May 2007

Game #53: White Sox at Blue Jays pregame

Chicago (24-24) at Toronto (24-28)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

WHITE SOX
Darin Erstad, CF
Tadahito Iguchi, 2B
Jim Thome, DH
Jermaine Dye, RF
Paul Konerko, 1B
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Joe Crede, 3B
Rob Mackowiak, LF
Juan Uribe, SS

PITCHING: LHP Mark Buehrle

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Sal Fasano, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

NOTES: Hallday is making his first start since May 10 and is coming off the 15-day DL after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on May 11. … Halladay’s next win will be the 100th of his career. … From 2002-06, Buehrle and Halladay ranked one and two in quickest time of game among MLB starters. … SS Royce Clayton (left foot injury) missed his second game in a row after fouling a ball off his foot, but was available off the bench. … The hot topic around the Rogers Centre was still A-Rod’s controversal ninth-inning shout during Wednesday night’s game. Check the Jays notes on bluejays.com later for more follow up.

Fair or foul?

After Wednesday night’s game and the Alex Rodriguez incident, I pored through the MLB rulebook to see if there were any specific rules about a baserunner verbally interfering with a play. The search comes up dry. There’s some rules about runners purposely confusing fielders by running improperly around the bases, and rules about interferring by making contact with a fielder, but there doesn’t seem to be a guideline about a runner shouting in an infielder’s ear to distract him.

Since there isn’t a rule that forbids A-Rod’s antics, does that make it OK? Inside the Jays’ clubhouse, there wasn’t a single player who said they had ever seen — from Little Leagues to the big leagues — a baserunner yell "Mine!" while passing a fielder who was about to make a catch. (Granted, A-Rod swears he said something like "Ha!," but I tend to lean toward what third baseman Howie Clark heard, which was "Mine!").

Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus said it’s not "proper" and he wouldn’t hesitate to pull a teammate aside who pulled such a stunt to inform him of why such an act wasn’t "appropriate." Jays manager John Gibbons went as far as calling A-Rod’s antics "bush league," and said it strayed away from all the reasons the Yankees organization is respected around the league.

So, rulebook or not, the Jays seem to think what Rodriguez did was one of the unwritten rules in the game — you just don’t do it. I tend to agree. Some will say it was a smart play, making Clark think shortstop John McDonald was calling him off on a crucial ninth-inning pop up. It was Clark’s first day with the Jays and he’s still learning the voices of his teammates. So of course he’s going to back off if he hears someone yelling "Mine!"

The main issue that I had was that A-Rod insists he didn’t shout anything until he rounded third base, when on the replay you can clearly see him yell as he’s running directly between Clark and McDonald. For Rodriguez to then stand on third base and smirk while the Jays argued the play with the umpires also didn’t seem appropriate in the least.

Still, what A-Rod did wasn’t illegal. Does that make it right, though? There were certainly other aspects of Wednesday’s game that led to Toronto’s loss, but that play certainly came at an important juncture for the Jays. A two-run deficit entering the ninth is a whole different story than a five-run hole, especially when the heart of the order is due up.

Weigh in on this one Jays fans…

Game #52: The Triumphant Return of Howie Clark

New York (21-29) at Toronto (24-27)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Hideki Matsui, LF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, C
Jason Giambi, DH
Josh Phelps, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Melky Cabrera, RF

PITCHING: RHP Tyler Clippard

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Matt Stairs, LF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Howie Clark, 3B
Sal Fasano, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch

NOTES: The Jays purchased the contract of infielder Howie Clark, who last played for Toronto in 2004. Clark broke his thumb during a Spring Training game with the Padres, who released him before this season. After six weeks, Clark began working the phones and signed a Minor League deal with the Jays. … 3B Troy Glaus sat out with a sore hamstring. … SS Royce Clayton didn’t suffer a fracture after fouling a ball off his left foot on Tuesday. He was available in an emergency situation on Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day. … RHP Jamie Vermilyea was optioned to Triple-A and INF Ryan Roberts was designated for assignment to make room for Clark on the active and 40-man roster, respectively.

