September 2006

Travel Day

It’s 1:51 a.m. and I have to get up in four hours to get to Boston’s airport for a flight back home to Toronto. Why am I still up? I just finished putting together the bi-weekly installment of the Blue Jays mailbag.

The issues you’ll get to read about tomorrow: The reality of the catching situation for next year, why I don’t think Gibbons was punished harshly following the Hillenbrand/Lilly incidents, who Toronto will get for Hinske/Schoeneweis, what the plans are for Josh Towers, and Brandon League’s role.

That’ll be all the Bastian content you get on Monday. I have to catch a connecting flight in New York and won’t get back to Toronto in time to cover the game against Cleveland. I’ll have someone filling in for me instead. I’ll enjoy a wonderful day of traveling, followed by a quiet evening at home after this long road trip.

NOTES FROM TODAY:

–Gustavo Chacin pitched great and might’ve gone longer had it not been for Tropical Storm Ernesto messing around with the game’s start time. The Blue Jays sit two games behind Boston for second place. Hey, if they can’t make the playoffs, why not finish higher than they have since 1993? Fortunately for the Jays, the Red Sox had a horrible August to make the second place finish a possibility. Boston has their regular starters slowly returning, though.

–Lyle Overbay (flu) and Troy Glaus (sinus infection) were out sick. At least there were no staph infections. With how small and cramped the visiting clubhouse is at Fenway Park, I’m surprised more teams don’t have more problems with colds or flu-like symptoms being contagious when in Boston. It’s by far the smallest clubhouse in the American League. Talk about home-field advantage.

–Kevin Barker homered for the first time since he was with Milwaukee in 2000 and Reed Johnson collected his 500th hit. Topping things off, Toronto’s offense scored six runs for the first time in eight games.

That’s all for now. I’d like to see more discussion going here while I’m off for a day. Get those discussion board junkies onto this blog to get things going. Until Tuesday…

Some Minor Tidbits

Prior to Friday’s game against Boston, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi spoke about a number of issues with reporters. He discussed how he’d like to bring Ted Lilly back, how the Jays need a larger payroll to realistically have a shot at winning the division, he said he takes full responsibility for his team’s shortcomings, and he talked about Toronto’s Minor Leagues.

Since I went into detail about the monetary issues in today’s notebook and wrote about the Lilly situation yesterday, I’ll take some time out here today to mention some of the things Ricciardi noted about his farm system:

–Ricciardi said that he believed left-hander Ricky Romero, Toronto’s first pick in last year’s draft, is close to being Major-League ready. Romero has only gone 2-7 with a 5.08 in 12 starts at Double-A, but Ricciardi said the pitcher’s last handful of starts have gone well. Romero began this season with an arm injury.

"I think Romero is close. He has thrown really well in his last six or seven starts in Double-A," Ricciardi said. "We don’t have a lot of pitching help as far as a No. 3 starter or something like that. Romero could eventually be that."

–For you David Purcey fans out there, Ricciardi said he’ll have to start next season at Double-A again. After going 2-7 with a 5.40 ERA at Triple-A this year, Purcey — Toronto’s top pick in the ’04 draft — has gone 4-5 with a 5.90 ERA at Double-A. Earlier this season, Ricciardi said he felt Purcey was about a year away from being ready. It looks like it’s going to take a bit longer.

"Purcey is doing OK, but he’s going to have to start at Double-A again next year," Ricciardi said. "He’s got a good arm, but his control has been off this year. With guys like that, they’re up and down. I think he’s going to be fine — we’re just going to have to show a lot more patience."

–Right-hander Casey Janssen, who went 6-10 with 17 starts for Toronto earlier this season, might have been called up this month, but it looks like a nagging back injury will keep him out of another big-league stint.  He’s had the "pulled muscle" — as Ricciardi described it — in his back for about the last month, month and a half. Ricciardi also admitted that keeping Janssen at Triple-A all year might have been better than rushing him to the Majors. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated otherwise.

"We rushed Janssen, but we knew we rushed him," Ricciardi said. "He probably should’ve been at Triple-A the whole year and he probably would’ve bene better off that way. Same with [Ty] Taubenheim. He only pitched in A-ball the year before. We didn’t plan on those guys being in the big leagues, but we didn’t plan on two of our starters being hurt and we didn’t plan on [Josh ] Towers not pitching well."

