6:18 PM Eastern

After doubling their spring loss total with a pair of split-squad defeats on Saturday, the Blue Jays went back to work and swung the big bats against Cole Hamels and the Phillies Sunday, hitting double digits on the scoreboard for just the second time this spring.

And this without Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Kelly Johnson, Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in the starting line-up.

The big bats belonged to Yunel Escobar, who had a pair of RBI doubles to make up for a lacklustre day in the field, Jose Bautista, who hit his third homer of the spring, an absolute bomb to left-centre, and Yan Gomes, the minor-league catcher who went three-for-three with a single, two doubles and three runs batted in.  He also earned high praise from Brett Cecil for his work behind the plate.

Gomes is the catching prospect nobody really talks about, what with J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud ahead of him and A.J. Jimenez and Carlos Perez coming up behind him.  Drafted in the 10th round by the Blue Jays in 2009, Gomes was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil and moved to Miami when he was 12 years old.  There has never been a Brazilian-born player in the major leagues.

The 24 year-old is making one heck of an impression this spring, though.  Today’s three hits brought his Grapefruit League numbers up to .500/.500/.929 in just 14 at-bats.  He has three doubles and a home run, that off Pirates’ prospect Jeff Locke.  Gomes split time between AA and AAA last season, sharing time behind the plate with d’Arnaud while also playing some first, third and DH in order to keep his bat in the line-up, and is a career .271/.330/.455 hitter as a pro.  He’s likely to be in Vegas this year, backing up d’Arnaud and getting the occasional start elsewhere on the diamond, but make no mistake, he can definitely do the job behind the plate.  He throws well, does a good job blocking balls in the dirt, and as I mentioned above, Cecil was very impressed with how Gomes thinks the game.

I had a chance to speak to Gomes after he came out of the game:

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As for Cecil, he was scored on for the first time this spring, giving up a run in the first inning as Shane Victorino tripled into the gap in right-centre and was cashed by Hunter Pence, whose hard grounder went right through Yunel Escobar, who was playing in.  It was one of three plays that Escobar probably should have made on the afternoon but didn’t, though he made up for it with the bat.

Despite not humping it up over 87 on the FAES radar gun, Cecil kept the Phillies off-balance with his secondary stuff and was a strike-throwing machine.  He didn’t walk a batter and stayed out of trouble over his four-inning stint while Cole Hamels, who brings very similar stuff to the table, didn’t have his good control and got raked by the Blue Jays, allowing five runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.

Here’s what Cecil had to say to the assemblage after his outing:

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Alan Ashby made an excellent point in the game in that as far as stuff goes, Cecil and Hamels – the World Series MVP in 2008 and a man who is going to become obscenely wealthy sometime in the next year – are the exact same guy.  Nothing to choose from between the two of them, but Hamels has been more successful because he’s been able to command his stuff better.  It’s not about the radar gun, it’s about hitting your spots and not making mistakes up in the strike zone.  So far this spring, the results have been there for Cecil.  In 10 innings, he’s allowed one run on six hits, walking three and striking out six.

One more post-game interview for you – I spoke to Rajai Davis, who went 2-for-3, stole a base and scored twice:

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The Blue Jays have an off-day Monday – everyone except for Henderson Alvarez, who will throw five innings in a minor-league game.  I’ll be working, though, joining Jeff Blair from 11:00AM to Noon Eastern on Sportsnet590 The Fan.  We’ll talk Blue Jays, take your calls and such.

On Tuesday, the Jays have a date with the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers.  I won’t be making the trip, though, and that’s because Dustin McGowan won’t be making the trip.  McGowan is staying behind to throw four innings in a minor-league game.  Aaron Laffey will take the three-hour bus ride south to face the Sox.  Here’s the rest of the travel squad for Tuesday’s game – one of only two night games the Jays will play this spring:  Drew Carpenter, Jesse Chavez, Robert Coello, Yan Gomes, Jeff Mathis, David Cooper, Jonathan Diaz, Edwin Encarnacion, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Mike McCoy, Luis Valbuena, Jose Bautista, Anthony Gose, Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Brian Bocock, Brian Jeroloman, Jack Murphy, Danny Perales.

Wednesday afternoon, the Jays are in Sarasota to meet the Orioles.  Kyle Drabek will start that game, scheduled to go four innings, as Ricky Romero hangs back to throw five in a minor-league game.  Brett Lawrie, who has been out of action since suffering a mild left groin strain on Friday, is currently listed on the Jays’ travel squad for the game against Baltimore.

