5:15 PM Eastern

The Blue Jays lost another one, and again the offense went missing. As I said in one of my answers in the comments section, big deal.

What is, in fact, a big deal, is that B.J. Ryan had a bad day. He threw the 6th inning, striking out Ronny Paulino looking on a fastball that had a bit of cut to it, but not too much, then allowing a line single to Jose Bautista before getting Luis Rivas on a grounder to second and having Marco Scutaro bail him out with a terrific leaping grab of a Nate McLouth liner that was headed up the middle. In all, 17 pitches, 12 strikes, nice day’s work.

But when Ryan spoke to the gathered throng after the game, he said that he didn’t feel right. He was sore, and it wasn’t the old, pre-surgery soreness that he might feel after an outing, it was something different. He didn’t seem worried, or scared, and made a point to say that he wasn’t going to be a hero or do anything stupid, though he did continue to pitch once he realized that he wasn’t feeling right.

The truth will come out in the next couple of days. Tomorrow morning, if he’s still sore, he might go get re-examined. Right now, Ryan is still scheduled to pitch on Thursday – either against the Yankees in Dunedin or at the same minor-league game that Roy Halladay will pitch so those evil Yankees don’t see him. But that very well could change.

This would appear to be the first bump in the road in what’s so far been a remarkable recovery from Tommy John surgery by the big closer. After the 1-2-3 inning against the Rays on Friday, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said, “we’ve had nothing but steps forward. There’s been no regression, no steps backwards, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed and keep putting him out there.” If today wasn’t the first step backwards, it absolutely wasn’t a step forward. Is it time to panic? No. Maybe this means nothing, maybe this means that Ryan gets backed up and stays down here in Florida to rehab for a while, which seems to be what a lot of you out there thought should have been done in the first place.

If he can’t answer the bell, this is where the depth gets tested, and this is where Brandon League is going to have to step up and do what Casey Janssen did last year – be that dependable third guy to team with Accardo and Downs at the back of the bullpen. I think League can do it – he threw another shutout inning today, with a strikeout and two ground ball outs. The power sinker has been working to perfection, and I think this is the guy we all thought we were going to see last year. League gave up a hit, as well, but it was a little flare-looper that John McDonald almost chased down in right-centre.

A.J. Burnett wasn’t spectacular – he couldn’t throw his change-up for strikes with any consistency, and as a result had trouble putting hitters away and walked four. The wind cost him, though, turning a routine fly out into a double in the third – that led to two runs. Luis Rivas’ double to lead off the 5th was a ground ball in exactly the right place down the third-base line, but there was nothing cheap about the Nate McLouth triple that followed. And Burnett showed some of his frustration by not covering the plate on the wild pitch he threw a couple of pitches later.

After the game, he said that he’s trying to become a pitcher, not a thrower, whether he wants to or not. He said, as he has before, that he’s taking a page from Roy Halladay’s book and trying to throw every pitch with a purpose. He also said that he really wants to incorporate the change-up into his repertoire this year, and that he won’t just scrap it once he throws one bad one in the regular season. After hearing that, the intrepid Jordan Bastian had the stones to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind – “how many times have you said that before?” A.J. was self-depricating with his answer: “Seven out of seven springs – when I haven’t been hurt.” At least he’s aware that he’s been down this road before, and never followed through.

To his credit, though, Burnett added that his right index fingernail has been long enough for him to have put on an artificial nail for a week and a half to two weeks, but he hasn’t done so in order to force himself to keep working on the change-up. He’ll have the hook the next time out, though. He also said that learning to be a four-pitch pitcher (with a slider and change in addition to his sinking fastball and curveball) will keep him healthy, and that’s what got to me. If he thinks he can stay healthy and make 30-32 starts by utilizing the change, and therefore get himself a big, giant contract in the off-season (and, secondarily, feels as though he actually contributed to a team that could win a bunch of games), then he just might stick with it this time.

