Archive for March, 2009
Monday, March 30th, 2009
11:30 AM Eastern
Here I was about ready to write how cynical I am about the “open competition” for two of the last three spots in the Jays’ rotation. How, despite the fact that we’d been told no decisions had been made and it all depended on how well Brad Mills, Scott Richmond and Ricky Romero pitched down the spring stretch, that it was going to be Mills and Richmond going north, because that was what Cito Gaston, J.P. Ricciardi and the rest of the cast and crew had decided a couple of weeks ago.
Then Jordan Bastian of mlb.com breaks the news this morning that Gaston told the assemblage Romero had pitched his way onto the team with his strong performance against the Astros yesterday.
He didn’t blow the doors off, but put together easily the best start of the Mills/Richmond/Romero trio in the past three weeks.
Romero allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings, walking none and striking out six. He also pitched what Cito called the best inning of the season so far, working out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the 6th by striking out Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum and getting Ivan Rodriguez to ground to short.
The bases had gotten loaded, by the way, on a grounder to third that ate up Jose Bautista for a single, a slow grounder that Bautista booted for an error and a line single to right.
So that was Romero’s statement, while Mills’ and Richmond’s latest statements have been solid, unspectacular, workmanlike efforts that have “kept (the Jays) in the game.” It was strong enough for him to book a ticket north, and to earn the start April 9th in the series finale against Detroit. Bastian also informs us that Gaston has confirmed that David Purcey will pitch the second game of the season and Jesse Litsch the third – not because Purcey is the “number two”, but because they want to split up the lefties in the rotation.
So that leaves Richmond and Mills for the fifth spot. While neither has pitched particularly well recently, Cito likes Richmond, and he loves Mills.
The thing with Richmond is that Cito has seen him succeed in the big leagues, and that means a whole lot. By succeed I mean five starts with an ERA of 4.00, but Richmond never gave up more than three runs (though he pretty much gave up exactly three runs every time out), pitched against some tough competition in the Rays and Red Sox, and left a great final impression with a rain-shortened shutout in Baltimore in his last start.
This spring, Richmond has been hit, but he hasn’t been walking people, and that goes a long way, too. I see him winning the fifth spot, and making the start at the Indians’ Home Opener on April 10th.
It helps, as well, that the front office sees Richmond as a dispensable part. A place-holder who can get the job done until one of the better arms is ready, either Casey Janssen or Brett Cecil.
As for Mills, I can see why everyone is in love with him, though I have yet to see him pitch well. He’s small, but has a fierceness to him. He doesn’t back away from any hitter, he works quickly and (except for that one start) he throws strikes. He’s also a solid defender – he actually held a runner at third and then started a 1-6-3 double play in his last start.
He blew the doors off in his first couple of outings, before I got to Florida (and after I left for the WBC), and that first impression gave him a huge leg up, but it appears as though Romero has caught and passed him.
The thing with Romero is two-fold: A – his recent success may lead them to believe that Brad Arnsberg has “fixed” him, since Arnsberg wanted Romero as kind of a pet project earlier in the spring, and 2 – for the conspiracy theorists – it would look good on J.P. to have his “bust” first-rounder to contribute at the major-league level.
If it’s Richmond over Mills (and I think it is), then having Mills go down and get his first taste of AAA certainly won’t hurt him, and it’ll give the Jays three terrific options in Vegas by the end of April in Mills, Cecil and Janssen, all of whom could be up if Purcey, Richmond and Romero stub their toes. Remember, too, that Litsch has yet to have a full season in the big leagues.
Some injury news, too, though it all seems to be minor – Vernon Wells got a cortisone shot in his left wrist yesterday and won’t play until at least tomorrow, Travis Snider hurt his knee going into the wall against the Tigers on Saturday and Rod Barajas is dealing with an aching back. Gaston has said that he wants his regulars to all play the last five or six games of spring, so having one-third of them on the shelf certainly puts a crimp in those plans.
There was a JaysTalk this weekend, after our Saturday broadcast, and here it is, for your listening pleasure:
We’re ramping up almost into regular season mode now, broadcasting three of the last five games of spring – you can hear Jerry and Alan call the game against the Phillies Tuesday night and then the Friday night/Saturday noon trip to Jupiter to take on the Marlins. We’ll JaysTalk it up after the Tuesday and Friday games, so make sure to listen and call in!
Before I go, and I meant to do this earlier in the week, I want to offer my condolences to the family of John Brattain, who passed away a week ago during heart surgery. I met John on a few occasions, down at the ballpark, and he was a not-infrequent contributor to the comments section of this blog. He was a passionate fan and student of the game, a very good blogger and author, and though we didn’t always agree, he always presented a well thought-out, intelligent argument for his side. Long-winded, maybe, but hey, I consider myself to be a member of that club in very good standing. John also had my back on many occasions both here and elsewhere in the blogosphere, which I appreciated a great deal.