We got the chance to have a good old-fashioned edition of The JaysTalk after Sunday’s game, and here it is, for your listening pleasure:

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Before I go, Sunday morning the Blue Jays had their annual meeting with the grand poobahs of the MLB Players’ Association, and just like Don Fehr before him, Executive Director Michael Weiner held court with the media following the meeting.  Here’s what Weiner had to say about the Ryan Braun case, the excessive testing of Jose Bautista, labour peace, and hockey (oh, well), among other things:

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Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590.  Jeff Blair, on whose show I’ll be spending an hour Monday morning, can be found @GloBlair.

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

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22 Responses to “And…..Exhale!”
  1. 1.

    Do you think it’s a given that Ben Francisco makes the club? Could the Jay’s make way for a Thames/Snider/Encarnacion rotation at DH?

    MW: I do think it’s a given that he does. They won’t try to squeeze three guys into two spots, or four into three.

    - duncan
  2. 2.

    Did you ever get any word on what the team thinks of Jerry Gil?

    MW: Never really talked to anyone about him. He’s very interesting to me, though.

    - TammyBeth
  3. 3.

    Make that 4 ‘tweets’ on Gomes. Planned to check out his story on the internet after the game today but you have answered most of our questions. Hope to see him at Rogers Centre sooner rather than later. He looked great today for sure! PS – your tan needs work!

    MW: I’m not here to get a tan – the sun is strong, I have to protect myself!

    - WIn & Barb
  4. 4.

    So , here is a question. Is Yunel Escobar likely to be a good student of Vizquel? Is it possible that we will see the young player, I hope it is Hechevarria in if Escobar is not able to play as well as he might like? Lucky us to have Vizquel to back up.

    - barb
  5. 5.

    Who would you bring up north to back up Arencibia… Gomes or Mathis?

    MW: Mathis. Without question.

    - ScoobyBP
  6. 6.

    michael,
    by the looks of things in camp this yr… pretty much forced at this point to up my wins prediction for the ball team for 2012.
    had them at 109-110 wins a month back or so based on good health but clearly a much more realistic prognostication now is looking
    like somewhere around 114-115.
    and if they do by chance feel they can actually upgrade on one of their starters ie. cecil (very tall order there my friend btw) could be pushing 119-120.
    i know based on winning % thus far in camp it’s looking like more than 110 to 120 in the win column but afterall this is spring training so you can’t necessarily gauge all too accurately under the circumstances in total fairness to the situation i suppose… i’m definitely not naive to that fact as i’ve been watching baseball a long long time.
    but regardless michael, certainly looks like we got ourselves a pennant race to follow this yr….
    *and what’s the record i wonder for best spring training winning % in recent memory. cause’ i’m thinking we’re on course at this point…
    nice…

    - darrell bishop
  7. 7.

    I guess we’re still early in spring training, but the bottom line appears to be – would you agree? – Cecil’s velocity isn’t going to return just because he’s lost a bit of extra weight that was ‘getting in the way’ (which was the story going around before the real fake games started).

    It’s fairly clear that one can make a very successful career in the big leagues never pitching over 90mph if you are accurate enough. But do you think the Jays have bought into the idea that that’s the sort of pitcher Cecil should be, or do you think they’re still looking for the Cecil who can throw at least a little bit of smoke?

    ps. The Wilnerian work ethic continues to blow me away. Baseball in Toronto wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without your constant deluge of insight.
    pps. What was that guy on the phone-in smoking? I think they should have a phone-in for troubled souls right after the post-game show, concentrating on ‘keeping it in perspective’.

    MW: I think they’re looking for more out of Cecil. As I mentioned with Jeff Blair today, there always seems to be a weird vibe that comes out when he’s being discussed. But he’s definitely able to be successful at 87 if he can hit his spots.

    - Ben
  8. 8.

    michael,
    but in all seriousness as a comic…. (god i love that. eugene levy. doesn’t get much better than that does it?)
    i’m not pedicting 100+ wins needless to say. at least not yet…
    but listening to all the reports from within the organization (and maybe more importantly) all the reports from others from within mlb regarding (not just the group of young guys breaking camp this yr.) but all the others filtering up thru a, aa and aaa, it just seems like a powderkeg is ready to explode here at virtually all positions for yrs. to come.
    that comment from whomever it was that the aa fisher cat team might be the best aa team on paper ever to be seen… that’s crazy.
    and listening to hentgen on the telecast yesterday going thru his assessment of all the pitchers at all levels within the blue jays organization (just too many names to mention really)
    anyway’s it’s all looking just a little bit insane michael is what it is.
    and on that basis not unfair at all to say “who cares if this is a playoff team in 2012 or not cause’ it’s sounding inevitable that there’s a freight train coming down the tracks with playoff bound teams abound and the brakes are completely gone.
    nice…
    can’t wait…

    - darrell bishop
  9. 9.

