Archive for February, 2011

Pitchers and Catchers! Pitchers and Catchers!

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

11:20 AM Eastern

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

I woke up this morning to a fresh snowfall on the driveway and a temperature hovering around zero, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s going to be sunny and 20 degrees in Dunedin today, and the Blue Jays’ pitchers and catchers are officially reporting for work.

A long winter ends with the arrival of baseball – happens every year around this time and those of us who patiently wait through the cold, dreary, snowy months can’t keep the smiles off our faces.

The first official workout is tomorrow -when Alex Anthopoulos, Jose Bautista and Bean Stringfellow, among others, will sit before an arbitrator in Arizona for the Jays’ first hearing since they beat Bill Risley in 1997 – and all position players are required to report by Friday.  The first Grapefruit League game, which we will broadcast across the Fan Radio Network, will be Saturday, February 26th, with the Jays hosting the Detroit Tigers.  I’ll be in Florida as of the 24th to bring you blanket coverage of the goings-on at Jays camp.

There’s lots to discuss, including the battle for the two open spots at the back of the rotation and the two open spots in the bullpen.  There will be Adam Lind’s intense first base re-acclamation course and J.P. Arencibia’s get-to-know-all-the-pitchers-while-not-forgetting-how-to-hit baptism of fire.  We’ll get a good look at the hopeful stars of the future like Zach Stewart, Brett Lawrie, Adeiny Hechevarria and Anthony Gose, among others, and finally be able to give a good scouting report on those guys based on our own eyes.

It’s going to be a fun, intense spring, leading to what should be a very exciting season.  I’m looking forward to seeing Travis Snider take a big step towards becoming a huge middle-of-the-lineup superstar bat, to Rajai Davis breaking the club’s single-season stolen base record, to the Jays establishing a terrific young pitching rotation that will probably be the best one through five in the game, to not watching Edwin Encarnacion try to throw the ball.

The most important thing they have to do over the next seven weeks, before they open up against the Twins at Rogers Centre on April Fool’s Day, is stay healthy.

If they do, I see Jesse Litsch taking the fourth spot in the rotation and I believe Kyle Drabek has a huge edge in grabbing the fifth.  The only thing that could hold Drabek back, in my estimation, would be the fact that if he stays in the minors until the beginning of May his free agency would be pushed back a year – that might be something the Jays are interested in doing.  I think David Purcey gets one of the last two spots in the bullpen (the first five being held by Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Shawn Camp), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jo-Jo Reyes get the other one.  The overriding factor in the decision?  Both lefties are out of options, while the same can’t be said of Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, Carlos Villanueva, Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Richmond.

I can’t wait to get down there, breathe in the baseball first-hand and share what I find out with you over the air and through the interwebs.

Comments and questions are welcome – I’ll put up another mailbag before I head down to Florida.

2:15 PM Eastern

Over my years of hosting The JaysTalk – can you believe I’m about to  begin my 10th season in the big chair? – I haven’t had much patience with callers who refer to themselves as part of the Blue Jays.  That is, those who say “we won the game” or “we sure got a big hit there” or “how do you think we’ll do tomorrow night?”  My general response has been that we didn’t do anything, but the Blue Jays……  It’s because I feel that even though the team represents Toronto to a certain extent, and that fans feel as though it’s “their” team, ownership isn’t the same as membership.  They can be “your Toronto Blue Jays”, but you’re not on the field with them.

I still feel that way, but I’m going to be easier on the “we” crowd from now on.  I read an article in this month’s edition of Psychology Today that references Ed Hirt, a professor of psychological sciences at Indiana University, and his theory of vicarious success.  Evidently it’s scientific fact that “watching someone perform an action triggers mirror neurons, making the viewer feel, to an extent, that he (or she) is” performing the action.  That die-hard fans “experience the same hormonal surges that the players do”.

So, while I’m sure that no JaysTalk caller actually believes that they were the ones who were out on the field doing what it took to win a ballgame (I hope), I don’t want to offend any surging hormones, nor do I want to detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the game, the team and the season.  So from now on, I won’t take issue with anyone referring to the Blue Jays as “we” – though I’m not going to be doing it.

Before we get to the mailbag, I wanted to address the rumours of a $5 million payment to the Angels in the Vernon Wells trade.  From hearing both general managers’ conference calls the night of the trade, it seemed to me that both said that no money changed hands, but in thinking about it neither one did specifically say those exact words.  I found out today that teams are not required to disclose whether or not money was moved in a trade, which leads me to believe that the rumours are true, and the Jays did, in fact, ship that cash over to Disneyland.  Whether they did or didn’t, though, the trade still accomplishes what it set out to do, and it’s still a very good trade for the Blue Jays.