Game #51: Yankees at Blue Jays pregame

New York (21-28) at Toronto (23-27)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Hideki Matsui, LF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, C
Jason Giambi, DH
Bobby Abreu, RF
Doug Mientikiewicz, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B

PITCHING: LHP Andy Pettitte

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Jason Phillips, C
Royce Clayton, SS
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

NOTES: To clear room for RHP Brian Wolfe on the 40-man roster, Toronto transferred RHP Brandon League to the 60-day disabled list. This was simply a paperwork move, considering League has been on the DL since March 31. Even with placing him on the 60, he’s eligible to come off the DL this week. League is beginning a rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin today. … 3B Troy Glaus, who has been bothered all year by a bone spur in his left heel, was a late scratch from Toronto’s lineup. … RHP Victor Zambrano (right forearm) was scheduled to make a rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Game #50: Yankees at Blue Jays pregame

New York (21-27) at Toronto (22-27)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

NEW YORK
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Hideki Matsui, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Bobby Abreu, RF
Melky Cabrera, LF
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B

PITCHING: RHP Matt DeSalvo

TORONTO
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Jason Phillips, C
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

NOTES: C Gregg Zaun (broken right thumb) is scheduled to head to Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday and he’ll likely begin playing in Gulf Coast League exhibition games beginning Wednesday. Because the GCL season hasn’t started yet, Zaun can get an at-bat in each inning of games. After 3-4 days, Zaun hopes to start catching again, and if that goes well for a few days, he plans on heading to Triple-A Syracuse to continue his rehab. Zaun said the best-case scenario would have him back with the Jays in time for the trip to L.A. and San Francisco on June 8-13. … 3B Troy Glaus was back in the lineup after missing a game due to soreness in his left heel. … The Jays still haven’t announced who will come out of the rotation with RHP Roy Halladay rejoining the group on Thursday. Gibbons did hint that Monday’s off-day will play a role, though. Consider that rookie Jesse Litsch’s next scheduled turn to pitch, after Wednesday, falls on the off-day. Toronto won’t need a fifth starter again until June 9 in L.A.

No Minny for Me

There won’t be any blogging from the Metrodome for me, considering I’m back home in Toronto. This weekend marks my wife’s and my second anniversary, so I figured I should probably take the series in Minnesota off. So, I’ll be back on here for the upcoming home set against the Yankees. Still no word on whether or not Roger Clemens will be starting in Toronto, but it sounds like he might be making another rehab start. After watching some of his last one, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to do one more. He still looked a tad rusty and a bit winded.

QUOTABLE: One highlight of the trip to Baltimore came on Tuesday, when after the game the O’s PR department handed out a postgame note that read: "Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: "." *technical difficulties."

Gibbons’ way of speaking definitely takes some getting used to as a reporter, but after a while you get used to his Texas drawl and the way he’ll sometimes trail off in a mumble. Baltimore’s PR staff had a little trouble trying to decipher his quotes after the game. We all had a good laugh.

I’m sorry Joe Magrane: The guy goes 18-9 with a 2.91 ERA for the Cardinals in 1989 and his Topps baseball card ends up sitting in each urinal in the men’s bathroom on the press level at Camden Yards on Tuesday night. I’m sorry, Joe. I had to go.

Still taking abuse: During an interview with Lyle Overbay on Wednesday, I was once again the victim of a barrage of foam darts — this time coming from toy guns being wielded by Shaun Marcum, Josh Towers and Brian Tallet. Unfazed, I continued the interview while the trio retrieved their bullets from around my feet. Towers hit me square in the chest with a blowgun when I first walked in the room. Nice. I guess that’s what I get for choosing the life of a vulture. All in a day’s work.

Game #46: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (20-25) at Baltimore (21-25)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Adam Lind, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Matt Stairs, RF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Jason Phillips, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Melvin Mora, 3B
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Aubrey Huff, DH
Ramon Hernandez, C
Jay Gibbons, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Corey Patterson, CF

PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Guthrie

NOTES: Jays manager John Gibbons said RF Alex Rios was simply getting a day off on Thursday. With Rios out, Lind moved into the leadoff spot for the fifth time this season. Gibbons said he actually considered hitting Wells in the first spot of the order, but decided to keep him in the No. 3 hole. … C Gregg Zaun (broken right thumb) plans on taking live BP in Minnesota on Friday. … RHP Roy Halladay (appendicitis) is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday. … Gibbons said he received a phone message from LF Reed Johnson (back), who said he has started to swing a bat.

