SAN FRANCISCO — I’ve been drafted for All-Star week duties this season, and since the Jays were just out here playing Oakland, I’m hangin’ in San Francisco over the weekend. I walked by Niketown near Union Square today and they have a huge poster on the storefront pumping the upcoming All-Star Game.
The banner has a picture of North America, which is divided up into regions based on fan loyalty. For instance, there’s a shape that takes up nothern Illinois and stretches over into Iowa with the Cubs logo, with the Sox logo in a different region on the south side of Chicago, and on it goes throughout the whole country.
Then there was Canada, which was non-existent with the exception of Ontario, which was filled in and had a Jays logo stamped on it. I guess they didn’t want the Jays region taking up a whole country, making it look like its fan base was larger than, say, the Yankees or Red Sox, or well, the entire U.S. for that matter.
The city is overrun with signs, posters, flags and banners selling the upcoming game. You can’t walk a block in any direction without some reminder of the ASG. This will be my first time covering one, so I’m looking forward to it. Like Alex Rios, my manager voted me in to the coverage team. I’ll provide updates and insights throughout the week.
But first, about those Blue Jays:
From reading the comments on the previous post, I can see many of you Jays fans are keen to GM J.P. Ricciardi’s comments during a radio interview on The Fan 590 on Thursday morning. For those of you who missed the interview, here are some of Ricciardi’s quotes about A.J. Burnett’s latest trip to the disabled list:
"We’re concerned in the sense that we need him," Ricciardi said. "And as far as going out and taking the ball, when he takes the ball he’s good. We’ve got no complaints. Every time he’s been on the mound and every time he’s pitched his numbers are good. You’ve seen him. It’s a quality arm. It’s just finding a way to keep him out there.
"I don’t know if it’s psychological, I don’t know if it’s just he gets to a point he feels something and he’s been so scarred by being hurt so many times that he just backs off. But I think he’s going to have to get over that hump at some point and just maybe pitch through some pain or realize what the difference is between really being hurt and not being hurt."
Ricciardi went on to say that, in light of how Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan have been pitching, Burnett — signed to a five-year contract worth $55 million prior to last season — could potentially be moved down into the third or fourth spot in the rotation.
Personally, Ricciardi’s comments about the injury possibly being "psychological" didn’t surprise me. He said the same thing last year when Burnett landed on the DL twice with elbow issues. I tend to agree with the possibility that Burnett may be quicker to react when he feels something due to the sheer amount of times he’s been hurt in the past (10 DL trips in nine seasons). When he feels a twinge in his arm — serious or minor — he’s going to want to make sure he’s OK.
Then again, you see a pitcher like Roy Halladay pitch through pain without complaint. He did so last season, pitching with an injured tendon in his arm, before Toronto decided to shut him down toward the end of the year. If the Jays hadn’t shut him down, Doc might’ve continued to take the ball, pitching through pain in the process.
Only A.J. knows how bad his shoulder is hurting. If he says there’s pain in his arm, the Blue Jays have no choice but to take him on his word and have it checked out. That’s what they did and hopefully he’s back before the end of the month for the rotation’s sake. It’s not a stretch to say that there are some on the Jays who are growing impatient with Burnett, but the club still believes he has the potential to be a key to the team’s success.
IN OTHER NEWS:
I may be thousands of miles (or kilometers, or is it kilometres?) from the Rogers Centre, but I’m still privy to what’s going down with the Blue Birds. Left fielder Reed Johnson was activated from the 60-day DL today and inserted in the No. 2 spot (yes, you read that right) behind Vernon Wells. Hey, Wells hinted in Oakland that he might remain the leadoff man when Reed returned…remember?
"Whenever he gets back, they can put him wherever they want to, because he’s definitely a guy who has to be at the top of the lineup somewhere, whether it’s one or two. We’ll see when that happens."
As I forecasted in the last Jays notebook, rookie outfielder Adam Lind was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse upon Johnson’s return. A similar fate likely awaits Curtis Thigpen, who has helped fill in for injured first baseman Lyle Overbay. Speaking of Lyle, he’s beginning his Minor League rehab with Double-A New Hampshire today and should be back for the Boston series after the break.
Speaking of a break, there wasn’t one in third baseman Troy Glaus’ left foot. He fouled a pitch off his foot on Wednesday and was taken to a Bay Area hospital for X-rays. There was too much swelling to get an conclusive results, to the team re-evaluated him in Toronto. The report is that Glaus’ injury isn’t deemed serious, but he’ll likely sit out the entire Cleveland series as a precaution. No DL, but six days of rest will certainly do him good.
