4:36 PM Eastern

It has been an impressive spring so far for your Toronto Blue Jays, and the smiles just got bigger with a second straight win over the sad-sack Houston Astros.

The ‘Stros, whose A-team got pounded by the Jays’ B-team on Friday afternoon, only brought some of of their starters to the FAES in Dunedin for the rematch Saturday, but more importantly, split the pitching duties between a couple of guys who are expected to be in their starting rotation this season.

Zach Duke and Jordan Lyles threw four innings each, and they were each paid a visit by Dr. Longball.

Jose Bautista got both of them – Duke with a shot into the trees beyond the left-field wall to open the scoring in the 3rd, and a mammoth blast to dead CF off Lyles in the 5th to make it a 4-0 Jays lead.  Travis Snider continued his red-hot spring by belting his third homer in four games – a solo shot yanked to right off Duke in the 4th, and it was the second of his three big flies that have been hit off a left-hander.

After the game, Snider said that he has changed his approach against southpaws, but he wouldn’t tell us how just in case there were prying eyes and ears about reading these things.  He was equally happy, by the way, about drawing his first walk of the spring, because he took a strike in the plate appearance while he was ahead in the count.  A problem in the past has been that Snider would swing at a strike, rather than his strike, if he was ahead in the count, and that would get him into trouble.

The big story, though, was the strong, healthy outing of Dustin McGowan.  Making his first start of the spring, McGowan threw 15 of his 24 pitches for strikes, hanging out around 93 mph on the stadium’s radar gun while touching 94 more than once.  He allowed just one hit – a line drive single to right field by Chris Johnson, and struck out J.D. Martinez on a filthy slider to end a perfect first inning.  McGowan said he felt normal, which is something he hadn’t felt the last four springs, and that he was now just another one of the starters looking forward to his next outing five days hence.

McGowan looked terrific.  He hit his spots, his fastball had good life and his slider had great bite.  It’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s progressed as far as he has after having two shoulder surgeries (and a knee, for good measure) over the last three years, and hopefully as spring goes on he stays healthy and we can stop talking about his injury history and start talking about how much he can contribute to the Blue Jays’ rotation this year.  McGowan is found money, and could very well turn into something special indeed.

Leather was flashed behind Casey Janssen as part of his 1-2-3 7th inning.  Omar Vizquel made a sensational play on a Brett Wallace bouncer far to his left, then made the easy flip to first for the out (Vizquel was playing second), and Jake Marisnick absolutely robbed the next hitter, Marwin Gonzalez, of a base hit with a fantastic diving grab on a ball that was headed for the grass directly in front of him.

The Blue Jays improve to 6-2-1 on the spring with their win, and will split the squad for Sunday, with half the team staying home to face Atlanta and the other half heading out to Disney to take on the Braves.  Ricky Romero will start for the group that’s staying back -he’s scheduled to go three innings, as is Chad Jenkins.  Kyle Drabek gets the call for the travel squad.  We will have the home game for you along the Blue Jays Radio Network, starting with the pre-game show at 12:30 PM Easterm.  Remember to spring forward, we all lose a valuable hour of sleep tonight.

Oh, and a quick note about the stories that came out about Alex Anthopoulos going to check out Joe Blanton’s outing with the Phillies.  The Jays have said all winter that they’d like to add another top-flight starting pitcher, and Blanton certainly isn’t that, though he has some strong seasons in his rear-view mirror.  What’s interesting is that prior to the game, Jays’ manager John Farrell joined pitching coach Bruce Walton to check out Brett Cecil’s bullpen session.  Farrell was only there to see Cecil, and left when he was done.  Managers don’t usually watch starters’ bullpens, so maybe the Jays have some concern there.  Then again, maybe it’s nothing.

Please give me a follow on The Twitter – you can find me @wilnerness590.

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

 

10 Responses to “Very Impressive”
  1. 1.

    Interesting to see Jenkins tomorrow. He was lights out in his last outting. I think that seeing Cecil he looked off the other day. I wouldnt be surprised if he doesn’t break camp with the team.

    - chris
  2. 2.

    hey Mike
    fantastic to hear you guys again on the weekend…

    question.. we really need Morrow to step up and be that stud #2 starter
    do you think he has the “stones” to put it all together and win ya 15-20 games on a year to year basis?
    how does his off speed stuff look?

    MW: I don’t think “stones” have anything to do with it. Last time out, his curveball and change were very effective.

    - sundown16
  3. 3.

