Who's on Second?

No, your television wasn’t malfunctioning — that was Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan donning a helmet and jogging out to second base as a pinch runner in the eighth inning on Monday night. Now, the decision to use McGowan in that situation wasn’t completely asinine, but to use the next day’s starter as a pinch runner did seem a little strange.

"He’s our fastest runner," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, who was hardly in the mood to break down the decision after Toronto dropped a 6-4 decision to Oakland.

Bare with me here on the logic, though.

A’s reliever Andrew Brown is tanking it, while Oakland is clinging to a 6-2 lead in the eighth. Brown then gives up a double to Frank Thomas to cut the lead to 6-3. With two outs, Toronto needs runs and there’s no way Thomas makes it home on a base hit. So, the Jays need a pinch runner.

On the bench is A. Aaron Hill, B. Matt Stairs, C. Gregg Zaun, and D. Ray Olmedo. With Brown slipping fast, and lefty Alan Embree warming in the bullpen, Gibbons knows he’s probably going to want to pinch hit for left-handed hitting Russ Adams. Another hit probably means the showers for Brown and an entrance for Embree.

If that’s the case, Gibbons will want to use the right-handed hittiner Hill, who can then replace Adams at second base — it’s the natural choice. Whether or not Hill comes through, the A’s are then likely to turn to right-handed closer Huston Street, which means Gibbons will want to save his lefty bats — Zaun and Stairs — as pinch hitters to replace righties Thigpen and McDonald, who are up after Hill.

So, that leaves Olmedo, right? Well, if you insert Olmedo as the pinch runner, he becomes the DH. That means, when you pinch hit Stairs for McDonald, you would need to shift Olmedo to shortstop. If that happens, Toronto would lose the DH and its pitcher would be forced to bat if the game extends into extra innings.

That’s where McGowan comes in.

Considering starter Shaun Marcum only lasted three innings, the Jays need all the relievers they can get. So, no one’s going to be making the jog from the bullpen to replace Thomas at second. And, you’re sure as heck not going to see either Roy Halladay or A.J. Burnett, and all their millions of dollars in multi-year deals, out there on the basepaths. Unfortunately, that leaves McGowan.

The play worked. McGowan ran out there and Troy Glaus doubled him home to cut the score to 6-4 — and Thomas would’ve had to stop at third base. Of course, Hill then popped out against Embree, and Zaun and Stairs were quickly set down by Street in a scoreless ninth. Game over.

It made some sense, but it certainly was risky. I’m not saying I agreed with the move — I didn’t — but I can see the sort of logic that led to the decision. It just would’ve been terrible had Glaus’ double been the type that led to a collision at the plate involving McGowan, when he’s supposed to start on Tuesday.

Anyway…crisis averted.

And, for what it’s worth, where’s the offense? Sure, Joe Blanton dominated for the A’s, but the disappearing act by Toronto’s bats has hindered this team all season. It would’ve been a nice story to see the offense finally helped out the pitching staff, when it’s been the other way around all year.


  1. nraoeon@yahoo.com

    JP has to open his eyes and realize, although the whole league in general is short on power this year, this team is built to be consistently inconsistent. That’s just how power is. If Jays were a little more versatile with speed and playing some small ball when they struggling for the big hit, they would be a playoff team with the pitching looking rock solid.

  2. torgen@gmail.com

    Driving in runners from scoring position has been a problem for this team. Spending outs to put men in scoring position doesn’t improve your clutch hitting.

    The Jays’ power hitters have suffered the following:

    1) Flulike symptoms

    2) Broken Hand

    3) Another broken hand

    4) Plantar fasciitis

    5) Benched

    6) Moved out of lineup positions where he was successful

    Frank Thomas is the only player who’s underperforming expectations and hasn’t suffered any injury or illness that we’re aware of. Then again, since we know Wells, Halladay, and Overbay all had the flu at around the same time, it would not be surprising if other team members caught it on the flight to Cleveland and the front office hasn’t been forward with that info.

  3. rmatty39@hotmail.com

    Last time I checked the Flu doesn’t make you **** for an entire year!!! You might **** for a week or two but that’s it.

    It’s apparent that we need a new hitting coach cause I’ve never see an entire team (-Rios) struggle when these guys are proven hitters.

    I liked the move by Gibbons… I was going through the machups in my head and was thinking he needed a pitcher to run. I was leaning towards A.J since he can out run the hot dog masscots but Magowan was just fine in my books.

  4. torgen@gmail.com

    Vernon lost several pounds when he had the flu. Remember when Rios had that staph infection last year? He lost several pounds and wasn’t the same the rest of the year.
    I agree we need a hitting coach who had a successful major league career, but our hitters didn’t have a problem last year.

    I figured McGowan was running because even if the game went to 18 innings, there was no way the next day’s starter was going to pitch in relief, whereas other starters might be forced to.

  5. goffcg25@hotmail.com

    Nice loss!!!! I’m loving it!!!! Will guys stop this garbage about overtaking the Yanks and getting into the playoffs? It’s just a sick fantasy especially the way the Yanks have been playing lately especially against the pathetic Jays. Just forget it!!!!

  6. gsumner@rogers.com


    Nice loss!!!! I’m loving it!!!! Will you stop this garbage about overtaking the Red Sox and getting into the playoffs? It’s just a sick fantasy especially the way the Yanks have been playing lately especially against the Angels. Just forget it!!!!

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