April 2007

Game #8: Royals at Blue Jays postgame

On Monday night, I could barely hear myself think inside the pressbox — thanks to the 50,000-plus in attendance. Tuesday, some 22,000 fans came to the Rogers Centre, but the noise level was still pretty high. Wednesday? Well, everyone in the stadium had to put up with the constant heckling of one Toronto fan, who had no problem making himself heard among the 15,218 who purchased a ticket.

The best line of the night from Mr. Anonymous:

"Hey LaRue! You’re hitting .143! No joke needed!"

Royals catcher Jason LaRue smacked a double to right-center field right after that comment, prompting the fan to respond with: "I just got punked!"

There’s always a dropoff in attendance following home openers, and I know it was the Royals in town for the opening series, but the crowd on hand was pretty pathetic Tuesday night. Don’t just take it from me, either. Hear what Jays reliever Jason Frasor had to say about it:

"Hopefully we get more fans," Frasor said. "It’s a lot more fun and we play a whole lot better when there’s at least 25,000. Yesterday and today, it felt like it was dead — like a boring intrasquad game or something."

Ouch. Pick it up Jays fans.

EARLY EXIT: Toronto manager John Gibbons didn’t wait long to turn to his bullpen Tuesday. As soon as Reggie Sanders sent Gustavo Chacin’s 79th pitch into right-center for a double to lead off the sixth, Gibbons pulled the left-hander from the game. "They don’t call me Captain Hook for nothing," Gibbons joked afterward.

In reality, though, Chacin had given up a few hard hits, including a homer to David DeJesus, and Toronto’s ‘pen was plenty rested. Frasor looked sharp — fanning the side in the eighth — and B.J. Ryan picked up his third save. At the time Chacin was pulled, it seemed questionable. In hindsight? You can’t really complain with the results. And that’s all that really matters. Still, the Jays would love to be able to consistently get six out of Chacin.

WALKING WOUNDED: It’s not every day that John McDonald (seven career home runs) will come in to pinch hit for Troy Glaus (259 homers), but it happened in the eighth with the bases loaded. Gibbons said afterward that Glaus’ "legs are beat up" but he’ll be in the lineup on Thursday. Glaus has been playing with a bone spur in his left heal.

PLAY OF THE DAY: With runners on first and second with two outs and the Jays up, 5-4, in the seventh, Frasor induced a grounder from Sanders. The ball was hit sharply back toward the mound and, somehow, Frasor was able to reach back and grab it out of the air. If he doesn’t make that play, KC notches the tying run and has another runner in scoring position. "I don’t know how I did that," Frasor said.

Game #8: Royals at Blue Jays

Kansas City (3-5) at Toronto (4-3)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROYALS
David DeJesus, CF
Esteban German, 2B
Mark Teahen, RF
Reggie Sanders, DH
Emil Brown, LF
Alex Gordon, 3B
Ryan Shealy, 1B
Jason LaRue, C
Tony Pena Jr., SS

PITCHING: LHP Jorge De La Rosa

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: LHP Gustavo Chacin

Game #7: Royals at Blue Jays

Kansas City (2-5) at Toronto (4-2)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROYALS
David DeJesus, CF
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B
Mark Teahen, RF
Mike Sweeney, DH
Alex Gordon, 3B
Emil Brown, LF
Ryan Shealy, 1B
Jason LaRue, C
Tony Pena Jr., SS

PITCHING: RHP Zach Greinke

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Matt Stairs, LF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Jason Smith, SS
Jason Phillips, C

PITCHING: RHP Josh Towers

NOTES: Day off for LF Reed Johnson, C Gregg Zaun and SS Royce Clayton. Manager John Gibbons said Rios may get a day off in the next few days, too. … Smith made his first start of the season at short, spelling Clayton against Greinkie. The Jays will likely give Smith a handful of starts against right-handers this season. … Raptors PF Chris Bosh was at the Rogers Centre and threw out the first pitch.

Mrs. Bastian heads to the ballpark

Odthomas2My wife, Kelly, was one of the 50,125 in attendance at the Rogers Centre Monday night for the home opener. I’m blessed to be married to a woman who shares a love of the game of baseball — makes being a baseball writer much easier.

