francisco, Rauch and Dotel as potential closers. Camp and Frasor as established relievers leaving players such as Casey Janssen, David Purcey, Carlos Villenueva, Josh Roenicke, Scott Richmond, Jesse Carlson and possibly Jo-Jo Reyes and Mark Rzepczynski battling it out for the final few spots.

Now as it stands today, you have Dotel battling a hamstring injury and Francisco (the front runner for closer) off to see Dr. James Andrews over a tight pectoral muscle.  Not good, especially Francisco. He hasn’t pitched in game action this spring and to me this sounds like trouble in his shoulder. Hopefully this is precautionary and he’ll be able to start throwing soon and hopefully be with the club at some point in mid to late April. If not, I’m guessing the problem is more serious and he’ll be out for an extended period of time if not for the entire season.

That leaves Jon Rauch as closer, Frasor and Camp as late inning relief setting up Rauch.  So here is how I see the pen shaping up for Opening day (assuming Dotel and Francisco aren’t ready and Drabek is in the rotation):

Closer: Rauch

Set-up: Camp, Frasor

Mid-long relief: Reyes, Rzepczynski, Purcey, Janssen, Villenueva, Roenicke, Carlson (or Ray if Carlson still has knee troubles)

Assuming Dotel returns in early April I would think Roenicke or Rzepczynski are the first two candidates to head to triple A and Janssen gets stretched to long relief.  If Francisco is ready to go shortly after that I would assume the other of Roenicke or Rzep would go to Vegas.

 

Aaron Hill

Aaron Hill is still battling a sore right quad. This concerns me as an early season problem with his hamstring last year sent his season off the rails and he never really gained any consistency at the plate. At least this year, Aaron is taking part in fielding drills, taking BP and is getting some action in minor league games. He’s just not going hard out of the batter’s box as this seems to be the only situation where his sore leg is still bothering him.  He’s playing in his last minor league game today and if all goes well he should be in the lineup the rest of the way with the big club and be ready for opening day.

 

Snider, Lind and Bautista

This isn’t really a big story in spring training but this is what I’ve been following.  Bautista looks as if he’s swinging the bat well in Spring Training and should be the player he was last season. He may not be 54 homerun Jose Bautista but he looks as if he’s going to take some heat off of Alex Anthopolous for inking him to the big contract.  To me the player that is primed for a breakout year is Travis Snider. He has been hitting the ball hard in the games I have seen and is fourth in slugging percentage of the team regulars behind Davis, Bautista, and Adam Lind.  Spring training stats are practically meaningless but nonetheless it is encouraging to see Travis hitting well.

Adam Lind is also having a great spring. I think being on the field everyday will help him stay in the game and focus less on each individual at bat.  He seems to be adapting just fine to first base as well which is also good news. 

I think a return to form from Lind, plus a breakout year from Travis Snider will be more than enough to replace the production of the departed Vernon Wells.

I could ramble on a few more points and stories but I think I’ll wrap this up and save the rest for another post. 

If you have taken the time to read this, I thank you!

You can also follow me on twitter @OK_Blue_Jays

 

Where are the Runs? :)

PANIC! The Blue Jays did not score any runs in their first two spring games against the Tigers and finally broke through in the seventh inning yesterday against the Phillies!

Actually there is nothing to panic about. It’s spring training and it’s early. If this was the last week of March and the Blue Jays, with many of their regulars in the lineup, were getting routinely shut out there might be cause for concern.  Right now, the boys are just getting their at-bats in, getting used to facing actual pitchers again and figuring out what golf course they’re playing later that day (well everyone except for Travis Snider) or what they’ll be having for that night (especially Travis Snider).

What has caught my interest over the first three games is the battle for the final two rotation spots.  Litsch and Rzepczynski both pitched well in their first spring outings and Jo-Jo Reyes struggled a bit yesterday against the Phils. The Jays defence kicked the ball around a bit yesterday (five errors) so it’s tough to pin the runs the Phillies scored on the pitchers.  Kyle Drabek was scratched from his start yesterday due to a stiff neck so he’ll get the call on Saturday.

Mike Wilner of the FAN 590 in Toronto seems to think that Drabek is going to start the year in Vegas and get called up in May to delay his free agency by a year. The same applies to Zach Stewart. Thus, one can deduce that Wilner thinks the battle for the final two rotation spots is between Reyes, Litsch and Rzepczynski.  I think if one follows this line of logic of letting contract status be a deciding factor a little further, given Reyes is out of options, he would be the favourite for the fourth spot with the fifth spot being a battle between Rzepczynski and Litsch. 

Now when I start seeing the Jays beat writers and other media members start making the same type of assumptions and conclusions about players and say its “just a hunch”, makes me think that they’ve heard from someone in the organization who has given them some insider information but either that the information can be substantiated or the source has told them to keep it quiet.  If it comes to be true, it gives the writer credibility and makes him/her look intelligent and if it doesn’t nobody really remembers because it was just a ‘hunch’ they had.  Now I have zero experience as a member of the media so I could be completely off base with this observation.

 

The other interesting storyline thus far this spring is how the Jays top prospects are making out.  From all I’ve read, Anthony Gose is turning heads with his speed, Adeiny Hechavarria is impressing with his defence and Brett Lawrie is proving capable at third base. Manager John Farrell has stated that Gose and Hechavarria are playing major league calibre defence at this point in their young careers and just now have to mature at the plate.  Lawrie has yet to record a hit but again not many other Jays have recorded many hits at this point!

The prospect that has piqued my interest the most simply because I didn’t know too much about him is Eric Thames. Thames was in New Hampshire last season and tied for second in the Eastern League in homeruns with 27.  He was drafted in the 7th round in the 2008 draft but according to www.jaysprospects.com he slipped down in the draft over concerns of an injury to his quad that he suffered prior to the draft.  Thames has only recorded on hit in five at bats thus far but that one hit was a  triple yesterday against the Phillies.  He looks to be getting a strong look this Spring Training by Jays management just to see how close Thames is to being major league ready. He’ll likely start the year in AAA or maybe AA as there is no room in the Jays outfield at the moment. However, he is likely a candidate for a September call-up or possibly sooner if injuries strike. 

If you’re interested at all in reading about Jays prospects, as I clearly focus on the major league level and don’t have too much knowledge of what is going on in the minors, I would suggest checking out www.jaysprospects.com .  Through Twitter, I have been discovering all kinds of interesting Blue Jays blogs and sites. There are also a lot of Jays players and prospects and beat writers on Twitter who tweet regularly so if you’re a baseball fan or Blue Jays fan, I strongly suggest opening a Twitter account.