March 2007

Game #5: Pirates at Blue Jays pregame

Pirates vs. Blue Jays
at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla.

Today’s lineups:

PIRATES
Chris Duffy, CF
Andrew McCutchen, LF
Michael Ryan, DH
Brad Eldred, 1B
Chris Aguila, RF
Ronny Paulino, C
Jose Bautista, 3B
Jose Hernandez, SS
Eddie Garabito, 2B

PITCHING: Zach Duke, Brian Rogers, Josh Sharpless, Salomon Torres, Dave Davidson (born in Richmond Hill, Ontario), and Franquelis Osaria

BLUE JAYS
Royce Clayton, SS
Gregg Zaun, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Matt Stairs, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Jason Phillips, C

PITCHING: Josh Towers, B.J. Ryan, Jason Frasor, Pete Walker, Jeremy Accardo, Matt Roney, Jean Machi (subject to change with the rainout the other day)

Toronto played a B game against the Phillies this morning at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. The game doesn’t count in terms of the Grapefruit League standings or statistics.

Dustin McGowan started for the Jays and allowed no runs on two hits in two innings. McGowan threw 49 pitches — 29 for strikes — and he walked three, struck out two and hit one batter. The two hits he gave up were an infield single and a single through the hole between first and second that came on a hit-and-run.

Casey Janssen also pitched two innings for the Jays and looked very sharp. He threw 26 pitches, including 20 for strikes. Janssen gave up two hits and struck out four, including Phil’s Aaron Roward and Pat Burrell. Toronto second baseman Russ Adams belted a two-run homer off Philadelphia starter Freddy Garcia in the third.

It’s game time at Knology. Stay tuned for more…

Game #4 postgame

Well, Jo Matumoto finally made his debut with the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, the ol’ fairytale ending to his story is going to have to be postponed. Matumoto — the Brazilian pitcher of Japanese descent Toronto signed recently — entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and wound up giving up two runs on one hits in 1/3 of an inning. The 36-year-old lefty walked three and hit another batter.

Nerves were likely a factor. Could you blame him for being nervous? The guy toiled away in the industrial leagues in Japan and then on teams in Brazil before FINALLY getting a shot at making a big-league team. He won’t make Toronto’s roster, but simply a call-up to The Show at some point would make his a tremendous success story.

Seeing Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg head out to the mound for a visit with Matumoto was interesting in itself. Toronto had infielder Ray Olmedo, who speaks Spanish and English, translate Arnsberg’s words for Matumoto, who speaks Portugese, Spanish and Japanese. Quite a sight.

John Thomson, Shaun Marcum and Victor Zambrano all looked good. After his outing, Zambrano actually said he believes he could leave Spring Training as a starter. That forced smiles from Arnsberg and Jays manager John Gibbons, who know it’s probably not realistic, but who like hearing the pitcher has that kind of attitude. He’s a little over nine months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery.

Blue Jays beat Tampa Bay, 7-4, but we all know wins and losses in the spring don’t carry much weight. Before the game, Gibbons was meeting with reporters in the dugout and pointed at Adam Lind as he walked by: "There’s boy wonder," Gibbons said with a chuckle. Well, Boy Wonder added another triple in Sunday’s game. Catcher Curtis Thigpen chipped in a two-run homer in the ninth.

All right, that’s all for now. I’m sitting outside in the open-air "pressbox" at Progress Energy Park in St. Pete, where I can see sailboats drifting along in the bay as the sun sets behind me. Time to call it a day…

Game #4 Jays at Rays pregame

Blue Jays vs. Devil Rays
at Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg

Today’s Lineups:

BLUE JAYS
John McDonald, SS
Adam Lind, LF
Russ Adams, 2B
John-Ford Griffin, RF
Jason Phillips, C
John Hattig, 1B
Jason Smith, 3B
Robinzon Diaz, DH
Jeff Duncan, CF

PITCHING: John Thomson starting; Shaun Marcum and Victor Zambrano also scheduled to pitch; and maybe the first pro appearance by Jo Matumoto.

DEVIL RAYS
Rocco Baldelli, CF
Delmon Young, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Ty Wigginton, DH
Jorge Cantu, 2B
Greg Norton, 1B
Akinori Iwamura, 3B
Dioner Navarro, C
Ben Zobrist, SS

PITCHING: Jae Kuk Ryu — most famous for killing an osprey while pitching for the Daytona Cubs a few years ago.

NOTES FROM PREGAME:

  • A.J. Burnett will not travel to Fort Myers to take on Boston on Thursday. Don’t worry, nothing’s wrong. The Jays have a B game against the Phillies at 10 a.m. in Dunedin that day, too. Burnett is scheduled to pitch three innings in that non-Grapefruit League contest.
  • Right-handers Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen are scheduled to pitch in the B game against the Phils at 10 a.m. on Monday in Clearwater.
  • Jason Smith — Toronto’s Rule 5 Draft pick up — started at third base, but Jays manager John Gibbons plans on moving him to the outfield later in the game. Smith is trying to make Toronto’s roster as the super utility player.
  • Left fielder Reed Johnson received a cortisone shot in his back to help alleviate the stiffness. He played catch on Saturday and will begin taking BP soon. There’s no need to rush him into games when his back is tight this early in spring.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more postgame…

Game #3 postgame

Gms_1On Wednesday, it could’ve just been a coincidence. Phils GM Pat Gillick showed up at the Bobby mattick Training Center and chatted for a little while with Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi (left).