So she was excited to finally have the baseball season return to Toronto, where she and I have now been living for parts of three years now — a little more than one year consecutively. She borrowed my camera for the home opener and snapped a few shots, like the one of Frank Thomas (above), who she followed with the White Sox back when we lived on the south side of Chicago.

Odthomas_1

Kelly had seats a few rows behind Toronto’s dugout, so she was able to have a nice view of the plate. Here’s another shot she snapped of Thomas (right).                  

Here are a few more pictures she took:

OdzaunToronto catcher Gregg Zaun walking back to Toronto’s dugout.

OdlyleajFirst baseman Lyle Overbay and right-hander A.J. Burnett walking off the field.

OdajBurnett firing a pitch against the Royals. The righty gave up one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Home Opener postgame

John Gibbons posed a question to the pack of reporters inside his office after Monday night’s 9-1 win over the Royals. Toronto’s manager was simply curious how long the home opener lasted.

"That’s it?!" responded Gibbons, when informed the game was 3 hours, 8 minutes long. "I would’ve said four."

That summed up the Blue Jays’ home opener. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t quick, but it was an overwhelming win for Toronto. Starter A.J. Burnett’s performance wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t quick, but he held the Royals to three hits and one run over 6 2/3 frames. Burnett worked out of two bases-loaded jams, and walked off the field to a standing ovation from the 50,000-plus in attendance.

How about the production from the Nos. 6-9 hitters? Alex Rios, Aaron Hill, Gregg Zaun and Royce Clayton combined to go 7-for-15 with six of the nine runs scored. Hill led the group with three hits — two doubles — and Rios had two singles as well. Vernon Wells belted his second homer of the year, knocking Hill out as Toronto’s team leader in moonshots.

"I told you it wouldn’t last long," Hill laughed after the game.

LOUDEST CHEER: Scratch that, and make it "loudest boos." The sellout crowd let out a resounding boo for the fan wearing a New York Islanders jersey who appeared on the jumbotron during the game. That’s a lot of disgruntled Leafs fans.

SHOW UP EARLY: On Sept. 2, the Blue Jays will have Frank Thomas Kids Pillow Giveaway Day at the Rogers Centre. I’m sure the people who weren’t big fans of the recent TV commercial where Thomas has a pillow fight with his "son" will be the first ones in line.

ON DECK: RHP Josh Towers takes the mound for his first start of the year. Not only is he coming off a 2-10, 8.42 ERA in 2006, he’ll be starting after nine days of rest. It will be interesting to see how Towers performs in his first start under those circumstances.

Game #6: Royals at Blue Jays

Kansas City (2-4) at Toronto (3-2)
at 7:15 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROYALS
David DeJesus, CF
Esteban German, 2B
Mark Teahen, RF
Mike Sweeney, DH
Alex Gordon, 3B
Emil Brown, LF
Ryan Shealy, 1B
John Buck, C
Tony Pena, SS

PITCHING: LHP Odalis Perez

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

NOTES:  Glaus was back in the lineup, despite having a bone spur in his left foot. Manager John Gibbons said the ailment wasn’t anything serious. … Gibbons added that Hill and Zaun will likely continue to hit seventh and eighth, respectively, versus left-handers.

Goodbye Detroit

Six days in Detroit and I’ve seen two baseball games — can’t say I anticipated that. On Thursday, the Tigers and Blue Jays decided it was too cold and windy to play the finale of their three-game set. Considering that they’ve cut the heat in the pressbox now, I’m going to have to agree with their decision.

"You’ve got to look at it, too, from the management point of view," Jays second baseman Aaron Hill said. "You’re sending guys out there in 20 degree weather or whatever, the last thing you want to do is get somebody hurt. I hope we come back in a few months and it’s a little warmer hopefully — if there’s such a thing in Detroit."

There have been a few snow flurries flying around, but nothing close to a blizzard, and hardly any reason to even go looking for a shovel. The tarp has actually been removed from the field, too. Toronto won’t be complaining, though. After A.J. Burnett’s two-inning outing on Wednesday, the bullpen was taxed and wasn’t about to get a break with Gustavo Chacin taking the mound today.