It’s rare that I actually get to meet someone whom I have read and with whom I have corresponded in the world of Blue Jays’ bloggage. I have met a couple of commenters, both outside the tent and in Florida, and I did a Grill Room with Stoeten of the Drunks, and, as I said, chatted with John a few times in the Jays’ dugout and the press box at the Dome. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to do that again, and very sorry to those whose lives he touched for their loss. Rest in peace, John – Best Regards.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Saturday, March 28th, 2009
3:00 PM Eastern, kinda
The sojourn to Spring Training has ended, and the family and I are sitting here at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, getting ready to hop on a flight to our nation’s capital, at which point we’ll disembark, and hop on another flight that should get us home around 11:00 tonight.
It was a short trip south, no question, but the last day sure was eventful. Most of the assemblage hopped in their cars and hit the road to Disneyworld early in the morning, but I had other plans. I had a doctor’s appointment in Dunedin – well, in truth, an appointment with Doc. He said that he would have some time for me Thursday morning at around 8:30, and there’s not much of a choice when it’s between a solo audience with Roy Halladay or a pre-game chat with Cito Gaston at a random Grapefruit league game. I went to Dunedin Stadium and had a good, long conversation with Halladay – we did 10 questions, we had a long discussion about his love of aviation, all kinds of stuff. He told me that when his skin is pierced, he bleeds just like the rest of us. But only for a minute before some sort of dark lubricant resembling motor oil begins to seep out of the cut, which then immediately closes, leaving the appearance that the skin had never been broken.
OK, that’s not true, but we did talk about the ideal of Roy Halladay and the fact that several of his teammates are too intimidated to talk to him. This includes Dirk Hayhurst, whose artistic creation “The Garfoose” is a big hit among his teammates. There’s a story behind The Garfoose (I’m thinking it’s probably some sort of cross between a giraffe and a moose, having seen it, but I don’t know the whole story), and a few of the pitchers were raving about it. The other day, Jeremy Accardo came out of the trainer’s room to let Hayhurst know that Halladay wanted to see the Garfoose, so Hayhurst and a bunch of pitchers went in to show it to him. Hayhurst had told me earlier that Halladay terrified him, and that he hadn’t worked up the nerve to say hello to him yet. When he came out of the trainer’s room, his audience with Doc complete, I congratulated him on the fact that Halladay had beckoned him forth and asked what it was like to finally talk to him. He said that even in there, he still didn’t.
FREAKY AIRPORT MOMENT – Passengers Ron Woods and Carlos Perez were just paged to the gate. Cool.
Some advice for Doc stalkers, by the way – he digs Medieval Times.
You’ll be able to hear the Halladay interviews at various points in the season on The Blue Jays This Week, or maybe on one of the pre-pre-games that we’ll have throughout the year. And yes, there were a few times over the course of our conversation during which he actually smiled.
Problem is, after leaving Dunedin, I had to truck it all the way to Disneyworld, so I missed batting practice and with it, missed Cito Gaston finally telling the assemblage that he was concerned about B.J. Ryan’s lack of oomph. Brad Arnsberg said that if it keeps up another week or two, there’ll be real reason for concern. Cito told me he that that it was just “dead arm”, but usually dead arm comes after a few good, solid outings.
I haven’t seen a radar gun on Ryan yet this spring, nor have I on Ricky Romero, but he’s down at 82-83 instead of 89-90, that takes a lot away from the effectiveness of his herky-jerkyness.
Well, I started this at 3:00 in Fort Lauderdale, and it’s now 12:30 AM, I’m at home, and I can barely keep my eyes open.
Remember to tune in to the Fan for Jays-Astros Grapefruit League action again Saturday at 12:30 PM Eastern.
Tomorrow, I’ll have more thoughts on the Curtis Thigpen trade (good for him), the bottom of the rotation and a great Michael Barrett interview we did outside the clubhouse at Disneyworld. Many of you will absolutely love Barrett’s answer to the A.J. Pierzynski question.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Monday, March 23rd, 2009
10:20 PM Eastern
And what has he done? Well, he has pitched himself right into the conversation for a starting job with the Blue Jays when the season opens in two weeks.
I had never seen Romero pitch before, and I certainly wasn’t blown away what he did today, but he was fine. He threw a first-pitch strike to almost every batter he faced through the first three innings, and got out of his rhythm in the fourth before finding it again after a couple of hitters. He was helped out by some crappy Cincinnati baserunning and some terrific defense by John McDonald (no less than three big-time webgems, which Cito Gaston called “Just another day at the office for Johnny Mac”) , but in the overall, he certainly pitched well enough to give the Jays a chance to win, which is exactly what you want out of your fifth starter.
Romero’s five innings of two runs on seven hits (all singles), two walks and five strikeouts stack up well with Scott Richmond’s 3 2/3 of two runs on nine hits, no walks and five strikeouts in Fort Myers Sunday, and they beat the crap out of Matt Clement’s ugly afternoon the same day.