Tomorrow is the Jays’ lone off-day of the spring, and mine, too, though VP of communications Jay Stenhouse asked cryptically if we’d all be around tomorrow in case something happens (a long-term contract for Aaron Hill or Alex Rios, perhaps? Please, something bigger than Bill Murphy!). My answer was no. I’m leaving the ballpark in Bradenton in a few minutes and heading over to the other coast to spend tomorrow in Miami – family medical reasons, nothing bad. If something happens, I’ll find out about it and you can find out right here what I think about it!

The pre-season resumes Wednesday at noon (!) Eastern for an ESPN game against the Red Sox at Fort Myers. Brian Tallet will start for the Jays against Daisuke Matsuzaka, the last game the Sox play before jumping on a plane to Tokyo, where they’ll open the season against Oakland. Don’t read anything into Tallet starting – Shaun Marcum is staying behind, throwing in a minor-league game, so the Jays can hide him from the BoSox. Most of the regular position players are scheduled to make the trip, though.

Comments are encouraged, as always, and I feel like I’m doing more answering of them than I thought I would, it’s fun!

14 Responses to “Pirates 4 – Jays 1”
  1. 1.

    Hi Mike,
    From what I’ve read from your blog, BJ is telling us, in between the lines, is that now that he’s pitching in games, his elbow has become little more sore than normal. Thats telling us that he’s not ready to take on his role and probably will not be ready for the season start, understandably. When the time comes The Jays really should ease him in as a middle reliever or set up role until he’s ready for the closers role. I dought the Jay would do that.

    MW: I don’t think you have to read between the lines to get that at all. But I don’t agree that he should be used in middle relief until his elbow feels better. I don’t think that it matters whether he pitches in the 6th, 8th or 9th, he’ll throw the same way and feel the same way. If there’s nothing wrong, he can pitch through it, if there is something wrong, they’ll shut him down.

    - bruno
  2. 2.

    Hey Mike,

    Don’t you think the Jays learned anything from the Zambrano debacle from last season?

    Why not rest BJ for another few weeks, so what if he missed a few weeks? Better to have him at 100% for 80% of the season than risking an injury.

    MW: Hopefully the Jays did learn from the Zambrano debacle of last year. I guess I have to go over this again, though. The Zambrano debacle of last year was NOT that they pushed him too hard in Spring Training. The Zambrano debacle was that after they stretched him out in Spring Training and he was strong and throwing well, they completely ignored him for the entire month of April, and he lost all the gains he had made in March. I don’t see what that has to do with B.J. Ryan’s issue.

    He’ll be examined, and if there’s something wrong, they’ll shelve him until it’s not wrong anymore. If there’s nothing wrong, he’ll pitch to pain tolerance. I don’t have a problem with that.

    - Singh
  3. 3.

    you’re very arrogant Mike, calm down and treat your callers and fans with respect.

    MW: We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. I think I treat my callers with respect until I get a reason not to, but I also feel that even if I disagree with a caller, I still treat that person with respect, until they don’t give me the same consideration. And I don’t think I’m arrogant, I think I’m right. :-)

    - TOMMYP
  4. 4.

    Hey Mike lets be honest. We all but know that Burnett is going to make atleast 1 trip to the DL this season. If he dosent then that would be awsome but I’m just predicting that something will come up. Lets hope the fingernail is not a foreshadowing and if his attempt to throw a changeup turns out to be a dud then his ERA will probably be similar to the past 2 seasons(not a bad thing). Also I was wondering if you could tell me what spring training ballpark is your favorate? Brighthouse Networks is pretty nice in my opinion.

    MW: Bright House Field is very nice, it’s true. After giving it some quick thought, I’m going to say that my favourite is Disney. It’s really nice, good amenities, big broadcast booth, easy place to work – and they give you free tickets to Disneyworld.

    - Matt
  5. 5.

    Mike I don’t really like the shot you took at AJ Burnett in this post saying he might try to stay healthy this year because he could get big contract out of it.

    MW: Truth is truth – A.J. has only had one season in his career in which he made 30 starts, and it was a contract year.

    - Dan Moore
  6. 6.