Gillick still has ties to people within Toronto’s organization from his time as the Jays GM, and he’s made many trips over to Bobby Mattick over the years. The fact that he showed up wasn’t a huge surprise.

Then there was Saturday. Us scribes were busy typing away and taking in the Toronto-Tampa Bay game and there was Gillick again, watching the action from the back corner of the pressbox. Now, it’s starting to seem a little fishy.

It could mean nothing. It could mean something. Believe what you want about the two visits. What it seems like, though, is that there could be something behind it. Philadelphia is looking for bullpen help and Toronto has some arms that it could make available. The Jays and Phils have also scheduled a pair of B games — 10 a.m. each on March 5 and 8 in Clearwater and Dunedin, respectively — and Toronto will likely have some of its younger pitchers throwing in those games.

There’s also the fact that the Phils seem willing to deal starter Jon Lieber, and various reports have them also interested in Jays right fielder Alex Rios. A Rios-for-Lieber seems like a stretch, though. It makes sense in this way: If Phils got Rios (or Reed Johnson for that matter), they could try to breathe life into the Aaron Roward-to-Padres-for-Scott Linebrink deal.

Dealing Rios in that situation seems unlikely, especially now that Toronto has added pitching depth with John Thomson, Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano. But the visits have been made, the games are scheduled, and the rumors and reports are there. So I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.

POSTGAME: Toronto is no longer undefeated and you can blame the rain. The Jays and Rays ended their Saturday contest after six innings when it began pouring harder. Tampa Bay was ahead, 5-4, at the time and that’s all she wrote.

A.J. Burnett looked solid, sticking to fastballs and changeups over two innings. He gave up a solo homer to Jonny Gomes in the first, but Gomes also went deep in the third. It happens.

Burnett’s line: 2 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 2 K.

Tomo Ohka didn’t look so good. He was throwing strikes, but leaving the ball up. It’s way too early to make a formal judgement on his performance, but it wasn’t a good start.

Ohka’s line: 2 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 1 BB.

Troy Glaus nearly had two homers. He sent one pitch from lefty Scott Kazmir well over the wall in left center for a two-run shot in the first. Glaus then went off the wall in center in the third for a double. Don’t forget about the ball that sailed just foul in the spring opener. Glaus is locked in right now.

Rios also continued his hot hitting, sending a double to the right-center gap in the second. Toronto manager John Gibbons said Rios (sore shoulder) has been throwing and could be back in right field by the beginning of next week. DH Frank Thomas should be in the lineup on March 9, and Reed Johnson (sore lower back) will be out "a little longer."

As for Brandon League and his strained lat? There’s isn’t a clearcut answer right now. He’s been throwing off flat ground, but Gibbons isn’t sure when he’ll be back on a mound:

"He’s got to get off the mound pretty soon in the bullpen, because sooner or later we have to find out what’s going on. That way we can go to Plan B if we have to."

So, when does Plan B come into play? One week? Two?

"You tell me. I mean, it won’t be long."

With that, stay tuned for more…

Game 3: Rays at Jays

The Devil Rays have just finished batting practice and we’re gearing up for Game 3 of Toronto’s exhibition season. Sorry for no entries the last couple days, but I’m back. Here are the lineups for today’s game:

TAMPA BAY:
B.J. Upton, 2B
Brendan Harris, SS
Jonny Gomes, LF
Elijah Dukes, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Hee-Soep Choi, DH
Dustan Mohr, RF
Joel Guzman, 3B
Josh Paul, C

PITCHING: Scott Kazmir, Al Reyes, Seth McClung, among others

TORONTO:
Royce Clayton, SS
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, DH
Chad Mottola, RF
Rob Cosby, LF

PITCHING: A.J. Burnett, Tomo Ohka, Blaine Neal, Ismael Ramirez, Francisco Rosario, Pete Walker, and maybe Josh Banks

As you can see, Rios is still in as the DH. I didn’t make the trip to Fort Myers for the game against Boston yesterday, but Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said it could be a week or two before Rios is back in the outfield. There’s definitely no reason to play him in right with a tender shoulder at this point, especially with Frank Thomas sitting the first week, too. It would make sense to transition Rios back into right field when Thomas is back in as the DH.

I did make it to Toronto’s workout at Knology Park yesterday morning. I spoke with Reed Johnson about his stiff back. He said he began feeling it when he played in one of the intrasquad games earlier in the week, but it wasn’t a big deal. He expected to be back in the mix in a few days. Again, this early in spring, there’s no need to risk anything — might as well rest him for a few days.

The Jays aren’t sending many regulars over to St. Pete for Sunday’s tilt against the D-Rays. Hill, Jason Phillips and Jason Smith are the only position players on the projected Opening Day roster who are making the trip. The pitchers that are going include John Thomson, Shaun Marcum, Victor Zambrano, Brian Tallet, Jo Matumoto, Ryan Houston and maybe Banks. Josh Towers is scheduled to start on Monday.

That’s all for now. It’s been drizzling here on and off, so hopefully we can et this game in. Right now it’s just cloudy and cold enough to make the sportswriters moan about not bringing their jackets. Poor us, huh.

Stay tuned for more…

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