Romero, Mills and Richmond are in a race for the last two spots, and I don’t know who has the edge between the lefties despite the fact that Mills has already been crowned the 4th starter in some corners. I’m pretty sure Richmond is going to make it, although Cito mused before the game that he might move Jesse Litsch to the third spot in the rotation if he took three lefties.
I do know that Romero will get another start in an “A” game, and that Clement more than likely won’t.
Aaron Hill had two hits today, stole a base and was thrown out at the plate in the first inning, going in hard, but sliding, though still colliding with Reds’ catcher Ryan Hanigan. I held my breath seeing Hill go in hard at the plate, and it looked like Hanigan knocked him in the head as Hill tried to slide through his legs, but Hill told me that he was worried about Hanigan, since Hill spiked him on the leg on the way in. Hill was fine, and says that he has to play the way he did before he got hurt. As for the stolen base, he really looked terrific. Beat the throw by plenty and had great acceleration over the last 40-50 feet. Hill says that he has the green light this season, and expects to steal more as the two-hitter in order to give Alex Rios and Vernon Wells a better chance to drive him in.
Speaking of Wells and Rios, there was some fun interplay between them in the outfield today. In the 4th inning, with Jay Bruce on first and nobody out, the Reds put the hit-and-run on and Jeff Keppinger hit a line drive to shallow centre. When Wells caught the ball, Bruce was standing on second with the requisite “oh, crap” look on his face. A halfway-decent throw, and he’s meatcake. Unfortunately for the Jays, Wells spiked his throw, and it didn’t even make the dirt around second base, hitting the outfield grass and taking a few hops before Randy Ruiz hauled it in with Bruce standing safely on first.
Wells was hearing it from his teammates, and he flipped his glove to the ground, put his hands on his hips and turned his back to the infield in mock disgust. The next batter singled to right, and Rios came up throwing and nailed Bruce by plenty going in to third. He then turned to Wells and said “that’s how you do it.”
Travis Snider was supposed to make the trip but didn’t, staying behind to DH in a minor-league game. He’s expected to be in the line-up for the Phillies game on Tuesday, as is Marco Scutaro, who red-eyed back from L.A. Sunday night. It could be the first time all spring that all nine Opening Day starters are in the line-up together.
Only three games left in FLA for me before I head back again. Man, does the tempus fugit.
Rational, reasonable comments are always appreciated!
Friday, March 20th, 2009
5:15 PM Eastern
How often do you see a young pitcher fall behind 2-0 two batters into a game, then wind up allowing four runs on six hits (three of which go for extra bases) over five innings and actually improve his chances of making a team? It seems as though that’s what Brad Mills did today.
Mills certainly wasn’t awful in throwing his 79 pitches (which is pretty efficient work). He only walked one, as opposed to the five he walked last time out, and he struck out four, but he did get hit around a bit. The homer by Carl Crawford was a line shot to right, and there was a double high off the left-field wall by Morgan Ensberg and another deep down the left-field line by Adam Kennedy. Mills also gave up a shot to the warning track by Carlos Pena, needed a terrific defensive play by Kevin Ahrens at third to prevent another double and hit a guy.
After the game, Cito Gaston said “What’s not to like about this guy?”.
Well, he did retire the last six hitters he faced, getting out of a first-and-third, nobody-out in the 4th and, again, the one walk/four strikeout thing was nice. Mills has good stuff, not great. He comes right at you, but he doesn’t overpower you. He also shows no fear, which I think is the biggest thing that has made Cito and J.P. Ricciardi fall in love with him.
Brad Mills is going to make this team as the fourth starter, now that Casey Janssen is out of the running for a spot.
Janssen’s MRI, which he carried right past me on his way into the clubhouse this morning, revealed what the Blue Jays are calling a “mild muscle strain”. He will resume throwing on Monday, but there’s no way he’ll be able to be stretched out enough to break camp in the rotation.
After talking to Cito and J.P. today, I’m convinced that Matt Clement is a long longshot to make the team, which runs counter to my original thinking. They seem to be bending over backwards to make sure Scott Richmond stays on even footing with everyone else, and Gaston is a big fan of Richmond’s based on how he pitched for him last season.
As for today’s lambasting of the Rays, the Jays used a five-run 5th and an eight-run 6th to power their way to the blowout win. The 5th-inning rally started with two out and nobody on. Russ Adams tripled down the right-field line to get things going, and was cashed by a flare single by Jose Bautista. An Alex Rios single and a walk to Kyle Phillips loaded the bases, and set up booming back-to-back two-run doubles by Kevin Millar and Jason Lane, the King of Spring.
In the 6th, the Jays nickel-and-dimed Jeff Niemann to death for eight runs on seven hits and a couple of walks. Most of the hits were bloopers and soft liners, and there was even a bouncer that got through shortstop Jason Bartlett because Angel Sanchez got in Bartlett’s line of vision. The entire inning was put together by guys who won’t see any big-league time this year, with the possible exception of Michael Barrett, who contributed a three-run double to the cause.
Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Brandon League and Jesse Carlson contributed a shutout inning of relief each, with Camp striking out the side after a double and a passed ball put a runner on third with nobody out. Carlson was the only one who put up a 1-2-3 frame, but they all looked good. Before the game, Cito mentioned that Camp and Tallet could be his long guys in the ‘pen this year. That was a bit of a surprise, since there aren’t too many people who have Camp making the team. If he does, he squeezes out Jeremy Accardo, it would appear.
We’re back on the air tomorrow with the Jays and Astros – Roy Halladay is expected to throw six innings, he’ll face Jose Capellan. The Astros picked up just their second win of the spring today. Scott Downs, B.J. Ryan and Brian Tallet are expected to follow Doc. For Downs, it’ll be his first appearance of the spring, having been sidelined by a twinge in his left elbow earlier in the spring.
It’ll also be Vernon Wells’ first start of the spring in centrefield – he’ll play three or four innings. He went 0-for-2 as the DH today, flying out and grounding into a double play. Afterwards, he told me “three outs on two swings, I’m right where I need to be.”
Make sure you tune us in for the full pre-game on the Fan Radio Network and mlb.com, and stick around for The JaysTalk afterwards!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Friday, March 20th, 2009
12:40 AM Eastern
After having spent the day hanging out with the family at the Florida Aquarium (you can touch the sharks and stingrays, and the penguins walk among you!), I was dragging a bit when I got to George M. Steinbrenner Field for the Jays-Yankees tilt. Hopeful of a routine Spring Training night with little drama, Casey Janssen taking another good step towards a spot in the rotation and some good clips from A.J. Burnett, I didn’t get it. But it sure wound up a lot more interesting.
Janssen didn’t look right tonight, not from the moment he stepped out onto the field in the bottom of the first. He was stretching out his shoulder every chance he got, looking really uncomfortable on the mound, and his ball had no zip on it at all. I didn’t say anything on the broadcast because I didn’t want to be the alarmist, making everybody think that something might be up, but if he had stayed in much longer than 14 pitches, I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold it in. Brad Arnsberg did the job for me, though, coming out to yank Janssen just four batters in.
The assemblage talked to Janssen a while later, and he seemed fine. He said it was just tightness, that he wasn’t worried at all. He feels great and could probably go out and throw really soon, but he’ll see the doctor in the morning to make sure. Janssen said none of the trigger points were the same as when he hurt his shoulder last February and missed all of 2008. That was the labrum, this is the lat muscle, sort of. Whatever it is, at this point, it’s good news long-term, but bad news for Casey’s chances of making the rotation out of Spring Training.
Right now there are just over two full weeks left before the Jays head north to open the season April 6th against the Tigers at Rogers Centre. There’s no way Janssen will be stretched out to 100 pitches by then, even if he’s completely fine. He was supposed to throw about 60 tonight, and managed fewer than one-quarter of that. There’s no way he throws 75 next time out, he’ll go three innings if he’s lucky.
That doesn’t mean that Janssen can’t come north as a reliever, but if the plan is for him to start, he likely stays behind either in extended spring or opens the season in Las Vegas and keeps getting stretched out. One big benefit of moving the AAA team is that they won’t have to worry about bad weather being an issue early in the season, so rehabbers can go to their highest minor-league affiliate in order to get their games back in shape.
So who benefits from the Janssen hiccup? Likely Matt Clement. As much as the Jays love Brad Mills, a month and a half in Vegas certainly wouldn’t hurt him, and they’d love to see what they have in Clement. Now, if Clement shows good stuff and pitches like his old self in his next couple of spring starts, they can hand the last two spots in the rotation to him and Scott Richmond, with Janssen and Mills (and maybe Brett Cecil) waiting in the wings to take their jobs before the middle of May.
The Janssen story was the big buzz in tonight’s game, very obviously, but David Purcey went out there in relief and continued to solidify his hold on the third spot in the rotation. Purcey looked good again, and hadn’t given up an earned run all spring until he allowed a two-run homer in the 8th, his fourth inning of work.
Burnett started for the Yankees, and after giving up a lead-off triple to Joe Inglett to start the game, settled down and stranded him there (with help from, yes, a double-play ball off the bat of Lyle Overbay). Over 3 1/3 innings, Burnett allowed a run on three hits, walking three and striking out only one. One of the hits was a bullet back through the box – off the bat of John McDonald! – at which Burnett tried to stab with his glove, but it wound up hitting him on the left triceps muscle.
After his outing, Burnett was in a great mood, happy and joking with the Yankees media (and me and Richard Griffin, who had joined the horde). He was without question on his best behaviour with the New York reporters, and they said that he’d been that good with them since Day One. Man, are they in for a surprise.
