Bring on the Bronx

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.

15 Comments

Nice post, Jordan. I think as far as the starting rotation goes, there is more cause for optimism than there was last year. Litsch is pitching well enough not to lose a turn, and if someone goes down, we still have 4 guys that can go every 5 days. The way our minor leaguers pitched this Spring, there are several guys that could step in to the #5 spot. Compare that to last year when we had 3 openings to fill.
This is interesting: Buck Coats is on the team, and Stewart is not. Is this goodbye day for Stew?

Agreed, our rotation has enough top end talent that I feel they could lose a man for a little while and still hold out. To me Halladay, Burnett and McGowan are 1a,1b, and 1c. Plus I really like the way Marcum handles himself he is underrated. I look how much Ian Kennedy is hyped by the Yankee’s and he doesn’t do anything that Marcum can’t do.
They have David Purcy and Gustavo Chacin waiting, both of them could fill in quite nicely. This team is much more capable of battling through a FEW injuries this year, than last. I have a feeling it’s going to show in the standings.

There is depth behind the rotation it’s just not proven depth. If the rotation stays healty into atleast June we would be in a better position to fill holes with Chacin or possibly Purcy being ready. Early injuries to any of the top four would make it very tough to fill the rotation adequately.

From opening day this team needs some good fortune and to avoid further injuries. Wells looks to be back, Hill is going to be an allstar this year and should hit second in my opinion (but he won’t). Stairs with his reborn short swing will have another big year as will Rios. I expect Overbay to have a good year, back to his 06 numbers would be nice.

The question marks are… Thomas!!! Zaun/Barajas and now Rolen.

All in all this team should be fun to watch, and with some good fortune, LOOK OUT!

One thing that will help us through an early injury, rmatty, is the excellent bullpen. The other 4 will have to eat innings to keep the pen from getting gassed, and we will have to put runs on the board, but there is plenty of help for whoever gets the call.
We all know watching Thomas in April is like watching paint dry, but he gets better as the season goes along. I hope Rios isn’t swinging for the fences. He is such a good hitter, he should do what comes naturally, and take the power as it comes. Zaun isn’t hitting well right now, but Barajas is, and Scutaro is doing an excellent job at third.

We may not have an A-Rod or a Papi, but our whole lineup hits well, with no soft spots, and we should wear out a lot of pitchers.

Granted our pen is a definite strong point and they will be heavily relied upon in the seasons first month as starters get stretched into higher pitch counts but they wouldn’t be able to make up the loss of one of our top 4 starters. They NEED to remain healthy for us to contend unless of course someone in the minors steps up like M&M or Litsch did last year. I don’t see that guy at the moment, maybe Purcy but he is inconsistant as of now. Hopefully we won’t need to search for that diamond in the rough this year and we roll out the same 5 all year… Wouldn’t that be nice… Unlikely but nice.

Thomas has proven throughout his career that he is a slow starter… but this guy gets slower by the hour. Why wouldn’t he hire (with his 9mil salary) a pitcher to throw to him on the offseaon so he can “set his timing” as Frank likes to say. Start earlier so you are actually READY for opening day. You can’t bench him when he stinks because he needs to see pitching to “set his timing” so Gibbons is basically stuck with him and his slow starts. We all remember last years 8 game skid which basically dug a hole too deep to climb out of, especially in this division and Frank was front and center of that slump. In this division you can be out of the race by the time mid May rolls around… Even if Frank lights it up he can’t make up 10 games by himself.

Don’t forget that in the normal scheme of things, the #5 guy only goes about 3 times a month. There are not too many teams that can run their 5 guys in order like the jays can. In the unlikely event that somebody goes down, you could call on John Parish or Chacin. You get 3-4 innings the first start, 5 in start #2, and 6-7 for the rest. The way the pen is pitching, you could probably have 1 guy take up the slack, because the next day you have The Doc to give everybody a rest. The situation isn’t as good as nobody hurt, but we should still be able to win half the games with the #5 starter, which is pretty good.
As for Thomas, he didn’t lose those 8 games all by himself. There were a bunch of guys that weren’t producing. If we could figure out how to get everybody out of the gate with a hot bat, we would be sitting in the dugout, not blogging.

