Skipping the trip
CLEARWATER, FLa. — You will not be hearing from yours truly from Fort Myers tomorrow. I have a running joke with our MLB.com Twins writer, Kelly Thesier — a former classmate of mine at Michigan State — that I’m boycotting all Toronto-Minnesota games on the road.
In three years on the beat, I have never been to Fort Myers during Spring Training and I’ve only been to Minnesota once — during the 2006 season. I missed Frank Thomas’ 500th homer in Minny a year ago and I won’t be making the trek to the twin cities this season because I have to stand up in a wedding. Go figure.
But, I’ll be at Knology Park bright and early tomorrow morning to hang out at Toronto’s workout for the A squad. Toronto’s bringing a real thin group to Fort Myers.
"I think you’re playing left field. You better check the lineup tomorrow," quipped Ricciardi, talking to The Star’s Richard Griffin.
Only Rod Barajas, Marco Scutaro, Reed Johnson and John McDonald had their names circled on the travel sheet. Poor Johnny Mac, I think he’s made every spring road trip for the past two years. Seems like it anyway.
I could be in bed right now, but I’m still winding down from sippin’ on a few Killians and listening to some terrrrrrible karaoke at a local sports bar. So, as promised earlier today, I’ll hit on a few of the topics that GM J.P. Ricciardi talked about today at the ball yard.
ROTATION: Ricciardi still won’t come out and say that Jesse Litsch will be the fifth starter, but he came pretty darn close to saying it today with this comment: "We’ve got five starters at the Major League level. So we’re pretty well set there." Soooo, that’s Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and…well, Litsch. Ricciardi said the Jays are stretching out Josh Banks, David Purcey and Kane Davis, and Double-A pitchers Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and Brandon Magee are on the club’s radar. The Jays are still pursuing potential trades, but there’s not enough flow available for a free-agent addition.
LEFT FIELD: When asked about the left field situation, Ricciardi said it’ll probably come down to whether Toronto skip John Gibbons is more comfortable with Reed Johnson or Shannon Stewart. That’d make you think Johnson is in the running, but with his next breath, Ricciardi said the Jays would probably wan’t to go with the best offensive club they can put together. Given how Ricciardi has pumped up Stewart’s offensive abilities, that sentiment would seem to point to him as the favorite for the job.
GIBBONS: Ricciardi was also asked about Gibbons being in the final year of his contract. The GM instantly issued great praise for the skipper, saying "I think Gibby will manage here a long time. All of us, at one point or another, are in the last year of our contract. Gibby knows he’s in good standing here. We like him a lot and the players like him." Right after that, one reporter asked why, if that’s really the case, was Gibbons not offered an extension. Ricciardi switched gears by saying, "Well, we’ll see. We’ll see how the year goes. We’ve got some expectations this year — like we’ve had in the past. We’ll see how they play out."
OTHER TIDBITS: Other items of interest included Ricciardi indicating that closer B.J. Ryan felt great one day after his spring debut. The GM said Ryan had normal soreness, but nothing out of the ordinary. … Ricciardi noted that starter Gustavo Chacin, who was optioned to Triple-A on Wednesday, probably wouldn’t be a viable option until around July. … Ricciardi said one of the biggest surprises of the spring has been Buck Coats: "We tried to get him for the last few years, whether it was a trade or a waiver claim or something like that. Then when we finally got him and you got to see him, he does a lot of things. He can be an extra outfielder."
After his start today, Roy Halladay expanded on his comments earlier this spring about the Jays lacking a sense of urgency last year. Instead of getting into that whole topic, let me just firect you all to the story I pieced together on the issue. One interesting item from that discussion was Halladay — a quiet presence in the clubhouse — said he would be willing to be more of a vocal leader on the team this year to hold players accountable.
That’s it for tonight. I’m going to read a few more pages of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (hooray for by one get one half off sales at the local bookstore) and then hit the sack. More bloggage coming manana…