5:08 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays fell to 0-4 on the spring with a 6-2 loss to a split-squad of Tigers. It was their third game so far this Grapefruit season against the Detroits, but at least now they don’t have to play them again until Saturday.
Ricky Romero got the start and spent his 50 pitches working on his sinker, with less than spectacular results. He certainly didn’t pitch as poorly as his line would indicate – giving up four runs on five hits over 2 1/3, walking two and striking out two. All five of the hits were ground-ball singles, a couple hit hard, a couple not so much. One of them, by Ramon Santiago in the second, was about an inch away from being turned into an inning-ending double play, but Mike McCoy couldn’t come up with it.
Romero didn’t use his change-up much, but he threw a beauty to Miguel Cabrera in the second inning for a strikeout. He said he could have thrown more change-ups and would likely have escaped with far less damage had he done so, but his job today was to work on mastering the sinker. When he kept it down, he got good results. When it crept up, he got hit.
Because of all the baserunners, Romero didn’t finish the three innings he was supposed to throw, getting only one out in the third and leaving the bases loaded for young Zach Stewart. And as if that wasn’t enough, Stewart had to face Cabrera as his first hitter, and what was supposed to be a fastball in on the hands instead floated out over the plate and Cabrera destroyed it, one-hopping the wall in left-centre for a three-run double that gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead, and that was pretty much that.
Stewart, who had looked so good in throwing a couple of perfect innings in Thursday’s intrasquad game, had what he called a “chaotic” outing. At times he said he felt great and at other times felt as though he’d never pitched a baseball before in his life. A lot of that had to do with rookie jitters, first outing of the year and all that, but he also said that he learned today how much he needed to learn before he could be ready to move to the next level.
A huge thing for Stewart was how predictable he was in holding runners. Brandon Inge had him timed and pretty much walked to second base in the third inning, and then Victor Martinez did the same thing in the 5th. It was amazing how quickly the Tigers nailed down his pattern – Inge was only the third hitter he’d faced in the game! That’s something that’s just as easy to fix as it is to spot, though, which is good.
The Jays got their first lead of the spring, and it came right off the hop. Rajai Davis led the game off with his first hit of spring – a double slammed down the left-field line. Corey Patterson followed by trying to bunt his way on, but settled for the sac to move Davis, and Brett Lawrie slammed a rope to right-centre for an RBI single, his first of two hits on the day.
That was it, though, but for the first Blue Jays power display of the spring. The team that led the big leagues in home runs in 2010 finally got its first of 2011 (fake-game variety), and it was the young, unheralded Eric Thames, crushing a fastball up and away over a leaping Brennan Boesch in left field in the 4th. Thames continues to look really comfortable at the plate – he added a single in the 7th – and he’s opening eyes for a potential mid-season call-up should he go down to Vegas and do well.
Plenty of audio for you today – here are the clips I sent back to the radio station from Romero, Stewart and Thames (his play-by-play of what he was thinking during the homer is great):
And here’s a 1-on-1 with Lawrie:
Tomorrow, it’s back to Dunedin for the Jays’ first of five spring dates with the Tampa Bay Rays. Brandon Morrow is scheduled to throw the first three innings for the Jays, David Price answers for the Rays. It’s a 2 1/2 hour bus ride from the Rays’ base in Port Charlotte up to Dunedin, so don’t expect Evan Longoria, Johnny Damon or Manny Ramirez to make the trip.
It’ll be our first webcast of the spring – so be sure to tune in to mlb.com at 1:05 PM Eastern and join me, Jerry and Alan on the interwebs!
There will also be a “B” game against the Phillies in the morning, in which Aaron Hill is expected to test his sore quad. I’ll be there to watch.
Tonight I’ll be available again for a live tweet/chat as I take my nightly five to seven mile walk around the grounds of the good ol’ Florida condo complex, so make sure to check in @InTheWilnerness and we’ll chat it up!
Reasonable, rational comments are always welcome – and will be answered!