Pitchers and catchers report
OK, I understand that the last thing any of you readers want to hear about is how us poor reporters are shivering here at Spring Training, but man, it has been chilly.
I think the problem is that, when you head to Florida, you have this built-in expectation of how the weather is going to be: "It’s going to be hot and I’m going to need sunblock." Well, when you’re forced to wear a sweatshirt and pants, you purposely leave your sunglasses in the car, and you actually wonder for a moment why you didn’t pack your winter hat, then I’m afraid it’s cold. But if this were the temperature right now in Toronto, I’d be outside in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s all relative. At one point today, my teeth were actually chattering while I stood outside.
Back to baseball, though. The Blue Jays’ pitchers and catchers reported to Dunedin today. Tomorrow, they will all have their mandatory morning physicals and the first official workout is tentatively slated for 12:30 p.m. There were some more fresh faces at camp today — most notably, A.J. Burnett has arrived. We spoke with Burnett, but I’ll save the bulk of it for a feature I’m putting together for this weekend. He’s worked out indoors this winter and recently moved to Maryland. Today was the first time he’s thrown outside since last season, but he’s healthy and ready to go.
Two pitchers not at the Bobby Mattick Training Center — and who won’t be until next week — were Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano. Both had visa issues and are still in Japan and Venezuela, respetively. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi said he believes the pitchers will be in camp by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Some highlights of our sit-downs with Ricciardi and Jays manager John Gibbons today:
— Gibbons isn’t sure how the lineup will shape up. He said the biggest question is where he’ll fit Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios into the lineup. When working on arranging the lineup, Gibbons said he’ll be focussing on NOT sandwiching slower players in between or behind hitters who don’t run as well. Gibbons wasn’t as concerned about the lack of left-handers in the lineup. He said he’s even thought about possibly trying Vernon Wells as the No. 2 hitter and having Overbay bat third.
— Ricciardi said that Spring Training will determine if Gustavo Chacin is really going to be Toronto’s No. 2 starter. As of right now, that’s where Chacin slots in, but things could change this spring. Ricciardi said he’d like to see Chacin improve on maximizing his pitch count. Consider that last season, Chacin averaged nearly an inning less per start than he did in 2005 (his elbow injury probably played a role in that stat, too).
— Ricciardi also said that he doesn’t think Scott Downs is currently a backup plan for the back end of the rotation. Chacin, Ohka, John Thomson, Josh Towers, Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan would all be tried before Downs. So Downs will remain in the bullpen — maybe partly as Toronto’s left-handed specialist.
— Ricciardi again mentioned that Zambrano appears to be ahead of schedule. Zambrano has reconstructive elbow surgery in May and could be ready as early as May or June for the Jays. He’s already thrown off a mound this winter. Ricciardi said that Toronto might consider using Zambrano as a reliever if the rotation is locked in place when he’s finally healthy.
— On Thursday, Gibbons said he planned on using closer B.J. Ryan in fewer multi-inning save situations. One day later, Ricciardi emphasized that point, saying: "I think we’re going to keep him to one inning. I think that’s the right thing to do. Most guys like that definition that they’re going to pitch that one inning. Although, he’s a guy who will do whatever you want him to do. But in the long haul, we’re better off just having him pitch one inning."
That’s all for now. I’m going to keep warm in my condo down here until I have to brave the cold in order to go get some dinner later (I know, I wouldn’t feel bad for me either). I’ll blog more after the first workout tomorrow.
Until then, what are your suggestions for this season’s lineup? Here’s a list of players most likely to fit in at the different spots (the first names listed making up what I would deem as the projected lineup right now):
1. Reed Johnson, Alex Rios
2. Alex Rios, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Gregg Zaun, Vernon Wells
3. Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay
4. Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells
5. Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, Lyle Overbay
6. Lyle Overbay, Alex Rios, Troy Glaus
7. Gregg Zaun, Alex Rios
8. Aaron Hill, Gregg Zaun
9. Royce Clayton, John McDonald
Give me your lineups…