August 2007

Burnett returns, League departs

The names on the transaction line weren’t surprising, but there was an unexpected element to the move. A.J. Burnett was activated as scheduled, and Brandon League was cleared from the roster to make room. But, instead of being optioned, which was the expectation, League was placed back on the 15-day disabled list.

According to the Jays, League, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 4, has been bothered recently by a pulled oblique. League spent the the better part of the first four months of the season on the DL with an "overdeveloped lat muscle" or a "shoulder injury" — the explanation has never been completely clear. League has said the shoulder and the lat issues were related, and they played a role in his diminished velocity when he showed up to spring. So, after a .419 batting average against and a 6.75 ERA in seven outings, League is back on the DL.

I, for one, was glad to see Frasor didn’t get demoted. Outside of a few rough outings, he hasn’t pitched too poorly for the Jays. He hasn’t been as sharp in his past few trips to the mound either, but can you expect much else when the guy is going a week between appearances? It’s been hard for Frasor to find the innings with how well Toronto’s starters have been pitching. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see if League will see any more big-league innings this season.

This leads to an interesting question:

League was supposed to be the setup man this year — a job that has fallen to Casey Janssen. If B.J. Ryan comes back as expected next year, the thinking seems to be that fill-in closer Jeremy Accardo slips back into the right-handed setup role with Scott Downs as the left-handed option in the eighth inning.

So, what happens to Janssen? Should the Jays keep him in the ‘pen, where he’s excelled? Or, should he be an option for the rotation, which has been the long-term plan from the beginning? And, what should happen with League? Should he still be given a shot at the setup role, or has his season dropped him to the middle-relief realm for the future?

No matter how you slice it, the Jays appear to have a solid pitching staff for 2008.

AL EAST STANDINGS
entering Sunday’s game
1. Boston 70-47 (–)
2. New York 66-51 (4)
3. Toronto 58-57 (11)
4. Baltimore 54-62 (15.5)
5. Tampa Bay 45-71 (24.5)

AL WILD CARD RACE
entering Sunday’s game
1. Seattle 65-50 (–)
2. New York 66-51 (–)
3. Cleveland 65-53 (1.5)
4. Toronto 58-57 (7)
5. Minnesota 58-59 (8)

Towers to the 'pen

As expected, Toronto manager John Gibbons revealed on Friday that right-hander Josh Towers will be moving back to the bullpen. The move will allow A.J. Burnett to slot back into the rotation when he’s activated from the DL on Sunday. The only decision that hasn’t been announced is who gets bumped out of the ‘pen to clear room for Towers.

The likely candidates would appear to be Brandon League and Jason Frasor. League was on the DL for most of the year and has been inconsistent since returning to the Jays. Frasor has become the invisible man in the bullpen, and Towers will probably seldom be used — much like Frasor over the past two months.

Toronto doesn’t technically have to announce anything until Sunday. What’re your thoughts on the move with Towers? And, which reliever do you guys think should be moved to clear room for him?

I see that Shaun Marcum is carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning (blame me for jinxing it if it comes to an end now). Nice to see him pitching well in K.C., where he’s from and where a lot of friends and family are sure to be in the stands watching. Also nice to see Marcum matching zeroes with Gil Meche.

Toronto went hard after Meche in the offseason and lost him to the Royals. Looking back, the Jays can hardly be complaining. By losing out on Meche, Toronto saved a pile of cash, and the "loss" paved the way for pitchers like Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch to get an opportunity to start.

Any of you out there still bitter about Toronto failing to sign Meche? Sure, a rotation of Roy Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Meche would’ve been nice, but consider that one of either Marcum or McGowan might not have been put into the rotation if Meche were on the Jays. Food for thought…

Three Jays Fined

On Thursday, MLB handed out its punishment to the Jays and Yanks for the bench-clearing incidents that happened in Toronto two nights ago. Matt Stairs, Josh Towers and third-base coach Brian Butterfield each were hit with fines by MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson.

Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, who intentionally hit Toronto’s Alex Rios with a 1-0 pitch during the seventh inning on Tuesday night, was suspended for five games and handed a fine. New York manager Joe Torre was suspended one game and fined as well. Also, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and coaches Larry Bowa and Tony Pena were fined.

