If only HillenGate would just die. A few days after Tampa was consumed with a major non-story — Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter’s diminishing friendship — another issue was pulled out of the old news filing cabinet.
Shea Hillenbrand spewed some more anti-Toronto sentiments onto the notepad of Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott and his remarks subsequently made the rounds at the Bobby Mattick Training Complex on Thursday. I don’t blame Bob, if I were in Arizona, I’d be hunting down all the recent ex-Jays, too. But all Shea had to do was take the old "no comment route."
Actually, if you read the article, an interesting part if what sent Hillenbrand into his most recent Jays-bashing session: "And to think his conversation with the Sun started off with the probing question: "Have you been following your old team?""
The only new developments from the story (if you’re going to take Hillenbrand at his word. Remember, this is the guy who denied the on-air comments he made about Boston GM Theo Epstein after being traded by the Red Sox) were that Jays hitting coach Mickey Brantley apparently was the one who told manager John Gibbons about the whiteboard exchange between Shea and catcher Gregg Zaun, and Hillenbrand actually copped to writing "This is a sinking ship." He also denied that previously.
The most attacking thing he said was that Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi "tried to bury me. J.P. will deny it, but he told my agent, Dan Lozano, they’d bury me … keep cutting down on my playing time, unless I got in line." This coming from a guy that played in 81 games and had 296 ABs through July 14 with Toronto. That doesn’t exactly sound like they were cutting his playing time. He wasn’t happy for a long time about serving as the designated hitter, though.
Everyone around Jays camp just wants this issue to be done with. When I asked Zaun if he could go back and change anything about his whiteboard write-off with Shea, he said he regretted not just erasing what was written and leaving it alone. Instead, someone saw the message, word got to Gibbons, who then confronted Hillenbrand in a players-only meeting.
That of course led to Hillenbran’s depature. Now, if the story would just die, too.
GETTING CONCERNED: Brandon League sat out of today’s workout due to a sore shoulder. Gibbons said that Toronto’s medical staff was going to look at it to see if it was anything serious. League also turned some heads — not in a good way — when he was throwing from a slightly lower arm slot the other day in the bullpen. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg also expressed to me that he doesn’t believe the setup job is sitting there waiting for League:
"I think the job is kind of up for grabs with the experience that [Jason] Frasor has," Arnsberg said. "He has a little bit more time on the mound and quite a few more big league innings and big league outings. I don’t think it’s actually that we’re handing that job to Brandon. He’s going to have to open our eyes and show us that he’s not intimidated out there.
"You can’t forget that this [Frasor] saved 17 games two years ago and then had a tremendous season the next year. He had a couple stumbles last year — a couple hiccups here and there — but when he came back up that last time, he was really good. I think [League and Frasor] will battle it out and it’s one of those may the best man win."
BULLPEN BITS: Jeremy Accardo, who was acquired in the trade that sent Hillenbrand to the Giants, isn’t a lock for the ‘pen either. Ricciardi told me today that "He’s fighting for a job." Francisco Rosario is out of options and will probably be considered for a spot. Gibbons has also expressed that he believes Shaun Marcum will have a job in the ‘pen if he isn’t a starter. That being said, B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet (out of options), Frasor, League and Marcum seem to be virtual locks. Accardo and Rosario seem to be leading the pack for the final slot. Pete Walker and Victor Zambrano might be considered down the road, but I don’t think they’ll make the Opening Day bullpen.
BATTER’S EYE: "He had tremendous movement on his ball," Zaun said about facing new pitcher John Thomson. "It’s very deceptive. I told him after he got finished that there were a couple of pitches that fooled me, where I couldn’t even see the spin. That’s huge, because as a hitter, we try to pick up spin as early as we can."
HE SAID IT: "I was a free agent one time and I had a GM tell my agent that as long as he was in this game, I would never play for his team. I have to tell you, I deserved it. I wasn’t a real great guy when I was with that particular team. I was young and stupid and I said and did a lot of dumb things. But over time, I was able to stay around in the game and kind of remake myself — kind of grow up and learn that there’s just certain things you do and certain things you don’t. Certain things you say and certain things you don’t." –Zaun, in response to the Hillenbrand debacle
QUOTABLE: "You don’t need shaggers during that session." –Gibbons, referring to how many hitters had their bats broken by pitchers Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan on Thursday
WATCH OUT: While sitting in the work room today, a ball flew over the left-field fence on field No. 2 and we heard it bouncing on the roof above our heads. I don’t know who hit it, but that was a L O N G way from home plate.