Center fielder Vernon Wells made his first appearance, Frank Thomas sounded off about the Mitchell Report, and Brandon League (right) turned some heads during a bullpen session.
Jays skip John Gibbons says, not only does League’s velocity seem to be up, but the sinking action on his pitches has improved dramatically from where it was last season. That was one of the major issues League dealt with a year ago, when he lost his job as Toronto’s setup man.
"It looks 100 percent better," Gibbons said. "It’s still just throwing in the bullpen, but we hadn’t seen that in a while. He threw a good little slider today, which was basically what he was missing last year. I mean, he didn’t have the same velocity, yeah, but he couldn’t get his breaking ball working last year, either."
So that’s great news for League, who is in a fight for his life in terms of winning a bullpen job this spring. A successful return for him would allow Casey Janssen to ease back into the rotation more smoothly. It’d also give the Jays another hard-throwing groundball pitcher at the back end of the ‘pen.
Wells arrived and took batting practice and ran through outfield drills, showing no signs of trouble with his left shoulder. He said he’s nearly back to 100 percent after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum, fix a frayed rotator cuff and to decompress a cyst in the shoulder that dogged him last year.
Wells was given a DVD of his operation, and he brought it along to Spring Training, but he has yet to take it in. I’m sure the team could have a big party to watch the footage of all the operations they endured last season. Roy Halladay’s emergency appendectomy might be ESPN Classic material.
Thomas has been in Dunedin for a few days, but he’s stayed over at Knology Park to work with his longtime hitting guro, Walt Hriniak. Hurt’s former coach is leaving town on Wednesday, when Thomas said he’ll join the Jays over at The Mattick.
Thomas said this is the first time in his career he’s come to camp early and he believes the Jays can win the American League East this season. He also spoke passionately about being the lone player who volunteered to talk to Sen. George Mitchell during his investigation.
"I was shocked. I was really shocked. But I think the Players’ Association had a lot to do with that. For me, I’ve always been my own man. No one’s going to tell me not to talk to anyone, especially when I’ve got nothing to hide."
Thomas said he thinks more players would’ve talked had the MLBPA not pressured them to remain quiet. The veteran said he didn’t have a problem with Gregg Zaun — named in the Report — and he also didn’t believe he’d face any "backlash" from other players, who might be upset that he agreed to talk to Mitchell.
"Backlash? Backlash for what? There’s no backlash. I didn’t participate in anything. A congressman called me and asked me a question. What the **** am I going to run for? I had nothing to hide. There’s no backlash. I think no one should’ve been hiding. Nothing needs to be hidden, because that stuff is illegal. I’ve never done anything illegal like that."
You can hear the entire interview Thomas had with reporters here: Download 080218Thomas.WMA
I also added a few more shots to the photo album. And if you haven’t heard about the hardships top prospect Travis Snider has had to deal with in the past few years, he opened up about the personal loss he’s absorbed for a piece I wrote on Sunday.
Catch you all tomorrow…