May 2008

When will it end?

TORONTO — The Barry Bonds talk that is. It ain’t happening. Bonds isn’t coming to Toronto. Everyone needs to get that clear. OK, to be fair, it wasn’t the fan base that went crazy on the Bonds issue this time. The latest comes courtesy of Torii Hunter and TSN … sigh.

From Off the Record:

“I think Barry Bonds is a big pick up for a lot of teams,” Hunter told OTR host Michael Landsberg when asked about recent rumours suggesting the home run king might fit in Toronto.  “If we needed a DH, I think Barry Bonds would be a great fit. I mean, he’s one of the best hitters in the game. Why not have him?

“On the field he’s one of the best players to ever play this game, so why not? The Blue Jays should go after him.”

When asked about how Bonds might affect the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, Hunter said it was nothing to worry about.

“I think he’d be a good fit. It’s a different scene, a different clubhouse. That’s Vernon Wells’ clubhouse, you’ve got to respect that.. Trust me, he’s a great guy, I know him pretty well. I think he’s a pretty good guy in his own way.  You’ve just got to get to know Barry.”

Rumored to be a fit? Is that possible? I’ve heard of rumors that teams are interested in someone or rumors that a player was heading to a certain team, but rumored to be a fit? Well, sure, I’ll start the rumor that Bonds would be a fit with a lot of teams — maybe every club in the American League.

Moving on…

David Eckstein (strained right hip flexor) was a little sore after his rehab appearance in Monday and sat out of games on Tuesday and will do so again today. He’ll play on Thursday and will need at least two games in a row before rejoining Toronto.

Brian Wolfe (strained right triceps) has thrown a couple sim games and is another week or two away. Jeremy Accardo (right forearm strain) hasn’t started throwing yet. John McDonald (sprained right ankle) will be heading out on a rehab stint some time within the next week.

Toronto manager John Gibbons also noted that he doesn’t plan on moving slumping center fielder Alex Rios out of the No. 3 spot of the lineup just yet. Gibbons likes Brad Wilkerson and Aaron Hill in the Nos. 1-2 slots, respectively, and is hoping Rios can swing his way out of this skid.

Today’s lineups:

LOS ANGELES (27-20) at TORONTO (23-24)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

ANGELS
Chone Figgins, 3B
Gary Matthews Jr., RF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Garret Anderson, LF
Torii Hunter, CF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Mike Napoli, C
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Maicer Izturis, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jon Garland

BLUE JAYS
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Shannon Stewart, LF
Gregg Zaun, C
Marco Scutaro, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

What'd I miss?

TORONTO — So Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch have been used in relief? The Jays are a .500 team again? Toronto had a winning record on a road trip? Gee, I guess I missed a whole heckuva a lot in the past week.

The trip back to Chicago was swell. My little brother-in-law is all married up and probably kicking it on a beach in the Bahamas as I write. Must be nice. I got to watch my little nephew and niece kick butt in Karate class and enjoyed quality Chi-town pizza on three occasions.

But enough about me, how ’bout them Blue Jays? They drop three in a row in Cleveland and then go 6-1 on the rest of the trip, sweeping in Minny and taking two in Philly. In those six wins, the Jays hit .326 with runners in scoring position. How’s that for a change?

With the day off and the rain out and doubleheader and everything else, the Jays have switched up their rotation some. Dustin McGowan goes tonight, followed by Shaun Marcum, A.J. Burnett, Halladay and Litsch. Halladay might just be the best No. 4 starter in baseball.

John McDonald is a little behind on his recovery from a sprained right ankle, apparently. Jays skip John Gibbons said today that Johnny Mac might be able to head out on a rehab assignment sometime within the next week, though Mac’s eligible to be activated on Thursday.

David Eckstein, on the other hand, is on pace to be ready to come off the DL on Thursday. Eckstein strained his right hip flexor the same day as Mac’s sprained ankle — May 6. Eckstein is already rehabbing and he had an assignment with Class A Dunedin on Monday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

QUOTABLE: “Why is there such a drop-off in offense? It’s alarming. It really is alarming. The first two months have been eye-opening in terms of offense around the league.”
– Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi

Today’s lineups:

LOS ANGELES (26-20) at TORONTO (23-23)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

ANGELS
Maicer Izturis, 3B
Gary Matthews Jr., LF
Vladimir Guerrero, RF
Garret Anderson, DH
Torii Hunter, CF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Mike Napoli, C
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Erik Aybar, SS

PITCHING: RHP John Lackey

BLUE JAYS
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Shannon Stewart, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Gregg Zaun, C
Marco Scutaro, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

Mmmm deep dish

CHI-TOWN — Back home in the Chicagoland area this week to be on hand for my bro-in-law’s wedding. So, you guys are just going to have to live without Bastian bloggage until the Jays return to Toronto. I’ve already had me some real South Side deep dish pizza and it was glorious.

As for that doubleheader the other day, I doubt Ernie Banks had Cleveland in mind when he famously said “Let’s play two.” Although, if you’re going to watch a double feature, you can’t really ask for much more than those two games. Two really good, quick ballgames.

The pitching was outstanding. That might’ve been one of the best, if not the best, outing of Shaun Marcum’s young career. To outduel Cliff Lee the way Marcum did was really fun to watch. And I got to witness only the 14th unassisted triple play in baseball history, which was pretty sweet in its own right.

So, for those of you who were wondering how I was hanging in there that night, I was doing just dandy. Now, if it were a Jays/Yanks doubleheader where it might’ve been 8-9 hours of baseball, it might’ve been a different story. The best part was flying to Toronto early Tuesday morning, hopping in the car and driving 8 hours to Chicago and arriving Tuesday night.

