5:40 PM Eastern

It didn’t take long for the Blue Jays to set about to pounding the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon at the FAES, and they were full measure for their nine runs, the only exception being that there wasn’t a lot of big-league pitching on display from the T-Bay side.

But the Jays didn’t score a bunch because of rookie misplays and balls that were kicked all over the yard or a ton of walks, they smacked the ball around.  Yunel Escobar doubled over the head of B.J. Upton to score a pair, David Cooper stroked an RBI single to centre to score J.P. Arencibia, who had doubled off the wall, Jose Bautista slammed a home run to left that still hasn’t come down and also hit a sac fly to the track in centre and Eric Thames homered deep to right and hit a sac fly to the track, also in right.  The only run-producing shot that wasn’t hit well was Corey Patterson’s RBI single to centre in the 5th.  Interestingly, I saw it described on Twitter as a line shot up the middle that almost took pitcher Mike Ekstrom’s head off.  Truth is, it was a weak, low liner, that Ekstrom kicked at with his foot but missed.  It then landed on the other side of the mound and took about 17 hops into centrefield.  Still, a hit’s a hit, and the Jays had plenty of them today.

The real story was on the mound, though, and a huge scare was put into everyone when Tim Beckham hit a hot shot right back through the box in the second inning.  The ball hit Brandon Morrow, who seemed dazed, taking a few long seconds before he realized the ball was right in front of him.  He then picked it up and threw low to first where a great scoop by Cooper saved him and ended the inning.  As he walked off towards the dugout, I saw him put his left hand on the top of his right chest/front of his right shoulder, and I didn’t expect him to come back out for the third.

He did, though, and his third and fourth innings were as good as his second, which was pretty terrific.  Morrow wound up throwing four innings (65 pitches, 41 strikes), allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits.  He hit Manny Ramirez with a 3-0 pitch, a ball that was in enough to allow Morrow to still state that he hasn’t walked anyone all spring, and he struck out six.  Two of the three hits were line drives, as was the ball that stung him, the other was a grounder to first that Cooper fielded, but Morrow couldn’t find the bag as he went over to cover.  There was also a balk and a steal of home (correctly ruled a fielder’s choice) on a strike three in the dirt.  Pretty eventful for four strong innings, but four strong innings they were.

The Beckham liner, it turns out, hit Morrow on the front of his right shoulder, but the brunt of the blow was taken by his left index finger – the one that sticks out of the glove – as he brought the glove up to try to shield himself.  He figured it was a glancing blow, and that the ball had caromed off his towards one of the infielders, which is why he looked stunned before he found the ball right in front of him.  He said after the game that his finger hurts, but that he’s otherwise fine.  Morrow gave me one of the greatest answers to a question that I’ve ever gotten from an athlete when I asked him if there was any concern that he’d have to come out of the game.  He said, with a smile, “Yeah.  Until I said I was all right.”  The audio is below.

Marc Rzepczynski followed with three strong innings.  The first one took about five pitches, and included a great sliding catch in right field by Rajai Davis.  In the second, he made Manny Ramirez look pretty bad, striking him out on three pitches, and in the third one the Rays scored a run, but it was set up by an infield single and another ground ball that got through.  The longer the spring goes, the less convinced I am that Kyle Drabek isn’t going to make the team, which leaves no room in the rotation for Rzepczynski, but the Jays continue to keep him stretched out and he’s probably still in the hunt for that last spot, though not the favourite.

Brett Lawrie continued to open eyes by starting a nice double play at third and staying back on a two-strike breaking ball long enough to throw his bat at it and hit a line single to centre.  He’s the guy everyone is talking about, but it still says here that he’s not going to make the team out of spring training.  He’s been everything the Blue Jays have hoped for, and I know that a lot of people can’t wait to see him in the big leagues, but he’s still just 21, has never played above AA and is learning a new position, no matter how well he seems to be adapting to it.

Lawrie is hitting .370 on the spring thanks to his 1-for-2 day, but that’s in only 27 springtime at-bats.  Of those 27 at-bats, 20 have come against pitchers who have actually pitched in the big leagues.  Against them, he has five hits, for a .250 mark.  That’s not to rain on the great Lawrie parade, it’s just to point out that he’s still very much a developing prospect and hasn’t “proven he can hit major-league pitching” with his big spring or anything like that.  Some time in AAA can’t hurt him and could very well do him a world of good.  The Blue Jays would love for his first call-up to the big leagues to be his last.

The Blue Jays are celebrating my birthday with their second off-day of the spring tomorrow, Brett Cecil will get some work in a minor-league game.  Tuesday the Phillies come to town, and we’ll be broadcasting the game for you on the web at www.bluejays.com.  Also that afternoon, Aaron Hill will play in a minor-league game.  He told me today that he feels ready to go, but the Jays still have some final tests they want him to pass before putting him in a real fake game.  One of those is for him to be able to explode out of the batter’s box on the way to first base and not feel a pull in his quad.  If he passes that test on Tuesday, I think we’ll see him in a game sooner than later.

