5:35 PM Eastern

Jonathan Diaz grounded into a double play with the tying run on second base to end the ballgame and deny Chris Woodward the opportunity for a walkoff in his first real fake game back with the Blue Jays, but that wasn’t secondary -or even tertiary – to the events of the day.

Today was all about health, and it was all about good news.

Ricky Romero came back from missing a start with a finger injury and felt great – too strong, he said - and he wound up throwing four innings and though the line wasn’t pretty, he really did hit his stride after a rough first inning.  Romero faced 16 hitters and gave up two hard-hit balls (one of which went out to left-centre for a three-run homer by Raul Ibanez).  He didn’t walk anybody, struck out four, and upon leaving the game went back to the bullpen to throw an addition ten pitches, getting his total workload up to 74 for the day.  He’ll go up to 90 next time out and be ready to go full bore on Opening Day.

Aaron Hill made his first appearance in a real fake game this spring, and it was quite apparent that he’d been told to take it easy.  Hill went 0-for-3 with a pop-up, a fly out and a ground out, so he only had to run out of the batters’ box once, and he did so very gingerly, jogging down the line.  There were a couple of pop flies down the first-base line that Hill would normally have hauled in, but he didn’t even approach them, and he looked exceedingly guarded going after an Ibanez ground ball in the 3-4 hole in the 6th inning that wound up getting through.  But that was what the Blue Jays wanted from him.  To get him into a game, see some real pitching, and not have him aggravate the injury.  Hill is scheduled to be in the line-up tomorrow night against the Yankees for another test run, and he said he wants to play everyday from here on out (with the natural exception of Friday night’s game in Fort Myers – a three-hour bus trip away).

In talking to Hill after the game, he didn’t seem upset at having to not play at full speed, but he did say something that stood out to me – and the clips are below – he said that he’ll be ready Opening Day, but then said something about the team having to decide if it’s worth having him at eighty or ninety percent.  Please don’t panic, but hearing that is the first time I’ve actually thought that Hill might not come north with the team on April 1st.  Of course, so long as they keep playing him in real fake games, they lose the opportunity to backdate a DL stint, which is good news.

Chad Cordero made his Grapefruit debut as a Blue Jay, as well.  The one-time Nationals all-star closer, who has been fighting his way back from shoulder problems for a few years, gave up a bloop single (that a healthy Hill probably gets) and a soft liner over first, but also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter in giving up a run in his one inning of work.  Cordero isn’t a candidate to break with the team, but his return to the majors may not be that far off.

The other good news on the health front came from Birmingham, Alabama, where Dr. James Andrews reported that Frank Francisco’s shoulder is structurally sound.  There are issues in his right pectoral muscle and right biceps muscle, but only inflammation, and Francisco will resume a throwing program on Sunday.  It’s great news, but it’s still going to be almost impossible for Francisco to be ready for Opening Day.  The Blue Jays are hoping his stint on the disabled list won’t be a long one, and Jon Rauch will take over as closer until he’s ready, at least.

In keeping with the good news theme of the day, Marc Rzepczynski made his first appearance since being told he’s now a reliever, and looked terrific.  He faced a couple of left-handed hitters and struck them both out, giving up only a seeing-eye single to Ben Francisco in his one inning of work.  Manager John Farrell raved about Zep after the game, saying that he would definitely be a weapon for the Blue Jays as a reliever and loving the lefty on lefty breaking ball he showed.

One more thing about the game that has nothing to do with health or comebacks or anything, but it should be noted that once again J.P. Arencibia flashed a tremendous throwing arm, nailing a couple of Phillies baserunners trying to steal.  He got Michael Martinez headed for third with a beautiful throw in the second inning, then took care of Ben Francisco trying to nab second in the third.  Both terrific throws, right on the money, just as he’s done all spring.  Arencibia also went 1-for-2 with a walk and a hard line single to centre. 

Tomorrow, it’s a night game in Tampa against the Yankees, with Jo-Jo Reyes being given another opportunity to show he belongs in the season-opening starting rotation.  Reyes is scheduled to throw six innings, and if he looks as good as he did last time out, he may very well take a spot from Jesse Litsch or Kyle Drabek.  If he gets his tail kicked, look for him to be moved to the bullpen pretty much right away.  Regardless, he’s going to make the team if he’s healthy – the Blue Jays don’t want to give him away for nothing; he’s out of option so he’d have to go through waivers in order to be sent down.  David Purcey and Rauch are scheduled to follow.  Phil Hughes is scheduled to start for the Yankees.  We won’t have the game on the radio or on mlb.com, but the fine folks over at Rogers Sportsnet TV will be broadcasting it!  You can still follow me on Twitter, though, @InTheWilnerness – keep an eye out, that handle will be changing very soon!

Here are the collected works of audio from today, and plenty of them:

First, Ricky Romero on his return to the rotation:

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Aaron Hill on his 2011 Grapefruit debut:

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Here’s a short one-on-one with Chad Cordero:

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A couple of clips from Marc Rzepczynski:

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And finally, the skipper himself, John Farrell:

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Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome – there are a few in the hopper to which I haven’t been able to get yet, but I will either by game time tomorrow or before.

