March 2008

The Bad News Gets Worse

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Blue Jays pitcher Casey Janssen is done for the season. AN MRI exam revealed that the discomfort Janssen felt in his shoulder during a bullpen session on Tuesday morning was caused by a torn labrum.

Janssen is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery to repair his frayed shoulder on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week in California, and the pitcher said the operation will likely be performed by Los Angeles-based surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum.

The loss is a tough blow to the Blue Jays, who were giving the 26-year-old Janssen an opportunity to win a job in the starting rotation this spring. Last season, Janssen served as Toronto’s primary setup man and finished with a 2.35 ERA and 24 holds in 70 appearances.

With Janssen out of the mix for a job, Jesse Litsch becomes the favorite in-house candidate to depart Spring Training as Toronto’s fifth starter. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi indicated on Wednesday, though, that the Jays aren’t unwilling to explore trades or other options to bolster their pitching staff.

More coming later…

What happens when you assume?

Dsc01410_1 TAMPA – In this case, all the assumptions were right. No one on the Blue Jays had come straight out and said it, but it’s been written all spring that Gustavo Chacin’s chances of making the rotation were slim to none.

Well, on Tuesday, after Chacin was roughed up by the Yankees, Toronto manager John Gibbons came out and said it. But he didn’t say Chacin’s chances were slim — Gibbons said his chances were none. That’s barring a few injuries, of course.

When asked if Chacin was still considered a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, Gibbons said: "No, he hasn’t been. We knew that."

Right, we’ve pretty much known that, but now one of the men in charge made it official. So, even with Casey Janssen sidelined for a while with a right shoulder issue, it’s Jesse Litsch as the favorite to round out the rotation. Chacin’s arm strength and velocity just aren’t there.

On Tuesday, Chacin took the hill as the starter against New York, only because the Jays opted to have Dustin McGowan throw in a Minor League game. In two innings, Gus threw 36 pitches (20 strikes) and yielded four runs on five hits with two walks and no strikeouts.

The first four batters Chacin faced reached base and scored. Melkly Cabrera singled, Derek Jeter walked, Bobb Abreu celebrated his birthday with a two-run double, and Alex Rodriguez launched a two-run homer. That pretty much killed any shot Chacin had — not that he had much of one anyway.

Chacin only made five April starts last year and then was sidelined with a shoulder injury all season. He then went under the knife in August to repair a torn labrum. Coming back from that in time to be the starter he was in 2006 was a little much to ask. Over the past two years, forearm, elbow and shoulder injuries have limited Gus to 22 starts.

"His arm strength is down," Gibbons said. "He has to build his arm back up. He’s not throwing really hard, but that’s going to come with time. With what he’s coming off of, it’s going to take a while to build that."

No word yet on Janssen’s MRI results. That might have to wait until tomorrow. Before I head out to grab some dinner at PF Chang’s with Bryan Hoch of the Yankees’ MLB.com site, I’ll leave you with this gem from Gibby.

When asked this morning about Toronto looking at Armando Benitez, Gibbons hadn’t heard whether or not it was a done deal yet:

"They have to take money away from me in order to sign him."

What do you want first?

Dsc01385 TAMPA – The good news or the bad? There’s been enough news this morning to put me well behind the normal routine. It’s the fifth inning here at Lengends Field and I have yet to get the lineups up. My apologies, loyal MLBastianites.

Let’s just get the bad news out of the way. If you hadn’t seen on the Web site, or elsewhere, already, Jays pitcher Casey Janssen is sidelined. He was supposed to pitch four innings in a Minor game today, but a right shoulder injury cut his warm-up session short.

Janssen’s down for an MRI later today and he sounded pretty dejected when we caught up with him at Knology Park. Basically, he doesn’t know what’s wrong with his arm just yet, but he certainly knows that his chances of breaking camp as a starter are pretty much shot. Even if it’s a minor setback, I don’t see him recovering in time to be built up for a starting role by Opening Day.

So, barring any other setbacks, it looks like the fifth spot is Jesse Litsch’s spot to lose more than ever. There’s a lot of people within the organization that wanted to keep Janssen in the bullpen and have Litsch in the rotation as it was, and while no one wishes for an injury, if this isn’t a major blow, that looks to be the scenario.

Closer B.J. Ryan turned in one shutout inning in a Minor League game, tossing 16 pitches (9 strikes). He fanned two batters, walked one and induced a groundout. Next up is a Grapefruit League game appearance against the Rays on Friday in St. Petersburg.