Game #45: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (20-24) at Baltimore (20-25)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Royce Clayton, SS
Jason Phillips, C

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Melvin Mora, 3B
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Jay Gibbons, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Corey Patterson, CF

PITCHING: RHP Steve Trachsel

NOTES: Both Toronto manager John Gibbons and GM J.P. Ricciardi said that they didn’t anticipate any punishment headed A.J. Burnett’s after he admitted to throwing intentionally at O’s LF Jay Gibbons on Tuesday night. Ricciardi said he wouldn’t be surprised if he heard from the league office, though. … Ricciardi said that Toronto will probably know more about the status of RHP Roy Halladay on Saturday — a day after he throws a simulated game in Minnesota.

Game #44: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (19-24) at Baltimore (20-24)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

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

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Ramon Hernandez, C
Aubrey Huff, DH
Melvin Mora, 3B
Kevin Millar, 1B
Jay Gibbons, LF
Jay Payton, CF

PITCHING: RHP Daniel Cabrera

NOTES: RHP Roy Halladay threw his second bullpen session in the last three days on Tuesday and is on pace to come off the DL before the end of the month. When Halladay was told he’d be out for 4-6 weeks, he said he set a personal goal of three weeks. So far, so good. He’s scheduled for a simulated game on Friday. … Toronto manager John Gibbons hinted that Halladay will either take over the rotation spot occupied by RHP Tomo Ohka or RHP Jesse Litsch. If Halladay moves into Ohka’s spot, he could potentially start for the Jays on May 31 vs. the White Sox. … On Monday, C Gregg Zaun (broken right thumb) visited with the hand specialist who performed his surgery. The checkup went well and Zaun was cleared to start throwing and to start swinging a bat. He took about 50 cuts in a soft-toss session and he feels he could probably take live BP within the next week. He hoped to get in a Minor League rehab game within the next two weeks.

Goodbye Philadelphia: Leftovers Edition

Rockyandjb_1It’s 9:41 a.m. and in a little more than an hour I’ll begin my trek from my hotel room in Philly to another hotel room in Baltimore. Thank God for Marriott points — it makes it all worth it. Part of me wishes I could be at the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown today, but I’ve been to the Hall as a baseball fan twice. That’s the way to go — not having to worry about a deadline while you’re soaking up the history.

As promised, I’ll throw a few pics on here from my travels around town here in Philly. First off, there I am standing with Rocky Balboa (LEFT) in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It wasn’t at the top of steps like it was in the movies, but it’s better that way. Only in America can a city be known for a statue of a fictional character produced by Hollywood. Who am I kidding, I was pumped that the statue was there. I’m sure all of you Rocky fans will weigh in on this one. Here’s my ranking of the films:

1. Rocky IV, 2. Rocky, 3. Rocky III, 4. Rocky II, 5. Rocky Balboa, 6. Rocky V

Thinker

On my walk from the Museum of Art toward downtown, I was surprised to see Rodin’s The Thinker sitting off to my left. OK, so it isn’t the original — the first casting is in France — but it was still pretty cool to see. Growing up, my dad had a miniature of the statue in his office. The Rodin Museum is in Philly and this replica of the famed statue (RIGHT) sits out front.

I ended up making the 2-3 mile walk from the Art Museum all the way to the Liberty Bell. Walking down the Ben Franklin Parkway was pleasant and it was a beautiful day — until I got to the ballpark and it started drizzling. On the way to the Liberty Bell, which was great to see, though the crowd was a little too much, there was a nice view of City Hall:

Phillyfountain

That’s City Hall there in the middle (left). Philadelphia reminded me a lot of Boston in the sense that there were a lot of historical sites mixed all around the modern buildings. Boston remains my favorite road city, though. Had I not gone into journalism, I probably would’ve done something involved with history (boy, do I sure know how to pick the high-paying professions).

Citizens Bank Ballpark was nice, but nothing about it really really jumped out to make it a great park. For me, it was too similar to Comerica Park in Detroit in many ways. I took some time out on Sunday to walk around the stadium and nothing about it said, "You’re in Philadelphia." It’s not the kind of feeling you get inside Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, or even newer parks like Camden Yards or Safeco Field.

CitizensbankThis isn’t to say that the Phillies’ home ballpark (RIGHT) wasn’t nice. It definitely had a nice feel to it and wouldn’t rank near the bottom of my list by any means. One downside is it’s location, which is far enough south of the city — literally in the same complex as the areas for the Eagles, 76ers and Flyers — where you can’t see the skyline from inside the ballpark. From the pressbox and upper deck, you get a nice view of a beautiful skyline, but from the lower levels you might as well be in Iowa.

