9:24 PM Eastern

The Blue Jays began the Grapefruit League season with an easy win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-1 at the FAES in Dunedin.  Brett Lawrie led the way with a pair of two-run doubles – one ripped into the gap in left-centre on a line about seven feet off the ground the whole way, and the other a sinking liner to centre that fell in front of a diving Starling Marte.  Lawrie also had a stolen base (third, no less) and started a nifty 5-3 double play as he set expectations incredibly high coming off a phenomenal rookie season.

Remember, in his 43 games in the majors last year, Lawrie hit .293/.373/.580, and if you pro-rate his counting stats over 162 games, he was on pace to hit 30 doubles, 15 triples (which would have tied the club record) and 34 homers.  He’d have driven in 94 runs, scored 98 and stolen 26 bases in 30 attempts.  Those are pretty much MVP numbers, so Lawrie has left himself a tough act to follow.  He didn’t exactly temper any enthusiasm on the part of the fans with his performance in the Spring opener.  I talked to him after he came out of the game:

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Colby Rasmus hit the Jays’ first home run of the spring in their intrasquad game on Friday afternoon, but the first big fly that counts as part of the real fake spring stats belonged to Eric Thames, who took Mississauga’s Chris Leroux deep the other way to lead off the bottom of the 5th.  It was part of a 2-for-3 day for Thames, who also singled in a run the next inning.  He’s in a pitched battle for the left field job with Travis Snider, who doubled off the wall in right-centre in the intra-squad game but went 0-for-1 against the Bucs.  Here’s my conversation with the ever-smiling Thames:

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As far as the pitching went, the Pirates were held to just three hits, two of which (and their lone run) came off Danny Farquhar in the 5th inning.  Brett Cecil threw nine of his 12 pitches for strikes in the first inning, but the three that missed were all fastballs up, which got him into a lot of trouble last season.  He was pleased though, saying that when he missed up he missed much too high for the hitters to do any damage, which is true.  He also said he felt strong enough to have gone six innings or more.

Kyle Drabek followed with a telling outing.  The first hitter he faced, Yamaico Navarro, hit a grounder up the middle but Yunel Escobar’s throw pulled Adam Lind off the bag for an error.  Drabek then tried to be much too fine with Nate McLouth, and just missed with three straight pitches before firing a fourth nowhere near the plate for a walk, giving the Pirates men on first and second and nobody out without benefit of a hit.  Familiar story, and what tended to follow with the 2011 version of Kyle Drabek was usually a meltdown.  Not so this time.  He got a ground ball from Jake Fox on  the next pitch that Lawrie niftily turned into a double play, then struck out Gorkys Hernandez on three pitches, with Hernandez never once taking the bat off his shoulders.  Does that mean all is well with Drabek now?  Certainly not, but it was a heck of a good sign.

The Pirates did the nice thing and brought Jeremy Farrell up for the game.  The Blue Jays’ skipper’s son was an all-star for them in Double-A last year.  The younger Farrell played the second half of the game and came to the plate twice, drawing a walk off Ryan Tepera and striking out against Joel Carreno.

The Blue Jays will head down to Bradenton to visit the Pirates Sunday afternoon as their Grapefruit season continues.  The revamped pitching schedule has Aaron Laffey making the start, set to throw two innings.  In behind him will be Chad Beck, Jesse Chavez, Robert Coello, Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver and Sergio Santos, though not necessarily in that order.  In fact, expect Santos to pitch the third.  Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates, and we’ll have all the action for you on the Blue Jays Radio Network beginning with the pre-game at 12:30 PM Eastern.

The position players making the trip down to Bradenton will be:  J.P. Arencibia, Travis d’Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Jeff Mathis, Carlos Perez, Brian Bocock, David Cooper, Jonathan Diaz, Ryan Goins, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brett Lawrie, Mike McDade, Luis Valbuena, Rajai Davis, Ben Francisco, Anthony Gose, Ricardo Nanita, Moises Sierra and Travis Snider.

Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590 to keep you updated on all Blue Jayic goings-on.

Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!


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12 Responses to “Opening With A Bang”
  1. 1.

    Why would the Jays bring 4 catchers with them to the game? Is it so they have enough bodies to warm up pitchers in the bullpen or do each of them expect to see action tomorrow?

    MW: Arencibia is the DH.

    - Colin
  2. 2.

    Couldn’t help but smile when I heard the familiar theme music ushering in the pre-game show today at 12.30p. Another season of baseball begins.

    It’s always a sunnier day when the Jays win, even though it’s a fake game.

    Glad you mentioned Drabek’s “telling” inning. I think the final bridge that young, talented hurlers need to cross to go from prospect to bona fide major-leaguer is learning how to pitch to minimize damage when they get into jams (either due to their own poor pitching or bad defence) and learning to pitch in starts when they don’t have command of all their pitches.

    The pitchers who never do learn or who try but are unable to cross that bridge, generally have short undistinguished careers.