Anyway, Burnett mentioned that the Bruce Lee tattoo on his left triceps muscle deflected the shot by McDonald. I asked him if he was surprised that it was the light-hitting shortstop that blistered one up the middle, and without skipping a beat, Burnett said “Thank God it was Johnny Mac,” followed by the obligatory “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”
I’ll give A.J. that one, he can be a funny guy when he’s in the right mood. But he went on to share a story from later in the game. In the fourth, Burnett walked Jose Bautista and Russ Adams came in to pinch-run. He said that Adams, from first base, asked him if he was OK, and Burnett replied in the affirmative. Adams then whispered “It was Johnny Mac”, as if to say – come on, he couldn’t have hurt you anyway, and A.J. said “I know” with a laugh.
Now, it’s one thing for Burnett to laugh off a John McDonald liner, but Russ Adams? I like Russ, nice guy, tries his best, it just didn’t work out, but that’s some big-league chutzpah coming from a guy who has been a .260 hitter at AAA the last two years.
We had a JaysTalk tonight, as we will on Saturday (after the Astros game – Roy Halladay starts, but no Pudge Rodriguez) and Sunday (at the Twins – both Clement and Richmond are scheduled to throw), and here it is, for your listening pleasure:
Just like the regular season, huh?
Friday the Rays come to Dunedin, Brad Mills against Matt (Jays-killer) Garza. We won’t be broadcasting it for you on the air or on the web, but make sure to tune in for my in-game updates on the hour, and check out the ol’ blogaroo in case something juicy breaks.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
5:25 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays celebrated their return from a St. Patrick’s Day off by taking the 15-minute drive to the Phillies’ park in Clearwater, blowing a 4-1 lead and rallying from 7-4 down to tie the Phillies 7-7 in a game in which they didn’t even bother to play a 10th inning.
Evidently, Cody Haerther got the Jays within one with a two-run single in the 9th, and Angel Sanchez followed with the game-tying single to take Scott Richmond off the hook. Evidently, because all of us were in the Jays’ clubhouse at the time, talking to Richmond. Really, though, it was Haerther who got de-hookified, since his pair of misplays in the outfield really helped the Jays into the hole.
In the 5th inning, Jayson Werth hit a two-out liner towards the left-field line and Haerther got over in plenty of time, but the ball popped in and out of his glove. That ended Jesse Litsch’s day after 4 2/3 innings (and 89 pitches) and in came Richmond to serve up an RBI single to Gary Majewski. Yes, the pitcher. Majewski kind of threw his bat at it and hit a little line drive the other way, but they all count.
Weird game, by the way, in that the Jays had a DH but the Phillies didn’t.
In the 7th inning, Eric Bruntlett led off by taking Richmond to the warning track in left, but Haerther got turned around while tracking it and the ball fell in for a double. After a groundball and a walk, Richmond served up a three-run bomb to Werth that cleared both teams’ bullpens in left field.
Neither Litsch nor Richmond pitched especially well, but only one of them hurt his chances of going north with the team. Well, while Richmond may not have actually hurt his chances, he certainly didn’t help them any. He’ll get another chance soon, though. In an effort to catch him up to the rest of the starters, the Jays will send Richmond back out on three days’ rest, piggybacking with Matt Clement on Sunday in Fort Myers.
Richmond was furious when he came back into the clubhouse after his 2 1/3 inning stint, firing his glove into his locker from across the room before going back outside to get his running in. By the time he came back and met with the assemblage, he’d calmed down and said that he didn’t think he threw that badly. He just would have liked the pitch to Majewski to have been in a little more. He also mentioned that he could have gotten out of the 7th with a well-placed ground ball, as opposed to the one that Werth hit about 420 feet.
Two notes on the injury front, as both Scott Rolen and Travis Snider came out after one at-bat. Cito said that Rolen’s back was bothering him and that Snider had hurt his knee lunging for the first-base bag on a second-inning groundout.
Kids, here’s a lesson. With which foot do you hit first base when you’re running out a grounder? Whichever one gets there first. Keep running, and run hard through the bag. If you lunge for it, not only are you slowing yourself down, but you also run the risk of landing awkwardly and tweaking a knee or an ankle, or yanking a hammy. Aaron Hill used to do it all the time, and it scares the heck out of me every time I see it. I haven’t seen him do it yet this spring, but it’s only spring.
Snider doesn’t need an MRI, at least not yet, though he’s not likely to play tomorrow night against the Yankees.
Jason Lane continued to make his presence felt, taking a 3-1 offering from J.A. (pronounced “Jay”, for some reason) Happ over the wall in left for his team-leading 5th homer of the spring. Buck Coats and Aaron Hill led the Jays with all of two homers last spring. Still, Lane isn’t going to make the team if everyone is healthy. Vernon Wells had a few more at-bats in a minor-league game this morning, is set to play the outfield on Friday and may get into a Grapefruit League game on the weekend (it’d be Saturday, home to the Astros, because Vernon isn’t going to make the three-hour bus trip to Fort Myers Sunday), so he’s on track. The Snider knee thing may be Lane’s ticket, but it’s hard to imagine Snider will be out four weeks if he doesn’t even need an MRI. Still, stranger things have happened in Blue Jay land.
