Blame the bus driver
There’s a few unwritten rules among sportwriters — OK, maybe they’re more akin to superstitions. For instance, I learned in my early days of covering baseball that you never say something like, "Boy, this game sure is flying by," no matter how quick it actually is flying by.
My first encounter with this part of "the code" came when I was still in college, covering the Lansing Lugnuts Minor League club for the Lansing State Journal in Michigan. Around the eighth inning or so in the first game of a doubleheader, I made an audible remark about the swift pace of the game. The result were some groans from the others in the pressbox, followed by a 15-inning game, and then another extra-inning contest after that. Lesson learned.
This afternoon, those of us Toronto reporters who made the trek to Bradenton to see a roster filled with Jays Minor Leaguers (OK, and Alex Rios, John McDonald, Jason Smith, Jason Phillips and Josh Towers) take on the Pirates, headed down to the visitor’s clubhouse around the seventh inning. It’s more of a shed that sits to the left of the left-field corner.
After getting an interview in with Towers, who had another solid outing for the Jays, we all walked out to near the foul line to catch the final inning. With Toronto up, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Jays’ bus driver, George, made this comment: "OK, 1-2-3 and we’re outta here!"
All of us writers groaned and gave the old guy a hard time. Sure enough, the first batter in the inning, Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit, promptly deposited a pitch from Toronto reliever Brian Tallet over the left-field wall for a solo homer. That tied tha game up and sent it into extra innings. Thanks, George.
The game ended in a tie, and brought Toronto’s Grapefruit League record to 10-11-4. Maybe next year, MLB should think about introducing a "blast off" or some other sudden death-type thing to solve all the tie games this spring has produced. The standings are starting to look a lot like hockey.
Anyway, Towers looked good — five strikeouts, one walk, one unearned run and 88 pitches (58 strikes) in six innings. He threw 28 of those pitches in the first inning. The lone run scored when Xavier Nady popped up to left field, but Toronto Minor Leaguer David Smith booted an easy fly, allowing Ronny Paulino to score.
Before the game, Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg revealed what we’ve all already been writing about — John Thomson is no longer in the running for a job with the Jays. He’s scheduled to pitch 1-2 innings in Winter Haven on Wednesday, but there’s no room for him in Toronto’s bullpen or rotation.
Arnsberg also laid out the pitchers’ schedules for the next week:
TUESDAY: Geremi Gonzalez will pitch 3-4 innings against Tampa Bay in the 1:05 p.m. tilt at Knology Park. … Toronto ace Roy Halladay will start in a Triple-A game at 1 p.m. at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
WEDNESDAY: Left-hander Gustavo Chacin will hit the road to start against Cleveland at 1:05 p.m. in Winter Haven.
THURSDAY: Right-hander A.J. Burnett will start in a Minor League game at 1 p.m. at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. … A soon-to-be-identified Minor Leaguer will take the hill for the 7:05 p.m. game against the Yankees. Casey Janssen might’ve started, but the Jays are preparing him as a reliever now.
FRIDAY: Right-hander Victor Zambrano will head to Winter Haven for a 5-6 inning start against the Indians at 1:05 p.m. Arnsberg said the Jays are still prepping him as if he were going to make the club as a starter. … Righty Tomo Ohka will start in a Minor League game that afternoon.
SATURDAY: Towers will make his last start of Spring Training in a 1:05 p.m. game versus the Reds at Knology Park.
It’s still not clear who the fifth starter will be — it appers to now be between Towers and Zambrano — but Ohka seems to be in line for the fourth job. Stating the obvious, Jays manager John Gibbons said Monday that the team will make a decision "by the end of the week."