The relief corps and the rotation will all get an extra day now, though. The "snow out" caused some changed to the probable pitchers, too:

FRIDAY at Tampa Bay: LHP Gustavo Chacin (8 days rest)
SATURDAY at Tampa Bay: RHP Tomo Ohka (7 days rest)
SUNDAY at Tampa Bay: RHP Roy Halladay (5 days rest)
MONDAY vs. Kansas City: RHP A.J. Burnett
TUESDAY vs. Kansas City: RHP Josh Towers (9 days rest)
WEDNESDAY vs. Kansas City: LHP Gustavo Chacin

The Jays would prefer to keep Halladay on his normal five-day schedule, but they also don’t want Ohka to get too far removed from his last outing, either. Also, this allows Toronto to have Halladay and Burnett fall back into the Nos. 1-2 positions in the rotation. Towers was upset that the postponed game — rescheduled for Sept. 10 — bumped his start on Sunday, because he hasn’t pitched since March 31 and is eager to get back on the mound.

Also on Thursday, Toronto dealt RHP Francisco Rosario to Philadelphia for cash considerations. This was a move that wasn’t hard to see coming. The Phils were scouting Rosario this spring, and the pitcher was out of options and without a job with the Jays. Toronto designated him for assignment last week.

HE SAID IT: "When we went out to the mound a couple times yesterday, I’d look at him like, ‘What’s wrong with you, man?’ His hairs [on his arms] were sticking up. He was trying to act like he was tough or something." – Hill, joking about first baseman Lyle Overbay wearing short sleeves during Thursday’s cold and windy contest

That’s all for now. I’m taking some time off over the next few days and catching a flight back to Toronto in the morning. I’ll be back at the blog next week. Until then…

Blue Jays at Tigers Game 2

Toronto (1-0) at Detroit (0-1)
at 1:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

TIGERS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Gary Sheffield, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Carlos Guillen, SS
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Sean Casey, 1B
Craig Monroe, LF
Brandon Inge, 3B

PITCHING: LHP Nate Robertson

Wrestlemania! (oh, and Opening Day, too)

So I hopped in my car and started heading to Detroit, completely oblivious of the mayhem I was about to encounter: a traffic jam for Wrestlemania. I had to zig-zag my way through downtown Motown to avoid the wall of cars making their way to Ford Field. Finally, though, I reached Comerica Park in time for Toronto’s workout.

Alas, there was more talk of Wrestlemania at the stadium than of actual baseball. Toronto manager John Gibbons was reminiscing of the time way back when, when he went and saw Wahoo McDaniel wrestle. Roy Halladay simply laughed when a reporter asked him if he was a wrestling fan.

No news is good news, though. The hour-long workout went just fine with players taking BP, playing catch, and doing the always important shagging of fly balls in the outfield. Everyone’s healthy and looking forward to Opening Day.

PROJECTED OPENING DAY LINEUPS:

TORONTO
Reed Johnson, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

DETROIT
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Gary Sheffield, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Carlos Guillen, SS
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Sean Casey, 1B
Craig Monroe, LF
Brandon Inge, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Bonderman

DOC vs. Tigers: Halladay has faced Detroit 12 times in his career, going 10-2 with a 1.85 ERA, but hasn’t faced them since 2004. Of Detroit’s projected starting nine, only Granderson and Polanco have never faced the pitcher. The other seven batters have combined to hit .233 (21-for-90) against Halladay. Pudge Rodriguez leads the way, posting a .556 (10-for-18) average against Doc.

BONDERMAN vs. Jays: Detroit’s starter has gone 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in six career games against Toronto. In 2006, he went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts versus the Jays. Toronto’s starting nine have combined to hit just .188 (12-for-64) against Bonderman. Overbay and Zaun are each 0-for-6 against the righty. Wells leads the way with a .417 (5-for-12) average against Bonderman.

That’s all for now. I’m getting together with a friend of mine tonight to take in the Cardinals-Mets opener. I, for one, am glad Spring Training is in the rearview mirror and the regular season has arrived. Let the games begin…

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