5:03 PM Eastern
……..that son-of-a-Litsch can pitch.
Jesse Litsch has been the favourite of plenty of Blue Jays fans to kick around the last couple of years, with the majority seemingly having completely forgotten that he was legitimately one of the best starting pitchers in the American League in 2008, and that as a 22 year-old in 2007, had a fine rookie season.
When he’s on, he controls the strike zone and keeps hitters off-balance with a strong cut fastball - whether he’s on or not, he fields his position exceptionally well. No, he doesn’t look the part, but yes, he has always done the job.
Throw out last year, when he came back less than 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery and got knocked around in every other outing he had. He’s healthy now, strong and recovered, and can certainly contribute to a big-league starting rotation, even one as good as the Jays’. In fact that his presence makes it that much better.
Today, Litsch fervently stated his case for the 4th spot for which he’d already been pencilled in, throwing 5 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout. He didn’t walk anybody and struck out seven, four of those coming with a Twin hitter’s bat still on his shoulders. He was only scheduled to throw five innings, but Litsch had only thrown 60 pitches through five so they sent him back out for the 6th to strike out Jason Repko on three pitches before giving way to David Purcey. I’m not sure Litsch allowed more than two hard-hit balls all afternoon. It was an incredibly impressive performance.
I’m not sure if this has come through, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Litsch back as a regular in the rotation.
Travis Snider had a big day as well, belting a two-run rocket out to right-centre in the bottom of the 8th to give the Blue Jays some breathing room, and he followed it up with a sensational catch along the warning track in the top of the 9th to help Jon Rauch in his perfect 9th inning for the save. I’m still amazed at how many people believe that Snider isn’t a capable defensive outfielder and lacks speed. Neither idea is even remotely close to the truth.
It was interesting to see how John Farrell used his bullpen today – he’d said that one of the reasons he was comfortable having Rauch be his closer if Frank Francisco can’t answer the bell is that Shawn Camp and Jason Frasor had histories of being able to handle the 7th and 8th innings, respectively, and handle them well.
Today -with the news that Francisco is headed to Dr. James Andrews’ office for a look-see on his sore right shoulder – Camp pitched the 7th, Frasor the 8th and Rauch the 9th. It seems as though that’s the way things are going to break, though Octavio Dotel still has a shot at coming north with the team if his hamstring heals quickly enough. I can’t imagine there’s any way that Francisco comes north with the club, and now it appears as though his entire season may be in doubt. I don’t want to start any sort of panic, but Dr. Andrews plus shoulder doesn’t generally equal happy things. It could be nothing, but even if it’s nothing, he’s not going to throw a pitch until Wednesday at the absolute earliest, which means Rauch is the closer for at least a while.
The big news this morning was that Marc Rzepczynski is no longer a candidate for the rotation, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. Zep wasn’t actually starting any games and was behind the other starters as far as innings buildup, though he was still being sent out to throw multiple innings. I’m a big Rzepczynski fan, and think he can be an asset in the big leagues as a starter, but there are five guys better than him on this team right now and a sixth, Jo-Jo Reyes, who is out of options. We haven’t found out whether Zep will go back into the rotation if he winds up down in Las Vegas, but odds are he’s going to wind up down in Las Vegas, so we’ll find out soon enough.
I’m confident that Reyes makes the team because of the options situation, that the same applies to David Purcey, and that Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva step into the spots vacated by Dotel and Francisco’s trips to the disabled list. Of course, they could decide they want a third lefty and keep Rzepczynski.
Reyes and Kyle Drabek are in competition for the 5th spot in the rotation, and Drabek will throw six innings in a minor-league game tomorrow while Reyes is set to do the same Wednesday night against the Yankees. I got the feeling the last time I talked to John Farrell that Drabek has a clear edge in any battle to win a spot in the rotation, so that’s why I’m thinking that way.
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays are off – with the exceptions of Drabek and Aaron Hill, who will continue to prep for his real fake game debut, scheduled to come Tuesday afternoon against the Phillies. Ricky Romero will start that game against Cliff Lee. No radio, no TV, no webcast for that game, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed @InTheWilnerness.
The collected works of audio from today are as follows:
Clips from Jesse Litsch, on his fine performance:
A short one-on-one with J.P. Arencibia, done after he came out of the game (love his response to the question about his offensive “struggles” this spring):
And, finally, this afternoon’s brief edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!