The minor donnybrook began when Towers plunked A-Rod with a pitch in the third inning. The benches and bullpens cleared twice in the inning — once after the first hit-by-pitch, and again when Towers got into it again with A-Rod and Pena. During the on-field incident, Stairs had to be restrained by some Yankees near first base. I’m not clear on what Bowa or Butterfield did, but apparently it was enough to warrant fines.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t. What are your thoughts on the fines and suspensions? Obviously, Clemens hitting Rios came after both clubs were issued warnings, so he was going to get hit with the hardest penalty. It wasn’t as clear if Towers’ pitch that hit A-Rod was intentional or not.

FYI: I’m not making the trip to Kansas City this weekend. So, no pregame blogs, but I’ll update here and there throughout the series, I’m sure. I’ll be back to the regular blogging routine during the next homestand in Toronto. – JB

Game #113: Yanks at Jays pregame

New York (63-50) at Toronto (56-56)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

YANKEES
Melky Cabrera, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Jorge Posada, C
Hideki Matsui, LF
Jason Giambi, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Andy Phillips, 1B

PITCHING: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (13-5, 3.49 ERA)

BLUE JAYS
Matt Stairs, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (12-5, 4.13 ERA)

NOTES: Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was out of the lineup due to a sore left leg — the result of the errant pitch from Josh Towers that set off two bench clearings on Tuesday night. … Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield voiced his disaproval for the hard slides by Shelly Duncan in the fifth inning on Tuesday and Johnny Damon in the fifth on Monday. Jays infielders McDonald and Hill weren’t as upset over the minor incidents. … Toronto manager John Gibbons hinted that RHP Josh Towers could be moved to the bullpen to clear room in the rotation for RHP A.J. Burnett this weekend. This could mean the upcoming departure for either RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Brandon League or RHP Brian Wolfe. Frasor and League appear to be the most likely candidates to be demoted.

AL EAST STANDINGS
entering Wednesday
1. Boston 68-45 (–)
2. New York 63-50 (5)
3. Toronto 56-56 (11.5)
4. Baltimore 52-59 (15)
5. Tampa Bay 42-70 (25.5)

AL WILD CARD RACE
entering Wednesday
1. Detroit 63-49 (–)
2. New York 63-50 (0.5)
3. Seattle 61-49 (1)
4. Minnesota 57-55 (6)
5. Toronto 56-56 (7)

Congrats to Barry

All the controversies, scandals, allegations and investigations aside, I have to say "Congratulations" to Barry Bonds on finally becoming the new home run king. I’m glad I actually was able to witness homer No. 756 on Tuesday night, too. As I hammered out the stories for last night’s Jays/Yanks game, we had the TVs in the pressbox turned to the Giants game.

We all stopeed writing for a second to look up, watching the baseball fly off Barry’s maple bat and into the seats. It was nice to see Hank Aaron give a nice message over the video board, and it was great to see the record broken. I don’t care what many of you fans might think, and you’re entitled to disagree with me, but I’ve enjoyed watching Bonds throughout his career and I think it’s a no-brainer that he’s a Hall of Famer.

I’m not sugarcoating anything that Bonds may or may not have done, but his career speaks for itself. I’ve never seen another player take better advantage of that one good pitch he might see in an entire week than Bonds. In his prime, when teams would even walk Bonds with the bases loaded to avoid pitching to him, there was no one better at doing that.

And, it was just my luck that he accomplished the long-anticipated feat on Tuesday — the day that I released Bonds from my reeling fantasy team! Of course, I retool my roster, which has been nearly as decimated by injuries as the Blue Jays this season, and Mr. Bonds goes 3-for-3 and sets the all-time home run mark. Ah, well. What can you do?

Anyway, congrats to Barry on an amazing accomplishment.

Minor Melee

Well, I wanted to put it to bed, but the darn thing just won’t go to sleep! Jays pitcher Josh Towers hit Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the third inning on Tuesday night, resulting in two bench clearings.

After Rodriguez was hit on the left leg, he started marching toward the mound while yelling at Towers. The Jays pitcher pointed to first base, telling A-Rod to take his base, but New York’s third baseman persisted. So, both benches emptied and so did the bullpens.

Toronto veteran Matt Stairs followed A-Rod down the first-base line and was being restrained by Andy Phillips. After things settled down and the players/coaches returned to the dugouts/bullpens, Rodriguez walked off first and started yelling at Towers again. Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay blocked his path, but both teams spilled onto the field a second time.