Jeremy Accardo pitched a perfect bottom of the 9th to help his cause for one of the open spots in the bullpen, but I didn’t see it – we were all talking to Richmond. I’m sure he pitched very well, though.
Oh, and the press box was all a-twitter mid-game with the news that the Jays have signed Leon Boyd to a minor-league contract. The closer for The Netherlands at the WBC, who was born in Vancouver, will report to minor-league camp in the next couple of days, and that’ll likely be the last we’ll hear from him this spring.
I had a rough morning dealing with my rental car agency (I have driven four different cars today – a Mazda 6 with a flat tire, an Avenger with no brakes, a Corolla and a Focus!). I left the house at 9:05 and didn’t get to the ballpark until 11:55, just in time to look at the line-up quickly and do a noon hit with Barb DiGiulio. As a result, I didn’t get to Dunedin Stadium, where the Jays take BP whenever they have a game in Clearwater, and missed some cute interplay between Roy Halladay and Snider. Check out Jordan Bastian’s blog for all the details.
Tomorrow, it’s a night game in Tampa. Jays and Yankees – Casey Janssen against A.J. Burnett! We’ll have it for you all along the Fan Radio Network starting at 7:00 PM Eastern, with a full JaysTalk afterwards.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Sunday, March 15th, 2009
10:30 PM Eastern
Brad Mills has a degree in engineering. He’s a smart guy with an obvious interest in how things work, probably in science, space, cool stuff like that. Therefore, one would think that Brad Mills would have done me a favour seeing how I wanted a quick game today so that I could drive the wife and kids cross-state to see tonight’s launch of Space Shuttle Discovery from Port Canaveral. The shuttle was supposed to go up this past Wednesday, when I was still home, but they postponed it to this evening, giving me a chance.
It takes a little over 2 1/2 hours to drive from Dunedin Stadium to Titusville, allegedly the best viewing place for non-ticket holders (if you buy a ticket, you had to show up at noon for the 7:43 PM launch, and I was kind of busy then being on the radio and stuff). That meant that if the Jays-Reds game was quick – say 2:20 or so – I’d be through with the post-game at 4:00 and on my way, having sent in all my tape and wraps and stuff, by 4:15 or so. No problem. And I didn’t think 2:20 was too much to ask. After all, all I had heard about Mills all spring was “works quick, throws strikes”, and he was scheduled to throw five innings.
Today, though, Mills didn’t throw strikes. He worked quickly, but used all 75 of his pitches to get through just four innings of work. Four innings that took just over an hour and a half. Still, despite the five walks, Mills managed to minimize the damage, only allowing two runs. And he would only have given up one had Joe Inglett been able to corral a relatively routine double-play ball off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 4th. Inglett, getting a look at shortstop to see if he can be an emergency fill-in, kicked it a bit, and had to settle for only the out at first.
Still, Mills wasn’t despondent after the outing, as Brett Cecil was Friday after having walked four in his four innings. Maybe Cecil knew what was up, though, since he got sent out today along with four others, including Mike Maroth (shocker), Adam Loewen and Ken Takahashi (he was still here?). And yes, I didn’t mention the other guy because I have forgotten who it was.
Mills talked about what a great opportunity it was for him just to be in big-league camp, and that regardless of where he winds up to start the season, he’s thrilled to be able to pick the brains of Brad Arnsberg, Bruce Walton, Cito Gaston, etc., while he’s here. He also said, though, that he thinks he’ll get the ball again in five days (he hopes – I hope so, too).
One would think that I wouldn’t like Mills, him having ruined my chance to see a shuttle launch live and me not having seen him pitch well despite all the hype, but I do like him. Nice kid, for sure, and I dig his herky-jerky delivery. He’s all arms and legs, and throws his glove at the hitter before coming with the good old over-the-top delivery. Evidently that puts some real bite on his 12-to-6 curveball, but he didn’t have much of a curveball today. I don’t think he’ll get sent out before his next start, a la Cecil, but I think that one of Richmond and Clement have a better chance of breaking with the big club than he does.
After Mills left, they decided to go extras, and three hours and 16 freakin’ minutes after we started, Curtis Thigpen belted a monster shot to left field off Carlos Fisher, on which Jonny Gomes took one quick look and then started jogging back to the dugout. I’m pretty sure he beat Thigpen to third.
Good for Thigpen who, along with Russ Adams, has been a forgotten man this spring. Thigpen’s homer was his second of the spring, and Adams has very quietly had a terrific Grapefruit season with the bat. Russ was 1-for-2 with a walk today, he’s hitting .368 on the spring.
Not so good for me, since we didn’t get off the air until 5:00, and there was no chance I was going to make the shuttle launch. Oh, well, maybe they’ll do it again next spring.
