New York (13-12-2) at Toronto (10-13-4)
at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla.
Bobby Abreu, DH
Derek Jeter, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, LF
Jorge Posada, C
Josh Phelps, 1B
Kevin Reese, CF
Kevin Thompson, RF
PITCHING: RHP Steven Jackson
Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Matt Stairs, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Royce Clayton, SS
PITCHING: LHP Scott Downs, and a mix of relievers
NOTE: Center fielder Vernon Wells was a late scratch from the lineup with stiffness in his left shoulder.
PITCHING STAFF COMING INTO FOCUS
Toronto’s bullpen situation was made a little clearer prior to Thursday night’s game against the Yankees. That’s when left-hander Brian Tallet learned that he had cleared waivers and had been outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse. Tallet now has 72 hours to accept or decline the assignment. If he declines, he’d become a free agent.
"I had a pretty good second half last year and threw the ball pretty well for the team," said Tallet, who had a 3.81 ERA in 44 games for the Jays in ’06. "This year, in decisions, that didn’t really factor in.
"When you spend the kind of money that Ted Rogers has, the job [Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi] has is to try to get the best team on the field. If he feels that I wasn’t one of the guys, then I have to respect that."
So, for now at least, Tallet is out of Toronto’s bullpen picture. As of right now, B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Shaun Marcum appear to be the only locks. Those in the mix for the final three jobs include Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo, Francisco Rosario, Victor Zambrano and Josh Towers.
Thursday morning, Ricciardi said that, if Zambrano can last five or six innings against the Indians tomorrow, he just might win the fifth starter’s job. If that’s the case, he added that he’d "definitely" consider Towers in the ‘pen. The same goes if Towers wins the fifth spot. Basically, they’re both on the roser.
Like Tallet, Rosario is out of options. There are some trade options for Rosario, but Ricciardi said it’s "nothing that’s on the front burner." If Rosario was traded, Accardo would seem the likeliest pitcher to fill that spot. Janssen has made a strong bid for a spot this spring as well. Geremi Gonzalez was in the mix, but he was reassigned to Minor League camp before Thursday’s game, too.
So, as of right now, one possible bullpen scenario looks like this: Ryan, Frasor, Downs, Marcum, Janssen, Rosario, and Zambrano/Towers.
If Towers does win the fifth spot, Ricciardi did say he’d be on a short leash. Toronto’s GM also noted that Marcum, Janssen, and even Dustin McGowan could easily be backup options if someone in the rotation falters.
"I really think McGowan eventually will be here at some point. He’s pitching really well now," Ricciardi said. "[Toronto roving pitching instructor] Dane Johnson did a really good thing with him that I noticed the other day. They’ve got him tucking almost like Nolan Ryan. When you watch him as he’s gathering, if you can envision Ryan, he’s got his back kind of turned to the hitter, but it allows him to gather more and stay in his delivery. He seems to be clicking on it. Hopefully that’ll get him going."
As for John Thomson, he’s set to begin the year on the 15-day DL, and it’s not clear if he’d accept a Minor League assignment when he’s ready to be activated.
Ricciardi confirmed that right-hander Tomo Ohka will be Toronto’s No. 4 starter. He’s scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Friday. Towers starts Toronto’s last spring game on Saturday against the Reds at home.
Monday, April 2: Toronto’s Roy Halladay vs. Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman
Wednesday, April 4: Toronto’s A.J. Burnett vs. Detroit’s Nate Robertson
Thursday, April 5: Toronto’s Gustavo Chacin vs. Detroit’s Justin Verlander
Oh yeah. A.J. Burnett (Triple-A) and B.J. Ryan (Double-A) each pitched in Minor League games at the Bobby Mattick Training Center Thursday afternoon.
Burnett’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 9 K, 1 BB, 94 pitches, 64 strikes
Ryan’s line: 1 IP, 1 K, 8 pitches, 6 strikes
Ryan will pitch again on Saturday, and he’s all systems go for Opening Day. Burnett was also pleased with his outing, and just happy he’s healthy enough to break camp with the club. Last spring, he started on the DL ( one of eight times in his career) with an elbow injury.
"This is completely different," Burnett said. "What is this, the second or third time I get to break with a team? I’m pretty excited about that, especially with the team that we have here. It feels better to be a part of it."
And apparently there’s a night game scheduled for 7:05 p.m. here. It’s been a long day. Us reporters met with J.P. this morning at 10 a.m., headed over to the Minor League complex for the 1 p.m. games with Burnett and Ryan, and then turned around and shuttled back to Knology Park. If anything, this day got us all in a little better shape for the non-stop regular season schedule.
APOLOGIES: Sorry for no blog posts yesterday. Cleveland’s ballpark in Winter Haven is stuck in the stone ages and I couldn’t get online. So, same might go for tomorrow, when I make the trip again. I’ll try to blog, but it might have to wait until I get back to my condo.
Stay tuned for more…