No one was ejected and the whole thing delayed the game about 10-15 minutes. Apparently, A-Rod had that whole May 30 incident fresh in his mind when he was hit. That was when he yelled while running around the basepaths, distracting Howie Clark and John McDonald on a routine ninth-inning would-be flyout.

On Monday, Toronto rookie Jesse Litsch threw a fastball behind Rodriguez’s legs in the second inning. After the game, Litsch said he didn’t mean to throw at A-Rod, and Rodriguez said he didn’t remember the pitch. Right. He seemed to remember it just fine when Towers hit him one day later.

Game #112: Yanks at Jays pregame

New York (62-50) at Toronto (56-55)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andy Phillips, 1B
Shelley Duncan, DH
Melky Cabrera, CF

PITCHING: RHP Roger Clemens (3-5, 4.23 ERA)

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

PITCHING: RHP Josh Towers (5-8, 5.17 ERA)

NOTES: This could be Towers’ final start for the Blue Jays. As I reported yesterday, RHP A.J. Burnett will indeed be activated from the DL on Sunday to start in Kansas City. It’s still not clear who exactly will get bumped from the roster, but Towers is the most likely to be moved from the rotation. There’s a chance he could be shipped to the bullpen, where the righty resided earlier this year. … The Royals series will see RHP Shaun Marcum start on Friday, RHP Dustin McGowan on Saturday, Burnett on Sunday, and either Towers, Jesse Litsch or Roy Halladay on Monday. … Not surprisingly, Toronto announced on Tuesday that the club has released SS Royce Clayton, who was designated for assignment this past Friday.

AL EAST STANDINGS
entering Tuesday
1. Boston 68-44 (–)
2. New York 62-50 (6)
3. Toronto 56-55 (11.5)
4. Baltimore 52-58 (15)
5. Tampa Bay 42-69 (25.5)

AL WILD CARD RACE
entering Tuesday
1. Detroit 62-49 (–)
2. New York 62-50 (0.5)
3. Seattle 60-49 (1)
4. Minnesota 57-54 (5)
5. Toronto 56-55 (6)

WEIGH IN: What are your thoughts on what should happen with the rotation when Burnett comes back? Litsch optioned to Triple-A? Towers designated? Or, Towers sent to the bullpen, which would mean a reliever gets bumped off the roster? (The virtually unused Jason Frasor? Brian Wolfe, who still has options?) Weigh in Jays fans…

Was that payback?

It’s no secret that Jesse Litsch is a control pitcher. He stays around the strike zone, and rarely strays too far off the plate with a pitch. So, it raised a few eyebrows when the rookie’s first pitch to Alex Rodriguez in the second inning on Monday went behind New York’s third baseman.

Could it be possible then that the errant offering was some sort of delayed — by more than two months — retaliation for the much-debated shout by A-Rod at the Rogers Centre on May 30? Litsch said that wasn’t the case, and it would seem a little farfetched that a Toronto pitcher would wait so long if they were going to issue some sort of payback.

"It was just a two-seamer that got away from me, basically," Litsch said. "I tried to go in on him all game. He got a base hit up the middle on an inside pitch also. I’m not going to give away the inside. Yeah, what happened, happened, but I go inside a lot."

For those of you who are out of the loop, A-Rod shouted as he ran behind former Jays infielder Howie Clark at third base on May 30. The yell confused Clark, who thought shortstop John McDonald was calling him off. The ball dropped to the turf and the Yankees four runs in the ninth and won the game, 10-5.

Considering Toronto played New York in the Bronx in July and nothing happened between the clubs, Yankees manager Joe Torre didn’t think much of Litsch’s pitch on Monday. It also wasn’t a big deal for the home-plate umpire, who didn’t warn anyone after the pitch sailed behind A-Rod’s legs.

"They played us four games at our place," Torre said. "Unless they didn’t care about doing it there and they did it here, that doesn’t make sense. It’s always surprising when you see somebody throw behind somebody, but obviously the umpire didn’t think anything of it, because nobody warned anybody."

I know some of you fans were probably wondering about the play. I say we put this thing to bed.