Also appearing in the Minor game was Dustin McGowan, and relievers Jeremy Accardo, Brian Tallet and Scott Downs. McGowan pitched four innings and focussed on using his four-seam fastball in the outing. He said his arm felt probably the best it has this spring.

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi didn’t see Ryan pitch, because he was behind a fence in the back of the bullpen talking to veteran reliever Armando Benitez. After Benitez threw in front of Ricciardi and Toronto’s coaching staff, the Jays inked him to a Minor League deal.

The ways things unfolded, it seems purely coincidental that the Jays signed Benitez on the same day Janssen hurt his shoulder. Benitez adds some depth, but he’s hardly a candidate anymore for a setup job and the Jays don’t need him to close. We were standing behind the backstop watching McGowan throw when a man I believe was Benitez’s agent ran over to J.P. and said, "We’ve got a deal."

The offer that was accepted appeared to come prior to Janssen’s injury. Janssen promptly left the complex to see Dr. Steve Mirabello and he’s scheduled to have an MRI later today. When there’s word on that I’ll let you know. That wasn’t the only injury that happened Tuesday morning either.

While watching McGowan, we all heard some commotion on another practice field. Apparently, Toronto Minor League outfielder Moises Sierra lost a baseball in the sun out in right field and the ball came down and hit him straight in the face. Sierra was carted off the field after a laying on the ground for a while.

Later on, there was a foul ball that came pretty close to Ricciardi and another that landed not too far from where us media types were standing.

"It’s like a shooting gallery in here," Ricciardi said.

"They’ll have everyone wearing helmets pretty soon," quipped another coach.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "How’s Marty?" –Toronto Sun’s Mike Rutsey, asking Ricciardi for an update on Casey Janssen. Rutz experienced a minor brain fart and confused the young pitcher’s name with that of former Jays pitcher Marty Janzen.

Other items of note: RHP Tracy Thorpe and INF Sergio Santos were both optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday. Following Monday’s game, INF Russ Adams was optioned to Triple-A and INF Pedro Lopez and C Brian Jeroloman were returned to Minor League camp. Not sure how I missed it, but LHP Davis Romero and INF Chip Cannon were also returned on Saturday (Oh, I know how I missed it, I was off). … Remember Minor League Chad Mottola? He’s back in camp, but the former first-round pick is now a coach with the Jays. He’s going to test out his coaching skills in the Gulf Coast League.

Still want those lineup? Here’s the abbreviated version:

JAYS: SS David Eckstein, RF Matt Stairs, CF Vernon Wells, 3B Scott Rolen, DH Frank Thomas, 1B Lyle Overbay, LF Shannon Stewart, 2B Aaron Hill, C Gregg Zaun. Gus Chacin pitching.

YANKS: CF Melky Cabrera, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, 3B Alex Rodriguez, DH Jason Giambi, 2B Robinson Cano, 1B Shelley Duncan, LF Jason Lane, C Jose Molines. Chien-Ming Wang twirling.

As a tribute to the Star’s Cathal Kelly, who has since returned to Toronto, and to go along with all the running around I’ve been doing today, here’s my Song of the Day: Scooby Snacks by Fun Loving Criminals.

Jackie's no Ricky Bobby

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Just about 1 a.m. here back at the ol’ MLB.com condo in Clearwater and I just got back from seeing a late showing of Semi Pro — the latest Will Ferrell comedy flick. I planned on waiting to see it until it was out on DVD, but after a week’s worth of Wilner’s pathetic begging, I caved and went to see it with him.

I guess I owed him, since earlier this spring he did accompany me to see Vantage Point, which was decent enough until the premise ran dry and the movie turned into every action movie you’ve ever seen (obligatory car chase that smashes through a sidewalk cafe included). Semi Pro was funny enough, but it didn’t live up to Talledega Nights or Blades of Glory. But, really, how many times can you tell the same joke and have it still be hilarious?

By far the best movie I’ve seen this spring is In Bruges, which stars another Farrell — this one of the Colin variety. Now that was a solid comedy, though a dark one. The previews don’t really give you a true indication of the serious nature of the movie, so it took me a little while to get into it. By the end, though, I wished I could’ve hit rewind to watch it a second time.

Anyway, enough about movies. There’s some baseball stuff to get out of the way before I hit the sack. Tomorrow figures to be a longish day, what with us making the trek over to The Mattick to watch B.J. Ryan, Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen throw in a Minor League game, and then moving to Legends in Tampa to watch the Jays take on the Yanks.

Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said McGowan and Janssen aren’t going against New York for the simple reason that the Yanks host Toronto in the season’s opening series. With each pitcher set to throw four innings, Arnsberg sees no reason why he should give the Yankees’ hitters a chance to get a handful of ABs against each guy. Fair enough. They just need to get work in, so facing New York or a few Minor Leaguers won’t make a difference.

Over in Kissimmee earlier today, catcher Rod Barajas was asked if there was one pitcher who has surprised him so far this spring. Of all the pitchers the catcher has worked with since joining the Jays, Barajas said the one arm that really stands out is McGowan. Here’s what RB had to say:

"I had never seen, and I don’t think I had ever faced, McGowan. I got to catch him his first start and he was nice. He was nice to catch. He’s got that hop on his fastball and he’s got an incredible slider and he worked the changeup that day, too, and had a good changeup. You love seeing young guys with live arms, but who are able to command their pitches. I was pleasantly surprised. He’s a guy who I came into camp and everybody was saying ‘This guy is pretty special,’ and he lived up to it."

As for Ryan, it’ll be his final Minor League outing — barring another round of doctor’s orders — before he shifts to Grapefruit League play. That step would come Friday against the Rays in St. Pete. As for Tuesday, Ryan is allowed to throw up to 25 pitches, if necessary, but he’s been logging around 18 in his previous sim games.

Also had a nice little chat with manager John Gibbons up in Kissimmee today. There’s a small lake (pond, really) that’s right behind the visitor’s clubhouse at Osceola Stadium, and Gibby was telling me how he and a few of his fellow Mets teammates back in the day used to go fishing back there. I didn’t spy any fishing rods in the Jays clubhouse, though.

Goodnight, all.

What'd I Miss?

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – So John Parrish is striking guys out left and right, David Eckstein is mashing grand slams and B.J. Ryan is still simulating games after all. Meanwhile, I was hitting up Disney World and knocking off some restaurants off the must-eat list with my wife over the past few days.

Well, Mrs. Bastian is back in Toronto and I’m back following the Jaybirds. Mike Wilner of The Fan590 and I roadtripped it up here to Kissimmee this morning and enjoyed the 11-mile trek down Main Street U.S.A. Man, even as an American, it’s just gross to see so many tacky gift shops, motels and fast food joints line the road to this ballpark.

My favorite — aside from the one motel that offered "Clean Room" — was the pizza/gas station/tatoo palor. Yeah, I’d like a slice of pepperoni, a fillup on No. 2, and how about one of those barbwire tats across my bicep. Sold.

Considering Buck Coats just had a well-barreled ball that looked like a home run turned into a routine fly out to open this game, perhaps I should toss the ol’ lineups on here.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (4-7) at HOUSTON (5-8)
at Osceola County Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET

BLUE JAYS
Buck Coats, CF
Alex Rios, RF
Adam Lind, LF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Rod Barajas, C
Travis Snider, DH
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
Hector Luna, 3B
Russ Adams, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

ASTROS
Hunter Pence, RF
Darin Erstad, CF
Lance Berkman, 1B
Carlos Lee, LF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Geoff Blum, 3B
Ty Wigginton, DH
Mark Loretta, 2B
Brad Ausmus, C

PITCHING: RHP Roy Oswalt

A Rios double, followed by a shot off Lind’s bat that looked like another homer. That wind is really coming in from right field, though, and it wound up being another fly out.

A slight change you might see coming on the blog here is more little news tidbits and updates. Higher ups at MLB.com have decided to change the way we roll news out somewhat, leading to a switch from the traditional notebooks on the team Web sites to more news stories.

As a result, the "Quotable" and "Did you know?" type sections that I’ve done in the past, or the short one-sentence note items that sometimes don’t warrant an entire story, will now have a home here on the blog. That’s pretty much what I’ve done on the blog thus far anyway, so in reality not much will change.

Halladay’s about to start working against the ‘Stros. Manager John Gibbons had this to say about having Doc facing Oswalt today:

"These first four innings, they may go pretty quick."

No doubt.

On deck tomorrow morning, Ryan, Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen are down to throw in a Minor League game at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. It’s tentatively the last sim game apperance for Ryan, who would then make his first spring appearance on Friday. Gus Chacin is the scheduled starter for the game against the Yanks in Tampa.

No disrespect, and lots of respect

DUNEDIN, Fla. – With no disrespect to Brett Favre, the coverage down here on ESPN is a little ridiculous. I understand the man was a legend, and I loved watching him play, but the non-stop coverage has been a little over the top.