10 Responses to “A Feel-Good Tuesday”
  1. 1.

    mike, what exactly is Aaron Hill’s injury. I thought it was just a tight quad, and they were letting him take it easy?

    MW: That’s the story we’re being told.

    - benny
  2. 2.

    Hey Mike,
    If Rzepczynski doesn’t break camp with the Jays as a reliever could you see him being moved to a team like the Brewers? He seems like he could be a good fit filling in as a starter, then being moved to a relief role when Marcum and Greinke are ready to go. Just a thought because they might be willing to give up some good young talent in return.

    Thanks for the ST twitter play by play.

    MW: I don’t think Zep is anywhere near the peak of his value in trade right now, I think it’d be a mistake to move him.

    - Andee
  3. 3.

    “Hill went 0-for-3 with a pop-up, a fly out and a ground out”

    I propose we dub that the “Aaron Hill hat trick”.

    MW: That’s both mean and unfair.

    - Flaming Moe
  4. 4.

    Hey Mike,

    I haven’t found an update, did Drabek pitch a minor league game on Monday and if so how did it go?

    Thanks!

    MW: Yes, he did. He did fine, though he wasn’t spectacular. Check bluejays.com for a full wrap.

    - Andrews the East
  5. 5.

    The fan website bug still has me able to read others posts while still in moderation – can’t believe some brilliant Rogers IT guy can’t figure this out over months…

    Anyway, was thinking that whether you flip EE for Snyder depending on the matchup, a 3-7 batting order of Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Edwin Encarnacion, Travis Snider looks really really good if it can only live up to its POTENTIAL.

    MW: I like the idea of keeping the two lefty regulars a few spots away from each other, but I think we’ll find that 7th is pretty low for Snider.

    - Gary
  6. 6.

    michael,
    good news coming from all directions yesterday indeed. thks. for the updates.
    forgot to mention previously, nice to see c. woodward back in the organization. always liked that guy when here in yrs past. solid citizen. and if not mistaken, one of your fave jays from your recent list past & present if i recall correctly.
    nice to see rzep locking up a spot with the big club even if it isn’t as a sp. (at least according to the skipper’s comments) you mention here. deserves the shot by this time. certainly has paid his dues.
    good to see still a fight going on to this camp’s conclusion with the 4th & 5th sp spots. and think you’re right, reyes sticking around one way or another it would seem based on the circumstances.
    and aaron back in games at 2b… hopefully he’s ready to go apr.1 for the opener.
    and the very encouraging medical news on our eventual closer (most probably if healthy) f.f. (man we’ve got a lot of people in or around this organization with same double initials don’t we?)
    the young catcher having a great game behind the plate, getting on base with hit & walks.
    and project cordero gearing up finally. nice to see.
    and you say romero ok again & back on track?
    beautiful. it’s all good michael. it’s all good…….

    - darrell bishop
  7. 7.

    michael,
    i surely hope this doesn’t come off as somewhat manic sounding based on this post compared to my previous a just a few short hrs. ago.
    but everytime i turn around the bad news just keeps on piling on around here.
    morrow’s arm is completely gone starting the season now on the dl. francisco doesn’t even know if he’ll ever pitch again as he’s on the dl as well.
    aaron hill can’t even get under a routine pop up just outside of the infield as he usually would in the past because of his unrepairable severely torn hamstring.
    arencibia’s not sure if he’s ever going to hit another hr.
    unprovens smattered all thruout our starting rotation to start the season.
    i’m tellin’ you michael, this season is going to hell in a handbasket my friend and it’s not even april yet…..
    i ask you, why does this always happen to me?

    MW: Well, for starters, it’s not actually happening to you. Secondly, it’s quite hilarious to read your posts back to back. And unrepairable (sic) severely torn hamstring? Seriously?

    - darrell bishop
  8. 8.

    Mike,

    with the Jays kicking off the 2011 season against the Minnesota Twins on April 1st and Brandon Morrow beginning the season on the disabled list, eligibile for activation on April 6th, does that now make him the 5th starter (as 4 will start before him) if not the number 5 starter?

    Will they insert him farther up in the 2nd go around for starters or does it matter?

    MW: I think it will depend on when he’s ready to go. He may not come off the DL right on April 6th.

    - Gary
  9. 9.

    Judging from your mindset from your answer last post concerning rewarding veterans, you Mike must shake your head at N.Y. giving Jeter the contract they did to a guy looking back on his best years.

    MW: That’s different. I mean, I don’t think it was a good contract, but it’s just money. It shouldn’t have anything to do with what goes on on the field.

    - hey 19
  10. 10.

    michael,
    i’m in serious need of someone developing some sort of a facetiousness font…
    just love the kibitzing? with you is all.
    sorry about that.
    and the “why is this always happening to me?” comment i thought was the capper for my manic portrayal btw.
    i won’t lie i was quite proud of that one. almost couldn’t type that one out i was laughing so hard to myself there. i lead a simple life michael what can i say….
    later my friend…

    - darrell bishop
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