Now, onto the mailbag, culled from the comments sections of the past little while:

As of now, do the Jays get the Angels 1st round pick (#17) for Scott Downs
Thanks Terry

Terry,

The Angels finished with an 80-82 record, tying them with the Dodgers for the 13th-worst record in the majors.  Their first-round pick, therefore, is protected.  A team that finishes in the bottom 15 of the overall standings doesn’t have to give up a first-round pick to sign a Type A free agent.  As of right now, the Blue Jays are in line to get the Halos’ second-round pick, plus a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, as compensation for the Angels signing Downs.

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Mike,

Nobody, to my knowledge, has been able to answer this question:

Did Sam Dyson have Tommy John surgery in 2010? Will he miss most, if not all of 2011?

There was a report that he did, and will, but there are conflicting stories out there.

Maybe you could find out for your loyal blog readers?

-Andy

Andy,

Of course I can find out!  Dyson, who was the Jays’ fourth-round pick in this past June’s First-Year Player Draft, did in fact have elbow ligament replacement surgery (Tommy John) this past summer.  He’ll miss the entire 2011 regular season, but is expected to be ready for instructional league next fall.

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Mike just a wild idea, but seeing how we need a long reliever… and just be clear i know there’s no way it will happen.
How about a 4-man rotation with the 5th guy becoming the long reliever? Our starters could be Romero Morrow Cecil Drabek and then throw in the 5th starter as the long reliever…. I know Drabek is young and probably can’t handle the innings… but still that would be pretty sick don’t ya think?

-Han Solo

Han (seriously?),

It would be pretty sick, and I’m looking forward to the next time a major-league team tries a four-man rotation for an entire season, but just like you said – it’s not going to happen.  It’s funny, because pitchers in five-man rotations, with their innings monitored, blow their arms out all the time, but everyone believes that the way things are done now (by the teams who do things “properly”) is the best way to do things.  But if somebody goes to a four-man and one of their pitchers gets hurt, everyone will blame the four-man rotation for it.

Athletes are in much better condition now than they were 30, 50, 70 years ago, when the four-man was the norm, and starters sometimes even threw on two days’ rest if they had to.  I think they could handle it, but you’d have to start them early, preparing them to be part of a four-man rotation from the day they sign as a draftee.

The Texas Rangers under Nolan Ryan may well soon attempt to go to a four-man, and I hope they stick with it.

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I’ve heard that delaying Drabek 2 months at the start of the season will lengthen Jays control over him for an extra year. Is that the case? & if so why has it not been mentioned when talking of the starting rotation out of spring?

- JGA

JGA,

A common strategy for teams looking to maximize their assets is to hold a potential young stud back for the first 10-12 weeks of the season or so in order to keep their service time down and hold off their arbitration eligibility for a year.  The Jays may well do that with Drabek.  Since he was up for the last three weeks of last season, they can keep him under team control for an extra year if they leave him in the minors until, say, the beginning of May, but they’d have to keep him down until basically the all-star break to ensure that he doesn’t become a Super-2 arbitration eligible player after the 2013 season.

However, there may be a big change in arbitration eligibility with the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and regardless, if Drabek is the guy the Jays hope he’s going to be, they won’t worry about service time because they’ll give him a Romeroesque contract in a couple of years.

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Queston: since it looks like were really going to see the young talent soon how far off do u think the gose’s, lawrie’s, and stewarts are?

- Jason

Jason,

First of all, please try to use punctuation properly and spell all your words – it’s English, not text-speak.

I think Gose will probably start the season at AA, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in Dunedin for a month or two to start the season.  Lawrie and Stewart will probably start in AAA, though I can see them both in AA, to keep Stewart away from the pitching environment and to keep Lawrie away from the crappy infield and the whole Las Vegas thing.  I believe there’s a good chance Stewart is in the big leagues at some point this season, I think Lawrie emerges in 2012 and Gose late that year or 2013.

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Jeez, you’re back for a week and no new blog?
Nice job, why bother with a blog if you’re not going to update it regularly?

-Jani

Finally, I just wanted to give you all a taste of the kind of comments I generally get in the winter, most of which don’t get posted.  Look, the fact is that whenever the Blue Jays do something that makes news (and I’m in a place where I have internet access), you’ll get a blog post, and often more than one.  In the winter, at times when not much is going on, there won’t be a posting just for the sake of having a posting, though I’ll try to get something up here about once a week.  I will be in Dunedin as of February 24th, and that will be the start of approximately 250 consecutive days with a post on this blog.

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There you go, another award-winning mailbag!  Keep those cards and letters coming, and I’ll get another mailbag up next week – of course, there may very well be a Jose Bautista extension to talk about between now and then.

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