Enough about all that, though, let’s get to some leftovers from Toronto’s brief Interleague excursion:

DON’T SHOOT: Yours truly was the victim of a clubhouse attack this weekend. Vernon Wells and A.J. Burnett have become a regular firing squad with an arsenal of air-powered toy guns that shoot foam bullets — some with velcro on the tips. After the game on Saturday, Wells unleashed a wave of bullets — two of which struck me in the head and a few others that stuck to my back. Nice. Must have been that notebook I wrote about him that day.

Then, on Sunday morning, while us reporters were in the manager’s office with John Gibbons, Wells and Burnett, with Josh Towers close behind with a blow gun, snuck up to the doorway. While we were in the middle of the interview, Wells rolled into the room, Burnett and Towers leaned into view, and Gibbons was hit with a barrage of bullets.

This prompted me to ask: "Gibby, you getting along with your players OK?"

ZAUN’S HEROICS: I won’t go over all the details of Gregg Zaun’s called shot in the 1999 Hall of Fame Game, because you can read about it HERE. What I will do is share some of the stuff I didn’t fit into the short story.

One of the chants he remembered the crowd saying:

"W-W-W-DOT-ZAUN-DOT-COM."

"They were saying the craziest stuff," laughed Zaun, recalling the event on Sunday.

The reason Juan Gonzalez wasn’t playing right field? He had a wardrobe malfuntion with his retro Rangers uniform:

"I’ll never forget it, they told me, ‘Juan’s not going to go out there today because his pants don’t fit.’ So, I started the game behind the plate, but when they needed somebody to play the outfield I said, ‘I’ll go out to right field.’"

Zaun also received some video footage of his called shot, which he said will eventually be posted on his upcoming Web site, www.greggzaun.com. In the video, he could see KC players Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney, sitting in folding chairs by the on-deck circle. Their facial expression when Zaun pointed to right field was kind of a "Yeah right" sort of reaction, but then:

"I hit it and they both stand up and their hands are above their heads like, ‘Oh my God! He did it!’ We ended up being teammates the very next year."

DECODING DUSTIN: As far as the erratic outing by Dustin McGowan on Friday — four ho-hit innings followed by a five-run meltdown in the fifth — Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg planned on broke down some video to see what the problem was.

What he saw was simply a change in McGowan’s release point, in what the coach referred to as "the window." Arnsberg said there wasn’t any difference in McGowan pitching from the stretch as compared to in the windup. Here’s some of what Arnsberg had to say on Saturday:

"I matched him up, even earlier today, with pitches out of his stretch that were strikes, and pitches that were out of the stretch that were balls, and it really comes down to one thing, and that’s where the ball’s coming out of the hand."

"It’s called the window — that we talk about so much. He didn’t repeat his window very well. I sat and broke it down frame to frame to frame and it all comes down to that last split second — what happens in that window. If it’s held on too, too long, it’s down. If it’s held on too short a time, it’s up.

"I didn’t see anything like in the load, or arm swing, front side, or anything else that really alarms me as a pitching coach. Or, obviously, I would’ve tried to go out and make an adjustment right away."

Arnsberg continues:

"We’ve basically said, ‘Shoot for the middle and hope it hits a corner.’ That’s the kind of stuff he’s got. He’s got a Burnett-type arm — tremendous stuff. We’ve got to get him in the zone. You saw last night, when he’s in the zone he’s tough."

"Besides the health of this kid, the main problem with Dustin over the last two or three years is his ability to throw the ball over the plate. You see the glimpses, but I’m just not a huge fan of flashes in the dark. You’ve got to show the consistency. There’s no doubt that we all know the arm is there. The consistency’s just got to continue to improve. I think he’s making headways. I know he was in Triple-A."

"Sometimes you just wonder if he tries too hard. That’s the first time after a game I’ve really seen him show emotion, when he came in and threw his glove. I kind of liked that. I want to see him light a fire. We’re all such huge fans and we’re all rooting for him so hard, and I believe we’ve all got his best interest at heart."

"Sometimes it comes down to the athlete getting it done. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but until they really get that feel of what you’re talking about, you’re really climbing a greased pole at times. By no means are we giving up. This guy’s up here for the duration and we’re going to work our rear ends off to help him get better."

There was more, too, but that’s the bulk of it. Anyway, I’ve been blogging for a while now. I think this should be able to hold you all over until I get to the ballpark in Baltimore. Until then, you can watch the events at Cooperstown for free today on MLB.com. The game begins at 2 p.m.

Stay tuned for more…

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