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.