Minor Matters

After I dropped the misses off at the airport this morning, I made the trek back to Knology Park, where most of the Jays’ regulars were in attendance. Those who made the trip to Fort Myers, Fla., to play the Twins included Gustavo Chacin, Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay, Jason Smith, Matt Stairs, John McDonald and Jason Phillips.

Not too many members of the Toronto press corps made the road trip, either. Why not? Jays starter A.J. Burnett made was on the hill at the Carpenter Complex — Philadelphia’s Minor League facility in Clearwater, Fla. — for a Triple-A outing. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi and some other members of the Jays’ brass were at the Phils’ site as well.

While at Knology, though, I spoke briefly with Brandon League. The reliever’s velocity is way down and has League and Toronto’s staff scratching their heads. Ricciardi said it stems from the fact that League has been throwing from a lower arm slot this spring. The Jays are going have the young pitcher work more with long toss to try and get him back on top of the ball. As League spoke about the issue, though, he sounded desperate to find a solution.

"We’re hoping this is it. I don’t think we’re looking past, ‘If this doesn’t work,’" League said. "We’ve tried a lot of stuff this spring, and I’m banking on this one."

League appears a lock to begin the year on the 15-day DL, but there’s no known timetable for his return. It all depends on whether or not he can get comfortable again with the higher arm slot, which isn’t something that can’t happen overnight.

HOW MANY OUTS ARE THERE? Burnett turned in 5 2/3 shutout innings, but was supposed to go six frames. In the fifth, he struck out a Phils’ hitter and walked off the mound and headed for the dugout. Everyone followed him, which was no good, considering there were only two outs. The game went on, though.

"I’ve never seen that before — never," Burnett laughed. "I just threw the pitch and it was a strike, and shoot, it felt like a good third strike for the third out. I guess they all followed me in. I don’t know. Everybody was walking off at the same time. I’ll take it — save the pitch count."

TIDBITS: Infielder Ryan Roberts was tossed from the Triple-A game in the first inning for arguing a strike-three call — except none of us standing behind the backstop could see or hear him arguing. Strange. Rob Cosby had to take over at shortstop and Erik Kratz moved to first base. … Russ Adams belted to homers to right field off RHP Brett Myers, who is slated to start Opening Day for the Phils. … RHP Tomo Ohka is now scheduled to pitch six innings on Sunday. … RHPs Victor Zambrano (5 innings) and Casey Janssen (4 innings) and slated to pitch against the Yankees in Tampa tomorrow. … Word is that the Jays will likely release or trade RHP John Thomson. That leaves Ohka, Towers, Zambrano and Janssen as the leaders in the race for the fourth and fifth rotation jobs. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Zambrano or Janssen (or both) could wind up in the ‘pen, either. That doesn’t mean Zambrano couldn’t possibly make the rotation, though.

HE SAID IT: "I’m not up to date too well on the back end, but Ohka is throwing the ball well, and Josh has had a good spring. Even Janssen and Zambrano have been pitching well, too. There were a lot of questions early, but I think any of those guys you can pick and they’ll fill in just fine. Me, Doc, and Gussy, and the other two are going to feed off of us. If the guys we have don’t get it done, we have other options. I feel good about it. We’re going to score runs." – Burnett, on the current state of the rotation

That’s all for now. I’ll be in Tampa tomorrow. It could be a crucial start for Zambrano, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does. Zambrano’s done pretty well against a few of the Yankees’ hitters over his career.

1 Comment

If Towers pitches well in his next outing and Chacin has another bad one, is there a chance Tower, Ohka, and Zambrano could make up the 3-4-5 in the rotation? Or would Zambrano be held back for some extended Spring Training before stepping in for whichever of those three struggles once the season starts? Also, while Royce Clayton has pretty much been promised the starting SS position, Jason Smith has been swinging the hot bat this spring. Do you think the Jays might platoon the position until one of them makes a convincing case for being the starter?

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