–As far as outfielder Adam Lind, who made his Major League debut on Saturday in Boston, Ricciardi said that he was probably more in the plans for 2008, but the left-handed hitter’s ability with the bat might force Toronto’s hand. Lind hit .400 at Triple-A after winning the Eastern League’s MVP Award for his work at Double-A.

"I don’t know about next year," said Ricciardi, referring to the plans for Lind. "I think ideally, we’d probably pencil maybe half of ’07 and going forward from there. He can really hit, so he may push our buttons a little bit more."

OTHER NOTES:

–Lind joins first baseman Kevin Barker and pitcher Dustin McGowan as the only September callups so far. Ricciardi said that he’d bring up five players, which means Josh Towers and Francisco Rosario are probably the remaining two. In order to add Towers, Toronto will have to make room on the 40-man roster.

–Troy Glaus sat out of Saturday’s game because he still wasn’t feel well after leaving Friday’s game with a sinus infection. Toronto manager John Gibbons said he believed Glaus would be able to play on Sunday.

Here was Saturday’s Blue Jays lineup: LF Catalanotto, 2B Hill, CF Wells, 1B Overbay, RF Rios, C Zaun, DH Lind, 3B Hattig, SS McDonald

That’s all for now. I’m sure there will be more tomorrow. Keep the comments coming. The numbers have been slipping in that regard. Pick it up Jays fans.

Didn't See That Coming

If there was one game where a win seemed inevitable for the Blue Jays, it was on Thursday night.

Out for the Red Sox: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Wily Mo Pena, Trot Nixon, Alex Gonzalez, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield. Starting for Boston? David Wells — oh wait, he was traded to San Diego before the game. So the Red Sox turned to a handful of relievers. On the mound for Toronto? American League Cy Young candidate (still?) Roy Halladay. The cards were definitely stacked in the Blue Jays’ favor.

While everything was going wrong off the field for Boston, though, Toronto couldn’t get anything going on the field. Capping off tailspin was right fielder Alex Rios’ gaffe that led to an unlikely home run by Alex Cora. The ball Cora hit bounced off Rios’ glove, then off his right hand and into the stands for the game-winning homer. Ouch.

Anyone think of the 1993 Jose Canseco incident when you saw that? Halladay did.

"Obviously, the ball off Canseco’s head comes to mind," Halladay said. "That’s why you play the game. It’s never a given. Things like that happen. That’s always going to be the case. You do the best you can to deal with it."

Basically, this was a loss that I — and I’m sure the Jays — didn’t anticipate. That’s happened during two straight Halladay starts, too. Last time out, he turned in arguably his best performance of the year, but lost to the Royals and Runelvys Hernandez. I don’t know which defeat was more unpredictable.

Toronto wants to leapfrog Boston in the AL East standings, but I think the Jays just need to make sure they finish above .500 at this point. In order to finish 81-81, Toronto needs to post a 12-16 record in its final 28 games, including 19 left combined against the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Angels. In Toronto’s last 28 games? Well, the club has gone 12-16, including a 7-8 mark against the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals and Indians. Double ouch.

OTHER NOTES:

–Today marks the first day for September callups. Toronto plans on bringing up five players. Those likely called up are Adam Lind, Josh Towers, Dustin McGowan, Francisco Rosario, and Kevin Barker. They all won’t be up at once. The Jays will probably bring up two right away and then the other three after the weekend.

–Justin Speier is scheduled to throw his in his second bullpen session today — this time with sliders mixed in with fastballs. After that, the injured right-hander has a pair of simulated games left before he says he can rejoin the team.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What, should I fight him?" — Toronto manager John Gibbons, joking around after one Toronto reporter asked him if he was concerned about the recent mistakes Lyle Overbay has made.

REGARDING THIS WEEK’S POLL:

What has been the club’s single-best performance thus far?

  • May 13: Roy Halladay throws 89-pitch CG
  • May 30: Vernon Wells hits three homers
  • June 27: A.J. Burnett throws CG shutout
  • July 1: B.J. Ryan strikes out five in save
  • Aug. 7: Lyle Overbay collects five RBIs

I only could pick five and I wanted to have five different players represented if possible. Otherwise, Overbay’s five RBI game and Ryan’s save might not have made the cut. I also might have included Wells’ game-winning blast against Mariano Rivera or the game in Baltimore, where Troy Glaus went 4-for-5 with two homers, including the game-winner. Feel free to debate other moments that should have been included. There were plenty more than the five I picked. Blame me if you don’t like the list.

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