4:30 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays hit the road in a big way tonight, heading a few hours down I-75 to Fort Myers to meet up with the Boston Red Sox. It’s a long trip, it’s a night game, and there’s a day game tomorrow so what the Blue Jays are sending on the bus isn’t exactly a fair representation of the ballclub. Jesse Litsch is starting, and there will only be two guys in the game who will be in the starting line-up on Opening Day – J.P. Arencibia is catching and Edwin Encarnacion gets a start at third base. Corey Patterson and Mike McCoy are there, too, as are the kids.
All the regulars were at the FAES in Dunedin to work out this morning, so we headed there and had the chance to talk to a few, including Octavio Dotel, who is going to start the season on the disabled list.
Dotel told the assemblage he had a plan that would have him ready for Opening Day – he’d throw tomorrow, Monday and Wednesday, then when everyone was off on Thursday, he’d get an inning in then, too, giving him the back-to-back outings he feels he needs in order to be ready to answer the bell. It was a well thought-out plan, and quite lovely in the abstract, but it won’t be put into practice. The Blue Jays don’t feel right about having Dotel pitch every other day quite yet, and they feel as though the timetable he’s set out is a little too short. He’s going to keep pitching in minor-league games for now, and will start the season on the disabled list.
We also spoke to Bruce Walton about Brett Cecil’s lack of velocity this spring, and the Blue Jays’ pitching coach isn’t worried at all. The man the Blue Jays affectionately call “Pappy” says that this has happened to Cecil every year, at different points in the season – and besides, the main goal is to get people out, and Cecil has done that. He’s only had two bad innings all spring, even with the reduced velocity. Walton agreed with me, laughingly, that if Mike McCoy had turned that double play in the 6th inning yesterday, this wouldn’t even be a story. He’s willing to try whatever Cecil wants to do in an attempt to regain those lost miles-per-hour, but believes that chances are the velocity will return when it wants to, no matter what they do.
According to Cecil’s Twitter feed (@CEC0208), Cecil took a dip in the cold tub today for the first time this spring – because he’s willing to try anything at this point. Walton walked by and, with a smile, asked if his fastball was in there. That story reminds me of a few springs ago, when a coach was watching an aging veteran throw a bullpen, trying to make one last gasp at a career resurgence. He looked at us and said “If anyone of you finds a curveball lying around, pick it up and give it to that guy – he could use one.”
John Farrell was gracious enough to meet with the media before the bus left, since none of the assembled reporters are making the trip to Fort Myers. He told us that Jesse Carlson saw Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday and got a PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) shot in his left biceps tendon. Carlson doesn’t need surgery, but he needed the shot to help speed his recovery. He’s still unable to throw, and there’s no timetable for his return to action.
Farrell also spoke glowingly about Juan Rivera. The guy most fans seem to think is only here because the Blue Jays can’t trade him is seen by his manager as a luxury in the eighth spot in the batting order because of his pop and his savvy at the plate. Those clips are included in the audio package below, as are Farrell’s comments on J.P. Arencibia,who he hopes tears the cover off the ball this season.
Farrell also said that part of Don Wakamatsu’s job – part of the job description of whoever they were going to hire as bench coach – was to help control the running game. Wakamatsu will work with the catchers, signalling in pitch-outs and throws over, but whoever is behind the plate will be in charge of calling the game.
Here are today’s collected works of audio, first Bruce Walton:
And now John Farrell:
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays will make a far shorter road trip – about two and a half hours shorter, in fact – as they hook up with a split-squad of Phillies in Clearwater. With the injury to Brandon Morrow having forced Kyle Drabek to move up into the second spot in the rotation, there’s a big hole for the Saturday afternoon start, so the call has gone all the way down to A-ball for 20 year-old Drew Hutchison. The young righty was a 19th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2009, and posted a 1.109 WHIP in Auburn and Lansing last season, making 15 starts and finishing 2-3 with a 2.49 ERA, striking out 63 in 68 1/3 innings and allowing only two home runs. He’s scheduled to go four and will be followed by Chad Cordero, Casey Janssen for two innings and Jon Rauch. As of now, the 6th inning is set to be pitched by a question mark.
The only position players in camp who will not be making the trip to Clearwater are Encarnacion and Patterson – who play tonight in Fort Myers – and John McDonald, who will be back in the line-up on Sunday when the Blue Jays host a split-squad of Orioles.
We will have both weekend games for you on the full Blue Jays Radio Network, including our flagship Sportsnet Radio the Fan 590, so be sure to tune us in starting at 12:30 PM Eastern. On tomorrow’s pre-game, Jerry will have John Farrell and I’ll speak to player who has the longest current tenure with the Blue Jays - none other than Jason Frasor.
Remember to follow me on Twitter @Wilnerness590 – I’ll answer your tweets on the air during the pre-game!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!