    I get the feeling their continual rush on getting BJ back is leading to some more serious problems.

    They’d better back him off or we could risk him for the season.

    - gerry
  7. 7.

    Hi Mike,

    The AJ Burnett fake nail thing has had me wondering for a few weeks. Will MLB allow him to use this during regular season play? Is he not “applying a foreign substance of any kind to the ball”?

    MW: Nope. Estheticians are as welcome in Major League clubhouses as trainers.

    - Matt
  8. 8.

    to finish my thought. I expect cheap shots to be taken by guys like Richard Griffin and Bob Elliot but I hold you Mike to a higher standard. Just because AJ Burnett was given alot of money doesn’t mean he’s an under achiever or that he hasn’t tried his best or work his hardest. Truth is Theres alot of pitchers who can throw 95mph an hour and not all of them have won 12 games in a season (although AJ deserved 14 or 15 last year) and I know taking shots at AJ is the popular thing to do because sometimes he’s not polite to the media (tear) but whatever I think its a cheap shot and sometime I disagree with.

    MW: I appreciate that, but as I said before, truth is truth. It would be a cheap shot to say that A.J. is basically a .500 pitcher or to point out that he’s never won more than 12 games in a season, and say those things like they actually had something to do with his performance as a pitcher. I don’t do that, because I could care less what the guy’s won-loss record is, it’s no reflection of anything. I believe A.J. is more motivated this year than he ever has been to stay healthy.

    - Dan Moore
  9. 9.

    Mike-

    In your opinion, will A.J. ever grow up? After two years in T.O., he has been exactly what everyone said he would be: oft-injured and full of wasted potential.

    He refused to develop his changeup last year, and all this rhetoric about becoming a pitcher is nonsense. If he hasn’t learned how to pitch after spending two seasons with Doc, he never will. He’s 30 years old but acts like a teenager.

    With any luck, he’ll have a lights out season, and bolt out of his contract so J.P. can use the money elsewhere. Let him be someone else’s problem.

    Rant over.

    MW: I have no idea whether A.J. will ever grow up. He’s been terrific to deal with so far this spring, and that’s a good thing. I don’t care how he acts off the mound, all that matters is that he stays in control on the mound. The jury’s out until the games actually count.

    - Steve
  10. 10.

    mike,can you explain why hill is batting 8th.I think he should be in the 2 spot and rios in the 7spot.what do you think?

    MW: I don’t think Rios should be hitting 7th, but I do think Hill should be hitting higher in the line-up. I think someday he’ll make a terrific 2-hole hitter, and that someday could very well be now. He just needs the opportunity.

    - mario
  11. 11.

    The debacle here is using the word debacle too often. Enough with the word debacle. When you overuse the word debacle, this creates a debacle that is difficult to overcome. Now forget about a B.J. Ryan debacle and trust the trainers that there won’t be a debacle. Play ball.

    MW: That comment was debaculous.

    - DJJAY
  12. 12.

    Hi Mike,

    I just read on drunkjaysfans.blogspot.com that Rogers has applied to the CRTC for a new national specialty channel called Baseball TV. What have you heard? What do you think of the chances of it being successful in the Canadian market?

    MW: I have heard off and on for a while now that there would be a baseball channel coming to Canada along with Leafs TV and Raptors TV. Beyond that, I don’t know anything. I think it would find its niche, like a lot of digital cable channels have, and I hope I get to be a part of it – sounds like a lot of fun.

    - Kevin
  13. 13.

    Hey Mike,
    have you heard of any teams interested in trading for Reed Johnson or will the other teams wait to see if he is put on waivers at the end of spring training and pick him up for practically nothing?
    He is fun to watch and will be disappointed to see him go but it appears all signs are pointing to keeping Stewart and his more consistant offense.

    - Jamie
  14. 14.

    Hi Mike

    When you say that Brandon League has to step up, is he able to? You say he is pitching well, but is his arm angle back up to where it was before last season and the weird over-developed lat muscle thing (if that is what it really was).
    Laurie

    - Laurie Swackhammer
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