Sal Fasano, die-hard Bears fan, didn’t like how all the Favre coverage and NFL free agency coverage pushed baseball to the back end of Sportscenter’s lineup.

"That’s why I don’t watch Sportscenter," Fasano said. "Cartoon Network — that’s where it’s at."

When we weren’t in the clubhouse being smothered with non-stop Favre coverage on the TV, we did talk to some Blue Jays about baseball-related topics. Roy Halladay, who looked like his usual ho-hum dominating self, had some great things to say about new shortstop David Eckstein and third baseman Scott Rolen:

"I’ve heard about what great guys they are and that’s the part that’s still stands out the most to me. So far, they’re better than what I’ve heard, as far as the way they go about their work and do things. You know they’re going to be good players on the field, but to hear what quality teammates they are and have that exceed what youve heard is always a bonus.

"Just the way they work. They come in, they do their job and they’re quiet about it. Eckstein , especially. Just talking pickoffs, he listens and goes with what we do and if he’s got some ideas, afterwards he’ll come up and mention it. But he’s very cautious about overstepping his boundaries and obviously he doesn’t have to be that way.

"But that’s very respectful of the coaches and the guys that have been here and the way we’ve done things here, to come in and kind of keep your motuh shut and then throw your ideas out there when it’s appropriate. To have veteran guys come in and act like that, it’s impressive."

Other notes from today:

  • B.J. Ryan threw in a simulated game and is slated to pitch in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday, roughly a week ahead of schedule
  • Matt Stairs sprained his ankle earlier this week, but manager John Gibbons hopes to get him back in the lineup on Friday
  • Scott Rolen has hit in the No. 2 hole for the past two games, but Gibbons said he won’t hit second during the season
  • RHP Jason Frasor threw in a sim game and didn’t throw up, a good step for the reliever, who lost five pounds with a stomach bug this week

OK, I’m away from the team for a few days. Mrs. Bastian is in town for the week and I’m taking some time off to spend time with The Wife. Speaking of the Misses, she’s downstairs waiting for me so we can go get some dinner. With that…

The Battle for Betty Lane

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Phillies have made the short trek here to Knology Park for today’s game, which will pit Toronto ace Roy Halladay against Philadelphia’s Brett Myers. No access to the clubhouse just yet, as of 10 a.m., because Donald Fehr is here holding the annual closed-door meeting with the club.

In the meantime, us scribblers are passing the time in the pressbox. Someone on the Jays’ staff is working hard today, too, because the lineup sheets and rosters were printed already and waiting for us. Good work. Now, about those media guides…

Today’s lineups:

PHILADELPHIA (3-3-1) at TORONTO (2-4-0)
at Knology Park at 1:05 p.m. ET

PHILLIES
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Eric Bruntlett, 3B
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Jayson Werth, LF
Geoff Jenkins, RF
Wes Helms, DH
So Taguchi, CF
Carlos Ruiz, C

PITCHING: RHP Brett Myers

BLUE JAYS
David Eckstein, SS
Scott Rolen, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Reed Johnson, LF
Gregg Zaun, C

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

Rolen is in the lineup’s second spot for the second day in a row. Hmmmm, could manager John Gibbons be trying something out? Yesterday, Gibbons said he likes Wells in the three-hole (even though he’s hit fourth two days in a row) and, when asked if that meant Rios would be the No. 2 hitter, Gibbons replied: "It could. I dont know yet, probably. Possibly, you know? Probably, possible, maybe. It could be." Way to give a definitive answer, Gibber.

Taking things in a different direction for a moment, BRETT FAVRE RETIRED!!!!! I’ll believe it wholeheartedly when he isn’t in uniform for next season, but…BRETT FAVRE FREAKIN’ RETIRED!!!! I have tremendoues respect for the man, but Bears fans everywhere are jumping for joy and rejoicing.

MIND BOTTLING: In a discussion that spawned from The Star’s Cathal Kelly’s posting of a Song of the Day on his blog, the fantastic tune "Anarchy in the UK" by the Sex Pistols was brought up. Mike Wilner — a self-proclaimed music afficianado — of The FAN590 said he had never heard of it. After I subsequently pulled the song up on YouTube, Wilner still drew a blank and said, "I’m familiar with the work of the Pistols, but I don’t know this song." To which Kelly replied, "If you don’t know that song, I’m sure you’re NOT familiar with the work of the Pistols." Zing!

Surely, he can't be serious

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The PA announcer here just came on the intercom and announced: "The game is not officially canceled. We’ll keep you updated when we know more."