Remember to check us out on mlb.com for Monday afternoon’s Jays-Red Sox affair. Roy Halladay is scheduled to go five against Justin Masterson, and I have a feeling he’ll manage to do so. It’s a web game, so chances are I’ll get a couple of innings of play-by-play, that’ll be cool.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Friday, March 13th, 2009
10:25 PM Eastern
First of all, thanks to everyone for the dozens upon dozens of questions you all sent in! I managed to pull 40 or 50 out that I’ll use during the world-famous “10 questions” segment on The Blue Jays This Week this season. I didn’t pick ones that will garner obvious answers or questions like “where do you like to hang out” that they wouldn’t answer because of potential stalkage issues, but there were plenty of good ones. Well done, folks.
I have to say, though, I’m a little disappointed that only two commenters got the “Shark Sandwich” thing. I guess I have to update my references. Less Tap and more Simpsons/Sandler/Ferrell, huh? What can I tell you, I’m almost 40.
Onto today and the first Blue Jay game that I saw in a week and a half. The board inside the Jays’ clubhouse said Cecil – 5, Purcey – 4, which meant that Brad Arnsberg figured he could get a whole game out of just two pitchers, and he almost did. Brett Cecil had a hard time with his pitch count, throwing 74 over just 3 2/3 innings, including 27 in the third inning alone. The young lefty was despondent after the game – he almost seemed on the verge of tears over his one-hit, shutout performance, the one hit being a soft liner just over the infield to the last batter he faced. Thing is, he walked four. Cecil’s sinker betrayed him, and even though the final line looked terrific (outside the walks), it didn’t seem as though he was pitching that well, and he agreed.
Cecil said after his performance that he’d rather give up four home runs than four walks. He said that some people think that walking a guy indicates that a pitcher is afraid to pitch to a particular hitter, and that he isn’t afraid to pitch to anyone. When he told me that last part, he sounded like he was telling himself that moreso than he was telling me, but it didn’t seem as though he was trying to convince himself that he’s not afraid to pitch to anyone. Almost like it was a kind of mantra for him. Michael Barrett thought Cecil had phenomenal stuff, and Cito Gaston said that despite the walks, he thought Cecil pitched very well.
David Purcey did manage to throw the four innings expected of him, and though he gave up four times as many hits as Cecil, he was more impressive. Purcey threw strikes and worked quickly – maybe it’s the Rays that bring this out in him – while picking up the save in the Jays’ 3-1 win.
I spoke to Adam Lind, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of singles, and he said that he’d had a rough time early in the spring getting his swing going while everyone around him was hitting bombs. He got frustrated, but told me that “they” came over to give him some encouragement (Cito? Gene Tenace? J.P.? I probably should have asked), and that he’s been feeling better since. Gaston, after the game, said that Lind is one hitter about whom he’s absolutely not worried.
I also caught up with Scott Richmond, who pitched two innings in a Jays vs. Jays minor-league game that featured a lot of the pitchers who will be coming north with the team (including Jesse Litsch and Brandon League, maybe Jesse Carlson, too, I’m not sure, first day back and all). I asked Richmond what he felt he had to do the rest of the way in order to make the team or at least leave enough of an impression so that he’s the first call when they need somebody from Vegas, and he was very firm in saying that his plan is to go north with the team. I think he’s up against it a bit, especially given how well Brad Mills and Cecil are pitching. I can’t wait to see Mills pitch – everyone here is raving about the kid – though I don’t think he’d be served too poorly by spending some time in AAA. Janssen, to me, also makes sense in the rotation if he’s healthy, and he’s scheduled to throw three innings in Lakeland tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to getting back on the air with Jerry and Alan tomorrow, and of course, looking forward to Birthday Waffle House before the game (mmmmmmmm………………….smothered and covered) and the third annual Birthday Chang’s post-game.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
9:25 PM Eastern
I’m going to spend Thursday winging my way back down to Spring Training and getting set up for two weeks of hardcore Jays coverage that starts with the game against the Rays on Friday the 13th.
While I’m setting up, I figured I’d ask you all for help putting together the critically acclaimed “10 questions” segment of the ever-popular Blue Jays This Week programme, which I believe will be coming back for its sixth or seventh season this year.
I want to update the questions, as I managed to do a bit last year, but I’d like your input. I want to know what YOU want to know about these guys. Generally, the questions are more personal in nature than baseballic, and I’d like to keep it that way.
In the past, I’ve asked questions like “favourite meal”, “best band”, “favourite thing to do in Toronto on an off-day”, “worst minor-league bus trip”, “best friend in baseball”, that sort of thing.
I want to shake it up, and I want to get a lot of the 10 questions done while I’m down there in Dunedin.
So, help me out! Give me some questions that you want answered as part of the 10 questions segment. Just make sure they’re questions that I can actually ask on the radio, and questions that won’t get a yes or no answer.
Yes, I want you to do my work for me.
Drop those questions in the comments section!
Monday, March 9th, 2009
11:55 PM Eastern
The thrill that I got from broadcasting Team Canada’s games at the World Baseball Classic is immeasurable, but it’s tempered by the pathetic display put forth by our national squad in tonight’s loss to Italy.