There’s always stuff that is said or brought up that gets tossed into the waste basket never to be heard about again, or stuffed in the bank for use at a later date. There were a few items from this recent road trip that I stored up, but never got around to using, or didn’t have enough space to put in the notebook ("Space"? We’re the internet, right? Yeah, I know, but our bosses still give us word count restrictions. Studies show people only scroll down so much).
Anyway, for starters, we asked Overbay to talk some about helped Wells with his approach at the plate. While on the DL, the first baseman broke down some video of Wells and told the outfielder he wasn’t using the same slightly-open stance he did in 2006. Wells made a change and has hit well since. Here’s what Overbay had to say:
"I just looked at Vernon and he’s always been in a good spot to hit, but he was just getting jammed a lot more. His ball wasn’t jumping off like it did. When in doubt, go look at tape. I was looking at his tape, and every home run that he hit, really, any ball that he hit real hard, he was kind of stepping in the bucket. You don’t really want to do that, but it was kind of thinking about opening that front foot a little more to kind of get the hips going. I don’t want to sound selfish, but it kind of helped me. I was kind of having that trouble, too — kind of getting beat on pitches I don’t normally get beat on. He’s able to see the ball better. I think it’s more him finding a comfort zone. It was more that than anything. I had a lot of time on my hands."
Another change Wells made was with his bat. This year, he tried going to a 33-ounce bat, as oppsed to the 32-ounce bat he used last year. When Wells had a bout of flu like symptoms in May, he lost some weight and struggled with being weak. So, he decided last month to move back to the lighter bat, which appears to have helped, too:
"I felt good with it. I felt good in Spring Training with it and I felt good early in the year with it. Kind of around the time I got sick in May it got a little heavier for me. So I tried going back to the bat I used last year and so far, so good. I’m not strong enough. I’m a leadoff guy now. I have to get on for the big guys."
Toronto manager John Gibbons: "He’s always been close. Maybe the reason he went to a lighter bat was he was missing some pitches he normally hits — just missing them. That can be the difference between fouling a ball of or squaring it up and hitting it somewhere hard. It’s a constant game of adjustments. You have to do that throughout your whole career and you have to be willing to do that."
I also spent some time talking to Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg about the decision to move Shaun Marcum from the bullpen to the rotation. The Toronto brass was mulling over either moving Marcum or reliever Casey Janssen on to the starting staff. Since picking Marcum, he’s emerged as one of Toronto’s top starters and Janssen has been impressive as the setup man:
"I really stated to J.P. and Gibby that I felt that Janssen was going to be the guy whose demeanor was a little more cut out for what he’s doing right now — not to say he’s not going to end up a starter down the road. I felt that, with what we were hurting in that eight inning spot at that time, that Marcum probably wasn’t going to have the bounce back that Janssen does. Janssen’s bounce back ability, the ability to maybe throw four or five times in a week peroid, I thought was going to be better than Shaun. Shaun had had such good success as a starting pitcher, so that kind of went into his corner, too. Janssen had some outstanding starts, too, but just the mode that he was in at that time, I just thought it helped both guys. I thought if we flip-flopped it, I thought we were possibly going to hurt both guys a little bit."
No argument here. Marcum said that he haflway expected his name to get the call at the time, too:
"I figured if it was between us, they probably would’ve gone with me, because he was doing so well down there at the time. I figured they wouldn’t want to mess with him. He’s been so big for us down there in the late innings. Why move him out and take our chances?"
MOMENT OF THE TRIP:
Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw it coming when Seattle manager Mike Hargrove decided to resign on Sunday. When I strolled into Gibbons’ office that morning and asked if he had hear anything about the rumor, he wasn’t aware of it until I brought it up.
The surreal aspect of the whole thing was when Hargrove held his press conference before the game. Right before it began, us Toronto scribes were finishing up our pregame meeting with Gibbons. He then flipped the TV in his office on to the presser, and we asked if he wanted us to step out. Gibbons said no, so we all sat and watched Hargrove’s comments together.
This doesn’t sound like much of a thing, but keep in mind that earlier this season questions came up about Gibbons’ job security with the Jays, and questions about that will likely continue on into the offseason. We all kept silent while Hargrove gave his emotional explanation, and Gibbons only offered an "Amen to that" when the former M’s manager talked about asking for 100 percent from his players at all times. Then, we all went back to work.
Stay tuned for more…