Ummm, there’s exactly zero players in sight and there’s precisely nobody in the stands. I think the announcement was for us scribblers who are still here typing away. The game was "called" due to rain in the top of the sixth, after a rain delay in the second that halted play for roughly an hour.

Maybe the Jays want to come out and try to get a hit. In five innings — granted, the regulars were pulled after the delay — Toronto managed no hits or baserunners with a cast of Minor Leaguers. The game was delayed initially when Vernon Wells was up in the second with an 0-1 count.

As we all waited to here if the game was canceled, Wells poked his head out of the clubhouse and saw that the rain was no longer coming down in Noah’s Ark-type sheets. He uttered, "Why?!?!" and ducked back into the lockerroom.

At this point, as one scribe just chimed in, "This game might be called due to a lack of player."

If ballplayers take the field and play a game that no one sees, was it ever really completed?

Wait…new announcement. Game called due to unplayable field conditions. The perfect game is in the books.

Three innings will do

DUNEDIN, Fla. – It’s trying to rain here at Knology Park right now — roughly 45 minutes before the first pitch between the Yankees and Blue Jays. Toronto’s Jesse Litsch is scheduled to throw three innings, so he’ll be hoping the showers hold off until the fourth.

Then again, a rainout would let Litsch skip the lineup the Yanks brought. New York didn’t hold back — with the exception of a missing Robinson Cano, who apparently had a dentist appointment. Litsch’s last time out, he got knocked around by Detroit’s regular lineup, sans Gary Sheffield.

Not a whole lot of news from the pregame. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he likes Vernon Wells’ in the third spot of Toronto’s lineup — much like has been the case for the past few years. With that being the case, it’s looking more and more like Alex Rios will be in the two hole.

Another tidbit from pregame was Gibby indicating that right-hander Jason Frasor — the invisible man of the ‘pen often last year — isn’t fighting for a job this spring. As far as Gibbons is concerned, Frasor has nothing to worry about and has a spot in the bullpen reserved. Frasor’s been sick all week and is scheduled to make his first game appearance on Wednesday.

The Idiot of the Game Award goes to the person who was the reason behind this pregame announcement: "If there is someone here who owns a Red Lexus with the liscense plate XXXXX that is parked across the street, your car is running and the doors are locked." With that…

Today’s lineups:

NEW YORK (2-0-1) at TORONTO (2-3-0)
at Knology Park at 1:05 p.m. ET

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jason Giambi, 1B
Jorge Posada, C
Shelley Duncan, RF
Melky Cabrera, CF
Bernie Castro, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Phil Hughes, LHP Kei Igawa, and others

BLUE JAYS
David Eckstein, SS
Scott Rolen, 3B
Reed Johnson, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Shannon Stewart, LF
Gregg Zaun, C

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch, LHP Scott Downs, and others

NailGate

Dsc01539_3DUNEDIN, Fla. – So there it was in all it’s glory. A.J. Burnett showed us all his lack of fingernail today, and boy it shined with all that nail polish — coated on after advice from his mom and wife.

Burnett said he’s taking Biotin, which helps strengthen nails and hair, to try to help speed up the growing process. The nail on his index finger, which he lopped off with his car door in November, is too short for a false nail. As recently as yesterday, he was visiting a nail salon to pick up some products.

The problem is that in order to throw his curve, Burnett digs his fingernail in the seams of the baseball. Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said on Sunday that Burnett would probably be able to throw the hook in 10-14 days, but Burnett sounded a little worried it might take longer.

"This is worrying more in the long run than it is right now, because I didn’t even throw curveballs until my third or fourth start last spring anyway. … I’m worried about April and May, if it’s going to be there by then. But I’m putting every nail thing I can on it."

Even nail polish.

Today’s lineups:

CLEVELAND (2-1-1) at TORONTO (1-3-0)
at Knology Park at 1:05 p.m. ET

INDIANS
Josh Barfield, 2B
Jamey Carroll, SS
David Dellucci, LF
Ryan Garko, 1B
Ben Francisco, RF
Andy Marte, DH
Danny Sandoval, 3B
Trevor Crowe, CF
Yamid Haad, C

PITCHING: RHP Fausto Carmona

BLUE JAYS
Shannon Stewart, LF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Travis Snider, DH
Buck Coats, CF
Sergio Santos, 3B
Joe Inglett, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

Also, I’m growing more and more convinced that I shouldn’t watch any Michigan State Spartans games during the NCAA tourney. Every time I’ve watched my alma mater, they’ve been creamed this year. I don’t watch yesterday, and they blow out Indiana. Way to go, but go figure.

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