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:
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:
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.
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