    Not feeling the Hamels/Cecil comparison in terms of stuff. It’s more than just command: Hamels averages 91.2 on his fastball last year, and Cecil 88.5, according to Fangraphs.

    A difference of 2.5 to 3 MPH on average is not trivial, otherwise Brandon Morrow (93.9 in 2011) has the same stuff as Ryan Vogelsong (91.4) Wade Davis (91.4),
    Charlie Morton (91.4), Chris Volstad (91.3).

    MW: Same fastball velocity does not mean same stuff. But anyway, when I looked at fangraphs, I saw a career average of 90.8 mph for Hamels on his fastball, 90.3 on Cecil.

    - Matt
  10. 10.

    Mike…Putting aside the fact that it’s been a mild winter and hopefully a mild spring, why doesn’t MLB schedule games in the warm weather states or domed stadiums for the first segment of regular season games? Who wants snow-outs and the players are coming from warm Arizona or Florida into potential single digit Celsius temperatures and injury risk is increased?

    MW: I’ve thought the same thing for a long time, but it turns out that at least some of the warm-weather and domed teams don’t like that fact that they’d have to have fewer home games later in the season. It doesn’t seem like something that can’t be worked out to me.

    - chris m.
  11. 11.

    Mike:

    Can you ask Jose Bautista about his personal training duties with Hanley Ramirez:

    Ramirez went home to the Dominican Republic, after the worst year of his career, and sought out a man he says has been “a big inspiration to me,” Toronto’s Jose Bautista, and let Bautista push him to places he’d never been before.

    MW: Sure!

    - Blob Blaw
  12. 12.

    Did the jays make an effort to get Yoenis Cespedes? He looks like he is going to be a super star in oakland. He would have looked great in center field here and would have been a nice fit with our cuban short stop

    MW: They looked at him, and I’m sure they made him an offer they thought was fair. He may wind up being a star, but way more of the players who have come over from Cuba have failed than have succeeded. Personally, I’d rather have a guy who has already shown that he can be successful in the majors, and the Blue Jays have one of those in centrefield.

    - Yoenis Cespedes
  13. 13.

    Just to let you know your cecil- hamels comparision is absurd. Hamels throws significantly harder and his pitches have much more movement. A hamels- romero comparison would make much more sense.

    MW: Yeah, that one sentence seems to have caused a rather massive reaction. Kind of cool, actually. Thing is, it’s not absurd at all (even though Keith Law thinks so). There was this guy sitting beside me when I said it who instantly agreed, even going so far as to say that if scouts were looking at the two of them, they’d be written up the same way with regards to repertoire and stuff, but not command. And that guy caught Hall of Famers and no-hitters in the major leagues for 14 years. That doesn’t mean he necessarily knows more than anyone else, but if Alan Ashby is on my side in an argument, there’s no way that side is absurd.

    - ad
  14. 14.

    Do you think Jan Gomes has done well enough this spring to be considered as a possible replacement if Mathis were to miss time? I think if Arencibia went down they’d quickly search for another alternative, but do you think AA would consider Gomes to spot start and be Arencibia’s backup if the situation arose?
    Surprised to find out Gomes was 24. Been following him a bit the last two years, but for some reason thought him younger.
    Impressive job done by the young man regardless. If indeed he has vaulted himself from behind larger shadows into a possible call-up candidate.
    Not on 40 man, correct?

    MW: I think it’s possible that Yan Gomes could be the guy they call up to be a back-up for a couple of weeks, especially since there’s no Raul Chavez or Ryan Budde in the system, as there has been in the past. They might be more inclined to go with Brian Jeroloman, though, since they kind of owe him. You’re right, Gomes isn’t on the 40-man.

    - BuffaloSojourn
  15. 15.

    My numbers coupled four seamers and sinkers. If you prefer only four seam fastballs, difference in 2011 was 91.2 to 89.1, still over 2 MPH on average.

    Career numbers are not relevant because Cecil’s velocity problem is what is causing the stir… and those problems with velocity were not present for most of Cecil’s pre-2011 seasons.

    Anyway, I assume you’ve seen Keith Law’s “-28″ comment by now, and while it’s only one man’s opinion, he’s worked in a baseball front office and is an experienced scout. You’re a very good reporter/broadcaster and I like your work but you’re not a scout or a player personnel guy.

    MW: No, I’m not. Of course, Ashby agrees with me, and though he’s not a scout either, he’s got a pretty good resume. I respect Keith Law a great deal and usually agree with him. But his word is not the gospel, nor is mine. It’s an amazing thing in this world, that people can disagree on something.