Now, it’s time to finish up the Fat Elvis auction!  I have four players left to take and while the options aren’t great, I’m agonizing over a couple of choices.  Then a midnight drive to Orlando to pick up the family at the airport – best birthday present ever!

For your listening pleasure, here are the clips of Brandon Morrow’s scrum with the media after the game:

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And here’s a quick little interview I did with Marc Rzepczynski:

 

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Remember to follow me on Twitter @InTheWilnerness, and remember to leave rational and reasonable comments for me to answer here on the blog!

23 Responses to “The Big Bats Take Down The Rats”
  1. 1.

    Mike,
    First off happy birthday. Good week to be born, mine is tuesday. Second, seems like Bautista has been getting some consistant reps at the 4th spot in the order. Its nice to see I think this sets up the lineup with a good L,R,L balance. Here is hoping Snider can handle the 5th spot. There is some serious power in the heart of the order. I count 5 guys with 30+ HR potential.

    MW: I don’t see good L-R-L balance, I think it’s going to be R-R-L all the way down the line-up, which would mean Bautista hits 4th between Lind and Hill, with Snider batting 6th. I agree with you – I think Lind, Hill, Bautista, Snider and Encarnacion could each hit at least 30 homers. Arencibia has that kind of power, too.

    - Denny
  2. 2.

    Mike, did you choose the name Missouri Jailbirds? (fat elvis league) Would you be willing to tell us any of the history of that?

    MW: I did choose the name. Jailbirds was because (at the time) there was a requirement that team names be Elvis-related in some way, so I pulled that out of the great (and somewhat sexually confusing, oddly enough) Jailhouse Rock. Missouri is because the team plays in Kansas City (I would have picked Toronto, but there’s no turf allowed in the league).

    - D.J.
  3. 3.

    Happy birthday Mike! Well it’s not for another hour but it’s the best I can do.

    I know you said Travis is going to hit in the bottom of the order but I could see the situation he was put in today really helping his confidence I.E. hitting before Jose.

    Oh and I have a sneaking feeling that Arin Hill will be the best hitter on the team. Do you think that is a good thing?

    Thanks,

    Habitant

    MW: Aaron Hill has a long way to go before he’s the best hitter on the team. An OBP of at least .350 would appear to be the minimum requirement, and he’s never had one of those. It wasn’t me who said Snider was going to hit in the bottom half of the order, it was John Farrell. And thank you!

    - Habitant
  4. 4.

    how many hits did bautista get in his last 10 at bats – 10/10??

    too funny, your and my wife’s birthday are the same.

    eddy

    MW: Wish your wife a happy birthday for me! In his last 10 plate appearances, Bautista has two singles, a double, two home runs, three walks, a strikeout and a sac fly. So that would be a line of .833/.800/2.000. Not too bad, though I hate when guys have an OBP lower than their batting average ;-)

    - gededmunds@yahoo.ca
  5. 5.

    Hey Mike,

    Just wondering if you could give us a few more details about David Cooper. I seem to remember him being a first-round pick out of college? How’s he progressing through the system? I’m worried he’s beginning to enter “bust” territory.

    Thanks,

    Nick

    MW: It’s a little early for him to be a bust – remember Ricky Romero – but yes, Cooper certainly hasn’t progressed the way the BLue Jays would have liked him to. He’s hoping to be in AAA this year, which would give him a chance in a good hitting environment. He’s Overbayesque at his ceiling, I think.

    - Heals
  6. 6.

    happy birthday

    MW: Thank you!

    - Matt in BC
  7. 7.

    should Brett Lawrie be put at 3rd base, and how well and when will aron hill comeback and be the player he was 2 yerars ago

    MW: There’s no reason to rush Lawrie, other than to make the fans happy, and that’s not a great reason to make roster moves. He should go down to AAA and get some more on-the-job training. I don’t know if Aaron Hill (why can’t anyone spell his name right?) will ever have another year like he had in 2009, but I think he can be far closer to that than to what he did last year.

    - greg
  8. 8.

    I had Shawn Marcum on my fantasy team last year and was quite happy with his performance, however I don’t feel he has the same support on defense as he had with the Jays, can you please enlighten me on the support he can count on this year I have enjoyed your comments over the past few season, and your insight has enabled me to become more of a baseball fan than I was before,

    MW: Thanks! Happy I could be a part of that. You’re right, the Brewers’ defense isn’t as good as the Blue Jays’ was last year. Marcum won’t get nearly as much help from Weeks and Betancourt up the middle as he did from Hill and Escobar last year. But he’s also in the NL Central now, not the AL East. That will make more of a difference, I think.

    - greg
  9. 9.

    Great to have a birthday on pi day. You should get to have pie as well as a birthday cake.

    - Leo
  10. 10.

    michael,
    honestly, what is with this hurry up attitude with brett lawrie? it’s utterly ridiculous.
    bautista is a decent back up plan for now over there don’t you think?
    apparent above average power, decent glove & arm i think to hold the fort for the time being.
    but would at least a few months down in the minors really kill the kid?
    he’s become the baseball equivalent of nazem kadri
    michael. it’s crazy.
    wrong sport chums. wrong sport…..