The Jays need to be winnng more consistently this year.

By that I mean not just beating BOS and NYY when they have the chance, but also the likes of the Rays (esp in Tropicana field) and the Rangers. How many times in the last 2 seasons that we saw the Jays won 3 out of 4 at home against a team like BOS or NYY, then went to TB and lost 2 out of 3?

Losing streak should not be a big problem with out starting rotation. It is getting on a winning run that is important. The Jays will always be pretenders if they keep on alternating wins and losses, they need winning streak of more than 5 games (through the rotation once) or just a good 15-4 run to put them into contention this yr.

I was not blaming Thomas for the 8 game skid, simply pointing out that his slow start certainly didn’t help the situation. We need him hitting in April the way he hits in September!!!

So let’s say that after the first 8 weeks of the season we find ourselves in 4th, behind the usual suspects and a Rays’ team playing up to its potential. How do things play out? Do we hold the course? Fire the manager? Fire the genreal manager? Do we unload Bernett/Rolens/etc. for draft picks at the trade deadline? In other words, if this is a pivotal year for the organization, and I believe most of us would agree it is, what should the plan be if things go south. Assuming, of course, we are not willing to accept the party line” “we have a great team on paper, but injuries…”

I’m excited ! I think this is a great team. Scutaro is a perfectly fine stopgap for Rolen, he was practically a regular in Oakland last year so he’s not your normal backup.

I don’t know why people worry about Thomas, he was terrible last spring, april and may. And there is really no reason not to think he wont be again this year. The dudes old, he takes time to warm up, and become better able to tell the difference between the cataracts and the baseball.

Unload Rolen ???

Ha, if it was only that easy ! The JP was the last person the cardinals called. They tried to get rid of him and no luck.

For better or worse Rolen is a Bluejays for the next 3.

Burnett, IF healthy is one difference maker the Jays have that we could def flip at the deadline for something quality. Especially if he’s healthy at the deadline that means he’s raking it and opting out for sure.

Im hoping he is ! And Boston pitching is ravaged by injuries and they become desperate enough to trade us Jed Lowrie !!!

I can’t see who they would “unload” if the team struggles or is out of the picture mid season. They have two many guys they can’t move and two many guys no one would give up anything for. If they struggle its Gibbons or JP that have to answer because thats how it works. I can’t see this team if healthy having problems staying in the race. Depth has never been better (maybe before Rolen and Jansen got hurt) on this team.

If Thomas is old and needs more time to get ready, he should then start getting ready earlier… It is simply that easy!!! We need him to be our best hitter since that is his sole job on this team, from start to finish.

I agree that the jays are one starter injury away from disaster. There are no adequate replacements at AAA . Chacin, Purcey and Banks are not major league ready. To be prepared for this I wish JP would sign Claudio Vargas. He’s a proven starter and has a lot of potential that Arnsberg could help him with.

Burt: I think you should wait 8 months before you start worrying about stuff like that. I realize you like the doom and gloom, but we might as well start the season with a little optimism….

Whoops, meant 8 “weeks”, not “months”….

Hem: I agree with you. I am actually not a doom and gloom guy. However, after 15 years of unfounded optimism and doom and gloom, as you call it, I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon just to watch people fall off when things go south. My point is simply this: you are either a pretender or a contender and there is no in between. The AL east is just too tough for pretenders. If we do not have superior talent, we need to take steps to get some. If we already have talent, great! Let’s go for it. But we cannot stay competitive with the other teams that are improving, via savvy drafting, if we do not have a plan for when things go wrong. It seems to me that there is very little difference between the Jays and the leafs over the last 15 years. Short on talent, long on excuses. I’m just saying, let’s get it right so that in another 15 years we are not where we are now!

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