3:32 PM Eastern
Yes, the Jays also lost, but that’s beside the point.
It was guaranteed win day for the Blue Jays as they split their squad into Blue and Gray and took the field to battle it out in an intra-squad game on the eve of their Grapefruit opener against the Pirates.
The Blue team was made up of the likely Opening Day starters, with one possible exception – Eric Thames started for the Blue, but he is in a pitched battle with Travis Snider to earn the starting left field job. In this game, Snider took the early lead by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double high off the wall in right-centre field. Rick VandenHurk, the former Marlin and Oriole, served it up. Thames went 0-for-2, but one of his outs was a hard-hit line drive to third off Drew Hutchison. Snider and Thames had one play each in the outfield, and each made a routine catch of a routine fly ball.
The Blue team – that probable starters – didn’t do much of anything offensively, and their miscues on defense cost them in what wound up being a 2-1 win for the Grays. They managed just two hits – a groundball single to left by Yunel Escobar to lead off the game and a solo homer to right-centre by Colby Rasmus in the 5th. Kelly Johnson walked to follow Escobar’s hit, and the next 12 Blues were retired in order by Brandon Morrow (2), Jason Frasor (3), Hutchison (3), Evan Crawford (3 – including strikeouts of Jose Bautista and Adam Lind – both looking) and Deck McGuire (1, before serving up the Rasmus shot).
The Grays got things going early, as Rajai Davis led things off with the first of his two-strike hits, this a grounder to left. He moved to second when Omar Vizquel followed with a grounder up the middle, and danced around enough to draw a pickoff throw from Ricky Romero. Romero’s throw was wide of the mark, and Davis took off for third, drawing a wild throw from Rasmus in centre. As the ball sailed over Brett Lawrie’s head, Davis turned for home. Romero fielded the carom off the backstop and fired to the plate just a hair late – according to Davis and whoever was umpiring home plate. Romero and J.P. Arencibia insist that Rajai was out, but the run counted.
That left a man on third with nobody out, and Romero pitched out of it by striking out Snider and Ben Francisco and getting David Cooper to fly to centre.
The Grey team’s second run came in the third, when Davis hit a flare over second that dropped in front of Rasmus for a single (also with two strikes) and scored on Snider’s one-out double off the wall.
Other highlights included Omar Vizquel making a nice play up the middle on a bouncing ball by Lawrie and just nipping him at first with the throw – that’s something on which the Blue Jays will keep a very close eye, Vizquel’s throwing arm, and this was a very good sign early. Also, Ben Francisco threw Yunel Escobar out at third in the first. YEscobar made an extremely ambitious tag on a shallowish fly by Bautista, and Francisco made him pay. Kelly Johnson guessed right, and stole second on a Brandon Morrow pitch that wound up in the dirt.
Romero wound up throwing 17 pitches, 13 for strikes – he’ll start Tuesday, home to the Phillies (we’ll have it for you on mlb.com). Morrow threw 20 pitches – 10 balls, 10 strikes – he starts Wednesday, when the Jays split their squad. Not sure if he’ll start at home against the Red Sox or make the trip to Bradenton to face the Pirates.
The players relished the chance to actually get on the field and play a game, as opposed to just taking (or throwing) batting practice and doing fielding drills, and from here on out, they’ll actually be playing teams in a different uniform as the Pirates make the trip up to Bradenton for the first of a home-and-home on Saturday afternoon.
We will be on across the Blue Jays Radio Network beginning with the pre-game show at 12:30 PM Eastern. Jerry Howarth begins his 32nd full season behind the mic with the Jays, Alan Ashby is in for his 6th, and I’ll have the honour of working Jays’ broadcasts for an 11th season. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that that would have been the case. Tom Young is back with us, as well. The birthday boy is beginning his 5th year in charge of making sure we actually get on the air, and he does a tremendous job.
Here are today’s collected works of audio for your listening pleasure:
First, John Farrell:
Here’s Colby Rasmus:
And my one-on-one chat with Rajai Davis:
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