Yes, it’s baseball, and anything can happen in one game, without question. But if you imagine yourself a team capable of winning this tournament – or at least of having a reasonable shot to make it to the semi-finals – then you cannot lose to a team made up mostly of semi-pros and minor leaguers. Plain and simple. Italy played well, without question. Their defense was terrific, they did all the little things perfectly and put pressure on Canada from the get-go, but this was an embarrassment.
Ernie Whitt is going to take a lot of heat for this, and may not even be back as the manager of Team Canada in the future, but don’t put this on him. Canada was supposed to hit, and outside of Justin Morneau and Jason Bay, the team managed all of one hit in this game. They drew eight walks, but went 0-for-8 directly after the walks, and none of those walks scored. They didn’t hit – and they didn’t hit against Dan Serafini, Chris Cooper and Jason Grilli. Grilli, fine, he can be tough (though Venezuela lit him up on Saturday night), but Serafini – a former Hardware City Rock Cat! – is basically a left-handed Mike Johnson and Cooper pitched in the Italian semi-pro league last season. That said, Canada is out of this tournament without its best starting pitcher ever having gotten into a game.
Coming into the game the only way I thought Canada could lose was if Vince Perkins walked the house and they got buried early. That wasn’t quite how it happened, but Perkins sure dug them a nice hole. He couldn’t glove a slow two-hopper hit back to him by Nick Punto to start the game, then walked a couple of guys with one out to load the bases before allowing a little nubber infield single to put Italy on top before getting out of it. Another couple of walks in the second followed by an RBI single. He left after a lead-off double by Chris Denorfia in the third – and there was Whitt’s one mistake. I couldn’t believe that he sent Perkins back out there to start the third.
Something that struck a lot of us reporter-types was that about an hour and a half to two hours before game time, while Canada was taking batting practice, Perkins was sitting in the dugout in his street clothes. In 20 years of covering major-league baseball, I had never seen that (other than Perkins doing it last Wednesday before his start against the Phillies – it struck me odd then, too, but it was a Spring Training game). A starter has his routine before a game, and each routine is different, but none of them involve being in plain view out of uniform. Paul Spoljaric couldn’t believe it, he’d never seen it either, and wondered if the fact that Perkins wasn’t in the clubhouse that close to go time, studying hitters, looking at video or either just relaxing or getting himself psyched up meant that he wouldn’t be prepared once the bell rang. He clearly wasn’t, and though I can’t say that it was because he was in the dugout in street clothes during BP, it was certainly an odd thing to see.
Chris Denorfia looked great tonight, and at least he has some pedigree. He was tabbed as the A’s starting centrefielder last year, but wound up losing the job very early on. Tonight, he was spectacular, going 4-for-4 with a walk and three doubles, and absolutely robbing Joey Votto of extra bases with a great diving catch in the 7th. But Alex Liddi? Davide Dallospedale? Come on.
I knew that at some point in the post-game, someone would call to say that we teach baseball all wrong in Canada, and that Baseball Canada has to fire everybody at the top and start again, and someone did. I had hoped that we only thought the world was ending when Canada lost in a high-level hockey tournament. Canada lost a game it had zero business losing tonight, but the state of baseball in Canada has never been better. This team was the greatest collection of baseball talent Canada has ever assembled at one time. There are more Canadians starring in the majors, more Canadians being drafted, and more Canadians being drafted higher than there have ever been before. There’s nothing wrong with baseball in Canada – they just sucked tonight.
So did the fans, by the way. Not the 12,411 who were actually here, but the ones who didn’t show. Where the hell was everybody? I’ll grant you that most people expected Canada to win in a walk and may have been saving their cash for tomorrow night’s expected game against Venezuela, but the size of the crowd was shameful. Especially after the show that Canada and the U.S. put on Saturday afternoon. We should be embarrassed by the result of the game tonight, but we should be equally embarrassed that so few people thought to come out and watch.
I’ll be heading back down to Dunedin in the next couple of days – probably Thursday – to rejoin the Jays’ beat and bring you all the news that’s fit to blog from Spring Training, so make sure you check back here often starting Friday (you should come earlier, though, because I’ll be posting and answering the comments and stuff).
Before I go, I need to congratulate Paul Spoljaric on the terrific job he did in the booth with me. It was his first-ever broadcasting gig, and he didn’t seem out of place at all. As for me, I had a fantastic time, and I’m hopeful I’ll get to do it again when the 2012 WBC rolls around, and maybe for more than two games next time. I thought I did a better job Saturday than I did today, but I felt good about both broadcasts. I sent out some thank-yous at the end on the air, and just want to reiterate them here. To Nelson Millman for believing in me enough to give me this fantastic opportunity and to Doug Farraway for always being in my corner at the Fan. To Peter Gross, for giving me my first job in commercial radio. To Jerry Howarth, for being generous with his advice and with his airtime. And of course, to Tom Cheek. He was the voice of my summers growing up and taught me how to be a baseball broadcaster without even knowing it. Getting to work with and be mentored by him for three seasons was one of the greatest thrills of my life.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!