    Mike how’s Kelly Johnson doing @ 2nd base, haven’t heard much about him? with some of the pitching Litch, Villanueva might that allow the Jays to use some of their young pitchers as a stop gap before making a trade or sign a pitcher.

    MW: Johnson is doing just fine at second, no complaints at all. I don’t understand the second part.

    - Naveen
  4. 4.

    What is your educated guess on what Snider has changed in his approach to facing LHPs given that you have the advantage over us proles of being an eyewitness to the 2012 Spring Proceedings?

    My blind suspicion would be that he has moved his front (right) leg back subtly to improve the angle on watching an LHP’s curveball come toward the plate.

    Have you noticed any subtle stance change when he faces an LHP v. a RHP?

    In case you’re envious, it was +1C with stiff east winds today in Toronto.

    MW: I have noticed no subtle stance changes. I would guess that the change he’s made in his approach to lefties is much more mental than physical.

    - Adrian, co-alumnus
  5. 5.

    The team took a lot of time to stress that process and not results would ultimately win the day in terms of the few position questions that need to be answered this Spring (LF being the most obvious example).

    The results have been there for Snider so far, but I haven’t read much comment about his process – or Thames’s.

    Have you spoken with anybody on the team with regards to their feelings on how Snider and Thames are going about their respective business (both in game and during practice) that those of us who haven’t actually seen any games wouldn’t know anything about. Have you noticed anything worth reporting on this front? Of is it just much too early to speak about that kind of thing at all?

    I think a lot of people forget that we all used to be as high on Snider as we were on Lawrie, and if you asked any GM in the league if they would like 2 Lawries, maybe only the Mets would say no. Do we have any reasons to be hopeful at this stage?

    MW: Any reasons to be hopeful that Snider will become another Lawrie? I think we need to wait and see what Lawrie is going to wind up doing, and likewise with Snider. I have seen very good at-bats from both Snider and Thames this spring. Thames has made a couple of loud outs that spring to mind, and that helps his cause even though he hasn’t been as productive as Snider.

    - Chairman Wow
  6. 6.

    Great to see McGowan with such an impressive outing. How did Aaron Laffey look? Or did you miss his outing to talk to Dustin?

    BTW, its great to see Snider taking his AB’s very seriously in spring training. HR’s are always great, but to see him be patient and draw a walk is also nice to see. It will be an intriguing battle for LF.

    MW: Laffey looked very good – what I saw of him. He did a great job of pitching out of a 2nd and 3rd, one out jam, which was the only jam in which he found himself over his three innings.

    - AJ Robbs
  7. 7.

    I was at the game yesterday an McGowan did look great. That said the Astros sport a fringe Major League lineup, but it was still awesome to see.

    Snider looks much more fit than I remember him being last year and he appears to be making an effort to see more pitches. Like you said he seems to have a better plan at the plate and he absolutely killed that HR that got out in a hurry. I, like everyone, am really hoping that this is the year Snider figures it out, and isn’t just another frustrating tease of the kind of player he could be. Easy power like that is a terrible thing to waste!

    - Mike from the 'shwa
  8. 8.

    Mike,

    I love you blog! With the Astros moving to the American League next year, what kind of changes to the schedule do you envision? How many games against your own division, the rest of the American league and then how many interleague games will there be?

    MW: I really don’t know. I’m hoping there will be more balance to the schedule, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

    - Rory
  9. 9.

    michael,
    i realize that with the schedule the way it is to open the season, it’s kind of ideal to slot mcgowan in at the 5 slot to begin things but thinking that if a healthy arm is his friend this season, the still young power arm will wind up being their 3rd starter in the pecking order as this season marches on.
    who knows maybe 2nd? hey… who knows maybe 1st?? chris carpenter did it. so why not dustin??? the stuff is that good it seems.
    and regarding the look out for a potential new starter for the rotation michael.
    i think you’re going to see them be pretty proactive early on in this process if they feel one of them currently isn’t up to snuff to get out of the blocks hitting the pavement running.
    you certainly get the premonition that the management group is feeling very, very good about themselves and this year and will govern themselves according to that.
    we’ll see…

    - darrell bishop
  10. 10.

    here make a lot of sense. The funny thing is choosing Cecil woldun’t be all that ludicrous. His first full season in the big leagues was a little rocky at times, but that just means hopefully things improve next year. He woldun’t be my first choice for face or the franchise, but it all depends on what happens in the future.

    - Herb
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