    - darrell bishop
  11. 11.

    Mike happy birthday and 2 questions. I firstly read it today but I read that the blue jays signed Latin outfielder fransisco teijada. Who is 17. They signed him for a 150 000 signing bonus. What is the future like for him and where will he be playing next year whether it’s in the Dominican or in the blue jays farm system. Secondly is it true that the blue jays are interested in colby Rasmus. Someone told me it was a true rumor but in ever heard of it. Thank you

    MW: 1 – He’s 17. 2 – The Blue Jays are absolutely interested in Rasmus, but it doesn’t appear as though the Cardinals are terribly interested in moving him.

    - David
  12. 12.

    Mike…It’s been said over and over about athletes being bigger, faster and stronger now than in the past, especially in light of the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty hit/headshot/assault, depending on if you live in Montreal, Boston or work for Air Canada or Via Rail…since this description of the modern day athlete also includes baseball, one still doesn’t see the complete game studs (Doc somewhat and exception) and pitchers are still labelled “6 or 7 inning guy” Why do you think Mike?

    MW: I think it’s because they haven’t been trained to go deep into games. It starts early.

    - chris m.
  13. 13.

    Happy Birthday Mike! For your b-day I give you the knowledge of this super-cool baseball league…..The Toronto Burby League! (First one on Google.) If you already knew about it, then I gots nuthin’ for ya.

    Perhaps you played a little wall ball as a kid? It’s wicked-awesome. I suggest you round-up a 3- or 4-some and join.

    Enjoy the rest of spring training!

    - TDotRome
  14. 14.

    Mike,

    Just a quick thought on Rajai Davis. I know it’s not a big part of his game, but do you see his home run totals increasing with the move to Rogers Centre? He hit 5 playing in Oakland last year, is 10 a reasonable number this year?

    MW: Yes, I think it is. But his job is to get on base, steal bases, score runs and play great defense.

    - Denny
  15. 15.

    michael,
    heard that interview over the weekend with i think jerry & the new 1b coach talking about a few different players incl. young, base stealing, phenom, cf, gose.
    so have you seen this live yet? these 15 ft leads off 1b that he apparently takes???
    that’s got to look kinda nuts no?
    man, that’s a long long way off the bag no doubt.
    assuming they’re desparately trying to rein him in a bit with that seemingly derelict base stealing behavior.
    this gose must be a crazy man michael….

    - darrell bishop
  16. 16.

    michael,
    actually come to think of it. you might have done the interview in question with new 1b coach lovullo.
    much sorry if in fact initially mistaken my friend.

    MW: Apology accepted!

    - darrell bishop
  17. 17.

    Hi Mike.

    Just wondering what would happen to Rzepczynski would end up if he doesn’t make it into the starting rotation.

    MW: He would more than likely wind up starting in Vegas.

    - Gabe
  18. 18.

    Mike…I was remiss in not wishing you a happy birthday on my comment yesterday, so I will now belatedly and hope you and the family had a wonderful evening. Also Mike…since Opening Night actually falls on April 1st, doesn’t that call for some live pre-game Chalk Circle performing “April Fool”?…I think that would be apropos.

    - chris m.
  19. 19.

    11:38 pm

    how many hits did bautista get in his last 10 at bats – 10/10??

    >too funny, your and my >wife’s birthday are the same.

    >eddy

    >MW: Wish your wife a happy >birthday for me! In his last >10 plate appearances, >Bautista has two singles, a >double, two home runs, three >walks, a strikeout and a sac >fly. So that would be a line >of .833/.800/2.000. Not too >bad, though I hate when guys >have an OBP lower than their >batting average ;-)

    it will bring out a smile when I tell her, MW says happy BDay.

    I’m one of the few lucky SOBs whose wife loves BBall.

    - eddy
  20. 20.

    Is Travis Snider ready to have his break out year, have been watching with interest I feel he will be a big part of the Jays for years to come,but are we going to have to wait another season for the talent to boil over

    MW: He’s certainly ready, but no one knows when it’s going to happen. Don’t forget, he’s only 23.

    - greg
  21. 21.

    thanks for your answers thus far, just watched the yankees, tigers season opener, can’t believe CC is as big as he is and still a great thrower, looks more like a football lineman. Anyway look forward to getting your views as the season goes on. Go Jays, looking forward to a very promising year with a exciting young and upcoming talented team. Still remember watching Doug Ault smashing out the very first Jay homerun on a very snowy April day

    - greg
  22. 22.

    just finished watching the jays get washed by Red Sox,my question actually centers around Carl Crawford. This guy is looking very confused both at the plate and in the outfield. I think the best thing they did today was take him out of the leadoff spot,I believe he is putting to much pressure on himself and not just being himself, what do you think?

    Thanks Greg

    MW: I have enough Blue Jays stuff on my plate to worry about Carl Crawford, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.

    - greg
  23. 23.

    As of todays win over the Rangers the Jays are only 3 games out of 1st , the east is looking like a very tight race, and I do not feel the Yankees or Red Sox are going to run away with it, so the question is can theJays finish 1st or more in the range of 2nd or 3rd

    - greg
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