Game #111: Yanks at Jays pregame

New York (61-50) at Toronto (56-54)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andy Phillips, 1B
Melky Cabrera, RF

PITCHING: LHP Andy Pettitte (7-7, 3.97 ERA)

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Troy Glaus, 3B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Curtis Thigpen, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (4-4, 3.47 ERA)

NOTES: Overbay was dropped as low as eighth in the lineup for the first time this season. He’s hitting just .232 since coming off the DL on June 12. He said today that his right hand is still sore, and it’s been affecting him some at the plate. Overbay added that it’s been frustrating, because he’s seeing the ball fine, which he struggled with earlier in the year. … RHP A.J. Burnett (right shoulder) is making a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse on Monday in Ottawa — also an afternoon game. Manager John Gibbons said today that Burnett will likely rejoin Toronto’s rotation on Sunday in Kansas City. If the rotation is simply moved up one day after the off-day, Sunday would be the scheduled turn for Litsch. Gibbons added, though, that the Jays hadn’t decided if ace Roy Halladay would start on Monday or Tuesday, which could play a role in who gets bumped for Burnett. … Where’s Posh? Soccer star David Beckham was at Rogers Centre on Monday, and L.A. Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop — a native of Vancouver — threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Toronto is looking to extend its home winning streak to nine games, which has only been done three times in team history. .. With a win, the Jays can also match a season high by moving three games above .500. Of course, they haven’t been there since they were 8-5. … Yankees have averaged more than 10 runs per game over their last seven contests. Ouch.

AL EAST STANDINGS
entering Monday
1. Boston 68-43 (–)
2. New York 61-50 (7)
3. Toronto 56-54 (11.5)
4. Baltimore 52-58 (15.5)
5. Tampa Bay 42-68 (25.5)

AL WILD CARD RACE
entering Monday
1. Detroit 61-49 (–)
2. Seattle 60-49 (0.5)
3. New York 61-50 (0.5)
4. Minnesota 57-53 (4)
5. Toronto 56-54 (5)

HE SAID IT: "That’s the thing about this game. You never know what’s going to happen. You write teams off, you crown teams, and next thing you know, a few weeks later, it could be just the opposite. That’s why you play 162 games. I think what’s brought some teams back into it is the struggles Detroit and Cleveland have had lately, but that’s not going to last. The Yanks, what they’re doing now is just playing how everybody expected them to play. It shouldn’t surprise anybody." –Gibbons, on the Wild Card race

Game #110: Rangers at Blue Jays pregame

Texas (48-62) at Toronto (55-54)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

RANGERS
Frank Catalanotto, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Michael Young, SS
Sammy Sosa, DH
Nelson Cruz, RF
Brad Wilkerson, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Ramon Vazquez, 3B
Jerry Hairston, CF

PITCHING: RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-7, 5.8 ERA)

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Hector Luna, 3B
Ray Olmedo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan (7-5, 4.36 ERA)

NOTES: The first 10,000 fans on Sunday received a Troy Glaus figurine, but got to watch Luna man third base. Simply a day off for Glaus, who has is in a 2-for-30 slump at the plate right now, and 0-for-his-last-11. … Also a day off for 1B Lyle Overbay, who is batting just .239 since coming off the DL on July 12. … This is the first appearance for both Luna (claimed off waivers on Friday) and Olmedo (contract purchased on Friday), who the Jays are looking at as potential utility players for next season. … Toronto is aiming for a sweep of Texas, which would bring the Jays’ home winning streak to eight games — the longest such run since 1999.

AL EAST STANDINGS
entering Sunday
1. Boston 67-43 (–)
2. New York 60-50 (7)
3. Toronto 55-54 (11.5)
4. Baltimore 51-58 (15.5)
5. Tampa Bay 42-67 (24.5)

AL WILD CARD RACE
entering Sunday
1. Detroit 62-48 (–)
2. Seattle 60-48 (0.5)
3. New York 60-50 (1.5)
4. Minnesota 56-53 (5)
5. Toronto 55-54 (6)

UPDATE: The wife and I went to see The Simpsons Movie last night, because the crowd to see Bourne Ulimatum was crazy, so we’ll see that one soon enough. I want to watch the first two Bourne movies I have at home again anyway. I laughed pretty hard at the Simpsons flick. It didn’t blow me away, but there were enough classic lines and scenes to make it worthwhile. It goes without saying that my dog will henceforth be known as "Harry Plopper."

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.