BRADENTON, Fla. — I like to think that the green hats being worn by the Pirates and the green bases here at McKechnie Field are a tribute to my Spartans earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tourney.
When we weren’t planning where the late-night drinks were to be had on this St. Patty’s Day, us scribes did manage to squeeze in some baseball talk with manager John Gibbons. A lot of the pregame banter focused on A.J. Burnett, who was today’s starter.
Gibbons noted that last time out Burnett started using a slider that he’s been tinkering with. It’s a pitch that might be used early in the season if Burnett’s right index fingernail hasn’t grown in enough to let him use his curveball.
"He’s never thrown that," Gibbons said. "He started tinkering with it last week and he threw some in the game the other day. I always thought it’d be a good pitch for him anyway. Once he gets his curveball back, that’s something he could flip over to get ahead. It’d be easier for him to control."
Gibbons also noted that today’s lineup isn’t necessarily the one he’s going to use this season. He said he’s still debating about whether or not to use lefties Matt Stairs and Lyle Overbay consecutively in the Nos. 6-7 spots (the variation of today’s order that he used the other day). Overbay has hit lefties well over his career, but having lefties back to back could help opposing teams late in games, when lefty specialist pitchers come into play.
Gibbons did not that he does like how using Scott Rolen in the four hole ahead of Frank Thomas adds more speed to the top of the order, but just because he’s tested it out in a few games doesn’t necessarily mean Thomas isn’t the cleanup hitter.
"Just because we’re hitting him fifth doesnt mean we’re going to hit him fifth. You could put Rolen up there [in the No. 4 spot]. Rolen’s one of the better baserunners in the game and that can keep that thing churning pretty good up top," Gibbons said.
- Gibby said that the Jays still plan on bringing most of their regulars to Fort Myers on Wednesday for the ESPN televised Noon game against the Red Sox. Shaun Marcum will stay back in Dunedin for a Minors game, though
- Reliever Armando Benitez is down for a live BP on Tuesday, and his first game appearance could be against the Yanks on Thursday. GM J.P. Ricciardi noted this week that top pitching prospect Brett Cecil might make an appearance in that game, too.
- Gibbons reiterated again this morning that B.J. Ryan (making his second Grapefruit League appearance on Monday) probably wouldn’t pitch in back to back games in April, if he breaks with the team. That’ll create some save opps for setup man Jeremy Accardo. On days when Accardo is the closer, Scott Downs would be the primary setup man. Brandon League could figure into the mix, too.
- Gotta love Thomas this spring. During batting practice, the Big Hurt grabbed a glove and stood at third base, bobbing his head up and down while he listened to tunes on his iPod. He kept the earbuds in with a helmet on when he took BP, too.
- Some movement…Jays claimed LHP Bill Murphy off waivers from Arizona and placed Casey Janssen (torn labrum) on the 60-day disabled list. Murphy has some limited big-league experience and has bounced around a few organizations.