    Drabek was emotionally out-of-control at times in 2011 when he got into jams, it seemed. I hope he can improve in 2012 in the psychology of pitching and in decreasing his walk rate.

    Note: Tony Fernandez actually has the club record for triples (17) in 1990.

    MW: 17, huh? I always thought it was 15. Thanks!

    - Adrian, co-alumnus
  3. 3.

    Thank you for these posts Mike. I’m a new Jays fan and I learn a lot from your writings.

    MW: Thank you!

    - Patricj
  4. 4.

    terrific day 1, Thanks to you and the entire 590 crew…

    question, what is Jessie Litsch’s status this year? I have not heard his name mentioned yet and research shows that nothing has changed since 2011.
    Any news on one of my favourite arms would be much appreciated.
    thank’s Mike.

    MW: I’m wondering where your research has taken you. It was big news early this week when Litsch was shut down with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Since then, he’s had an injection which led to an infection, and he won’t throw now until mid-April, at the earliest.

    - frank
  5. 5.

    Hi Mike-Was nice meeting you at the game yesterday.Great outing for the Jays but i’m torn between Snider and Thames..wish there was someway that they could carry both.It was an impressive outing for most of the pitchers but I was very impressed with Jerry Gil.Don’t know much about him..where did he come from?

    MW: The only way they can carry both is if someone gets hurt in the spring. Jerry Gil is a really interesting guy. He has big-league time with the Diamondbacks, but as an infielder, and he’s trying to make it back to the bigs as a pitcher. He was brought in as a minor-league free agent. Nice meeting you, too!

    - Dennis
  6. 6.

    Hi Mike, it’s great to see jays results from spring training and to hear from you. I understand that Ferrell is set at this point on putting Kelly Johnson in the number batting slot. What do you think of this? I would think you’d want someone with a higher OBA. Would Lawrie not be much better suited with his intesity at the top of our order?

    MW: I don’t think intensity is a good thing to go by to decide line-up position. Johnson’s career OBP is better than any Blue Jay’s besides Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista – and Lawrie’s 43-game sample. I think eventually Lawrie moves up in the batting order, but not to the two-hole.

    - Martin
  7. 7.

    I’ve been thinking about all the ways that the team has improved over the past year. To me it looks better at the plate and better defensively and a much better bullpen. A little good fortune with the starting rotation and I think the Jays are on their way to competing with the best of the American League. I was wondering, if Travis Snider makes the team, it seams to me that this version of the Toronto Blue Jays will have one excellent defensive outfield. What teams would compare to a Bautista, Rasmus, Snider outfield defensively speaking that is.

    MW: It would be a very good outfield, but not on par with the outfields in Anaheim (Wells/Bourjos/Hunter), Boston (Crawford/Ellsbury/Sweeney) or Tampa Bay (Jennings/Upton/Joyce), just off the top of my head.

    - Gabe
  8. 8.

    it’s snider’s last chance this year. If he fails to beat out Thames they will likely trade him. If he has a decent spring we should get decent trade value from him.

    MW: I don’t think any of those things are true, I’m surprised that you speak with such certainty on the subject.

    - snider
  9. 9.

    Thanks for the news about Litsch, guess i missed the earlier reports, my main research was google- like everyone else- and as of Friday, googling Litsch did not reveal his injury, at least 3 pages in anyway..
    thanks again Mike

    - frank
  10. 10.

    Hello Mike

    I guess the powers to be at Fan590 realize the interest in baseball this year. You are the first on the list on Blogs.

    Congratulations

    - Francis
  11. 11.

    Has Henderson Alvarez worked on developing a third pitch?

    MW: Definitely. He was working on developing a big-league quality slider when he was with the Jays last season, and continues to do so.

    - Robert
  12. 12.

    michael,
    why not? you tell me why the heck not that a playoff appearance can be had by the toronto blue jays in 2012.
    i don’t see very many people at all (if any) referencing this fact… that the tampa team never had a winning record in their entire tenure before 2008 and then went on to win that particular division title.
    so where did that come from? and who was calling that one to happen??
    absolutely no one as i recall.
    and let’s make no mistake about it. those yanks and sox teams were every bit as good at that point and in alot of ways probably more deep in younger and older proven talent at the time.
    heck… even the jays threw up an 86 win campaign that same season. they were no lay up at that point either apparently.
    the rays leap frogged at least 3 teams in the divsion from that previous season. maybe 4. don’t remember where they stood with the orioles at that point in time to be exact.
    anyway, i’m not gonna have anyone tell me this can’t be done this yr. by this current squad.
    and an extra playoff spot up for grabs to boot.
    eerily similar situation presenting itself right now with this ball team as it relates to what the rays did in 2008. that’s all i’m saying here.
    why not michael? why the heck not??

    MW: I don’t think your memory is serving you too well. The Rays were pretty much the consensus sexy pick to be a breakout team that year, though I don’t know how many people actually predicted they’d win the division.

    - darrell bishop
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