CLEARWATER, Fla. — One final blog entry for 2008 Spring Training. After this, it’s off to bed for a quick bit of sleep before I get up in a few hours to catch a flight back to Toronto. Come Saturday night, I’ll be in the Big Apple gearing up for Opening Day.
Spring didn’t go exactly as the Jays would’ve hoped. Losing Casey Janssen (torn labrum) was a big blow to the pitching staff, having Scott Rolen (broken finger) possibly sidelined until May hurt the lineup and B.J. Ryan (coming back from Tommy John) wasn’t able to meet his goal of breaking camp with the club.
The offense didn’t look fantastic, but Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill jump out as guys who did look great at the plate this spring. In Grapefruit League play, Toronto finished 11-16, but it’s worth noting that in 1992 and 1993 (the Jays’ two World Series title seasons) the team posted 13-18 and 11-19 spring marks, respectively.
"You can throw our record out the window," Jays manager John Gibbons said on Thursday. "I think you can do that. We saw a lot of good things. We’re banged up more than we would’ve hoped, that’s for sure, but overall I saw a lot of good individual things, though our record doesn’t indicate that."
So Toronto heads north with a slightly bruised roster, but as of right now, the injuries — aside from Janssen’s — don’t appear to be major blows. It’s possible that Ryan is back by mid April, which would be a boost to the bullpen, and in a perfect world, Rolen could be back in April, too (seems unlikely, though).
The only real question mark I see right now, besides the obvious wait-and-see with the offense, is a lack of depth behind the starting rotation. Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch are a formidable five, but the depth chart is rather thin behind that group. Toronto is one pitching injury away from uncertainty and the Jays are pinning a lot of hopes on repeat showings from the M&M boys and Litsch, as well as full seasons from Doc and A.J.
This should be an interesting year for the Jays. They look like a club that could either seriously contend for a playoff spot or just float to another near .500 finish. One thing is for sure, if the Jays get off to a slow start, there could be some decision-makers who find themselves on the hot seat pretty quick. But let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse — as pitching coach Brad Arnsberg loves to say. Let’s just get this thing rolling. Enough of this spring stuff…
Catch up with you from Yankee Stadium in a few days. So long, Florida.