    - Matt
  16. 16.

    wouldn’t it be nice if jerry, buck & the bobcat could do the jays homeopener together

    MW: Well, I kind of like hearing Alan Ashby on the broadcast. And, you know, me.

    - doug
  17. 17.

    michael,
    i’m hoping you’re correct on the notion rajai davis is going to get alot of at bats against the lefties this season. and i’m actually hoping virtually all of them to be honest.
    and to me that’s regardless of what the possible thames/snider combo in lf is doing one way or the other.
    and off the bench against lefties and/or leading off an inning perhaps later in the game when the blue jays are down a run (or whatever is the case)
    cause’ me thinks with better health for the young man and something to prove after last yrs. season, rajai is going to be electric and absolutely a table setter component to add to this already potentially potent lineup for 2012.
    got a good feeling about him this yr. michael.
    just hoping he gets his opportunities to show off his stuff is all…
    i’ve always loved guys that can get over to 3rd base just for fun. especially when they’re on my team.
    speed kills you know…..

    - darrell bishop
  18. 18.

    Mike –

    Can you explain to me why Thames being the incumbent matters so much to the management group? It’s not like Thames lit the world on fire last year, and in fact, he finished the season VERY poorly.

    Over his final 200 ABs (or, about 2/3 of his season), he had an OPS below .700. Over his final 100 ABs his OPS was around .650.

    This isn’t to say that Snider should be handed the job, but if he outperforms Thames this spring, or even slightly under performs Thames the strength of his glove should make him more valuable, should it not? Especially when we keep hearing AA and Farrell talk about how lousy the OF defense was last year?

    Or is this all just “club speak” intended to motivate Snider?

    I’m just really trying to make sense of this, and I can’t find any logical reason to think of why being the incumbent matters for Thames.

    MW: I don’t think it’s about motivating Snider, and I agree with a lot of your points. I think it might be about showing others that this isn’t an organization that’s going to just take your job away from you if they haven’t brought in anyone new. Next spring, people may be clamoring for Travis d’Arnaud to be the favourite to win the starting catcher’s job, or Anthony Gose in centrefield. This isn’t the same thing, but the message might be. I don’t know why Thames being the incumbent should matter, either, especially since Snider would have been playing every day in September (in centre, with Rasmus injured) had he not been hurt.

    - Kevin
  19. 19.

    You and Blair are wrong on the Snider and Thames debate. Thames can’t even compare with Snider defensively or on the bases, and a half season as a .260 hitter should hardly make Thames the incumbent.

    MW: First of all, we’re not wrong. You might disagree with our opinion that Thames is likely to make the team out of Spring Training, but that doesn’t mean we’re wrong. You also need to look up what “incumbent” means.

    - Will
  20. 20.

    I get tired of a lot of naysayers the Jays were too cheap to get a bat to “protect” Bautista. I have tried finding stats to see what Jays hitters did after Bautista was walked, which I assume is what pitchers do with him without a threat hitting behind him. Do you have access to those stats, or have another argument to counter the “protection” argument/myth?

    MW: I don’t have access to what happened after Bautista walked – I didn’t bring my 2011 scoresheets down here to Florida with me. The argument to counter the protection myth has been made by much smarter people than I, and I’m sure a google search could lead you to the studies that have been done. For me, the fact that Bautista led the majors in home runs each of the last two seasons is a pretty good argument.

    - Dan
  21. 21.

    Hi Mike -

    Thanks for the reply. I guess my only other point (that I didn’t add – you always think of these things later) was that I *do* think that track record matters re: an incumbent. If Rasmus has a good year, or JPA has a good year, I think that’d matter if Gose or D’Arnaud were pushing them.

    I guess my point is that beyond a good initial 100 ABs, Thames doesn’t have a track record to fall back on.

    Again – thanks for the reply.

    - Kevin
  22. 22.

    I do know what incumbent means thank you your holiness. I don’t see why Thames is given to hold down this position after such an average performance over 90 or so games. Give Snider 90 games at least and I think he would easily be the better player. Part of management’s job is to evaluate and project who the better player is and give him a sustained chance. But this organization, for whatever reason, has a blindspot as far as Snider goes.

    MW: I’m not the pope, at least not as far as I know. And you continue to not understand what incumbent means. The incumbent is the guy who most recently had the job. It says nothing about performance, about who’s better than who, nothing. Thames is the incumbent because he was the left fielder last year. Appreciate the attitude, though, especially when you’re completely wrong.

    - Will
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