6:25 PM Eastern
The big-swinging Blue Jays used a bat-around, five-run fourth inning to pound Clifton Phifer Lee into submission and ultimately beat the Phillies 7-6, moving the Jays over .500 for the first time this spring.
It started pretty harmlessly, with Jose Bautista hitting a sharp grounder to third on which Jesse Barfield’s kid Josh made a nice sliding grab to his left. He popped up with plenty of time, but threw wildly to first for an inning-opening two-base error. Adam Lind followed by short-hopping the wall in left-centre for an RBI double – his second hit of the afternoon off Lee, the other being a two-strike line-drive single to centre – and Juan Rivera blasted his first home run of the spring down the left-field line. After Lee struck out Travis Snider on three pitches, Edwin Encarnacion took sole possession of the Jays’ spring home run lead with his fourth. Then J.P. Arencibia singled, was doubled to third by John McDonald, and scored on a sac fly to centre by Rajai Davis.
Just like that, a 2-0 deficit turned into a 5-2 lead and the Blue Jays were never headed. Mike Hinckley made it interesting in the 9th, giving up a two-out, two-run homer to light-hitting Freddy Galvis to draw the Philbos to within a run, but he managed to close it out and pick up the save.
There was plenty of good that came out of this game for the Blue Jays, starting with Jo-Jo Reyes, who pitched five strong innings after things could have fallen apart early. He had trouble controlling his nerves early on (he said he was “too juiced”, using an unfortunate turn of phrase), and after giving up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins, he threw a get-me-over 3-1 fastball to Shane Victorino, and The Flyin’ Hawaiian put it in the seats, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead before Reyes had even recorded an out.
He then fell behind three-hitter Raul Ibanez 2-0, causing alarm bells to start ringing, but was a different guy from that point on. He rebounded to strike Ibanez out looking, and only gave up three more hits over the course of his five innings of work. Most importantly, he didn’t walk anyone. Walks have been Reyes’ major issue throughout his brief big-league career – he’s issued 98 free passes in 194 innings of work, which is pretty terrible. Today, there was none of that; manager John Farrell even said that (after the first inning) Reyes “dominated the bottom of the strike zone”.
Reyes did say that he’s taken pitching coach Bruce Walton’s “pound down” philosophy to heart, and that has made a difference for him. But it’s also the fact that he’s learned a lot over the last 3 1/2 years bouncing between the minors and the majors. He’s just 26 years old, and he feels that things are now all coming together for him. An added benefit to his cause is that he’s out of options, so he’s going to get a very good, very long look for a spot on the roster. In fact, he’s scheduled to start again on March 23rd at the Yankees, and may well get stretched out to six innings that night.
That’s not Ricky Romero’s day, which is the one on which Reyes started today, it’s Brandon Morrow’s. Romero has shown no signs of the finger issue that forced him to be scratched from today’s start, so he’ll throw a couple of simulated innings and then be given the green light to start on Tuesday. Morrow will more than likely throw in a minor-league game on the 23rd, to avoid giving him two starts in a row against the Yankees.
The other major positives from the game included three hits each from Adam Lind, Juan Rivera and John McDonald. While two each of Rivera’s and Mac’s were bloops and bleeders, Lind was full measure for all three of his, throwing a double into the left-field corner in to go with his two hard-hit balls off Lee. It was especially gratifying to see Lind do so well against one of the game’s best left-handers, since he’s coming off an historically poor year against left-handed pitching (he hit just .117/.159/.182 against southpaws last season). He didn’t seem as excited, since he seemed surprised that I wanted to talk to him after the game. So I told him that since he’d gotten a couple of hits off Cliff Lee and stuff, people might want to hear from him. Hence my first question – the audio is here:
Before the game, John Farrell gave us an idea of how the batting order will look on Opening Day, saying he is now favouring hitting Jose Bautista third and Lind fourth, owing to Bautista’s greater abilities on the basepaths. I followed up by asking if having Lind hit cleanup would force Travis Snider to hit lower in the line-up than sixth, in order to spread out the only two regulars who hit left-handed, and Farrell didn’t seem to think so. Therefore, it would appear that the Opening Day line-up against Minnesota’s Carl Pavano – one through six – will be Rajai Davis, Yunel Escobar, Bautista, Lind, Aaron Hill and Snider. The bottom three will feature some combination of Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Rivera and J.P. Arencibia, and I’m thinking it’s likely to be in that order.
Farrell’s Bautista/Lind clip, and a few from the post-game (Rivera is the guy he’s talking about who is starting to feel comfortable at the plate) are here, for your listening pleasure:
And here are Reyes’ post-game comments:
Tomorrow, the Jays and the Yankees play the first of a home-and-home, this one at the FAES. Brandon Morrow will start and Marc Rzepczynski will finish – between them they’re scheduled to take care of all nine innings - while A.J. Burnett answers for the New Yorkists. There’s no radio, nor is there a webcast, so make sure to follow me on Twitter @InTheWilnerness for everything you need to know!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!