In Jays’ land, looks like David Purcey will be called up for Friday’s start in Philly. No word yet on who will be sent down to clear room. And who would’ve thunk the Rays would be in first place in the American League East on May 14? It’s a crazy world we’re living in.

~JB

J.P. shows up in Cleveland

CLEVELAND —  No, there wasn’t anything major going on. No managerial or coaching changes or anything like that. No panic button being pressed. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi showed up — as planned — on Monday at Progressive Field.

Ricciardi is going to accompany the Jays on their trip to Minnesota, though the GM won’t be in Philadelphia with the team. He just got back from watching one of his sons play in a doubleheader and, what do ya know, he gets to watch his team play a double dip against the Tribe on Monday.

Ricciardi met with reporters briefly and was asked if there was anything else he could possibly do to try to imrpove Toronto’s laboring lineup. So far this season, the Jays have released Frank Thomas, signed Brad Wilkerson and traded for Kevin Mench. Beyond those tweaks?

“I think we’re done. This is our team,” Ricciardi said. “These are the guys we’ve made our bed with and I don’t really see us being able to do a lot at this point. We’ve tried to do some little things in getting Mench and Wilkerson in here to try to shake up the lineup a little bit and maybe give Gibby a few more options, but I really don’t see us being able to go out and do anything major at this point.”

There you go. As for some injury updates, an MRI revealed a mild strain in Jeremy Accardo’s right forearm and Ricciardi said the pitcher won’t begin throwing again for at least two weeks. Righty Brian Wolfe — also on the DL, but with a right triceps strain — has starting playing light catch, but Ricciardi wasn’t sure when he’d be back on a mound. Wolfe will join Accardo in Florida for rehab work in about a week.

Today’s lineups:

GAME 1

TORONTO (17-21) at CLEVELAND (18-18)
at 4:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field

BLUE JAYS
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Rod Barajas, C
Joe Inglett, LF

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Jamey Carroll, 2B
David Dellucci, LF
Victor Martinez, C
Ben Francisco, RF
Travis Hafner, DH
Ryan Garko, 1B
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Fausto Camona

Well, that was fast…Jays lose, 3-0. Haven’t scored in 22 straight innings.

GAME 2

TORONTO (17-22) at CLEVELAND (19-18)
at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field

BLUE JAYS
Shannon Stewart, LF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Kevin Mench, RF
Marco Scutaro, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Gregg Zaun, C
Jorge Velandia, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Victor Martinez, 1B
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Travis Hafner, DH
Kelly Shoppach, C
Jason Tyner, LF
Andy Marte, 3B

PITCHING: LHP Cliff Lee

COUNT ‘EM: 34 different Jays lineups in 40 games

Wells out 6-8 weeks; Accardo also shelved

CLEVELAND — Well, here we go again. Last year, the Jays had 12 players undergo 13 separate surgeries. This year, the injuries are starting to pile up once again, though only Casey Janssen has had to go under the knife.

The latest blow came on Saturday, when the Jays’ learned center fielder Vernon Wells would miss six to eight weeks after fracturing his left wrist on a diving catch a night earlier. Wells also tweaked his right hammy, but that issue is moot now.

Toronto also placed reliever Jeremy Accardo on the 15-day DL with a strained right forearm. Wells decided to stick with the club on this road trip, while Accardo has already left for Florida, where he’ll begin treatment in preparation for a rehab assignment.

Mighty Joe Inglett never got on his plane out of Cleveland. He’s was optioned and recalled without ever leaving Ohio. With Accardo out, the Jays purchased the contract of Armando Benitez. To clear room on the 40, Tracy Thorpe was designated for assignment.

For now, Alex Rios assumes center field and Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench can handle left and right field. Shannon Stewart will also be worked into left field on occasion, though he was serving as the DH on Saturday.

Progressive Field has been a nightmarish destination for Toronto. The Jays have gone 1-12 at the Tribe’s home park, dating back to 2004. Now, Toronto loses arguably its best offensive performer and a Gold Glove center fielder in Wells in Cleveland.

“This place hasn’t been real kind to us,” manager John Gibbons said.

Aside from the necessary lineup tweaks in light of Wells’ injury, Gibbons also gave a day off to slumping second baseman Aaron Hill.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (17-20) at CLEVELAND (17-18)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, CF
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Kevin Mench, LF
Shannon Stewart, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Gregg Zaun, C
Jorge Velandia, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Jamey Carroll, 2B
David Dellucci, LF
Victor Martinez, C
Ben Francisco, RF
Travis Hafner, DH
Ryan Garko, 1B
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: LHP Aaron Laffey

COUNT ‘EM: 32 different Jays lineups in 38 games

You can't faze Doc

CLEVELAND — Those clubbies sure do have a sense of humor. When newly acquired Blue Jay Kevin Mech arrived at Progressive Field today, he found his locker inside the clubhouse was situated directed next to one Roy Halladay.

It was Mench who drilled a line drive back up the middle on July 9, 2005, breaking Halladay’s leg and ending the ace’s season. Halladay might’ve been on his way to a second American League Cy Young Award that year.

It was obviously an attempt by the Indians to try to get into Halladay’s head.

So, Mench and Brad Wilkerson — both picked up by the Jays today, in case you hadn’t heard by now — were both on hand and in the lineup today. Mench can play outfield, spend time at DH and maybe man some first. Wilkerson can play outfield and first, as well.

This begs the question, though, who’s the odd man out when David Eckstein and John McDonald come off the disabled list? Jorge Valendia is probably headed back to Triple-A when one returns, but another spot will have to be cleared. I guess that makes this a two-week evaluation period of sorts.

Would the Jays dare rid of Shannon Stewart after giving him the job over Reed Johnson at the end of spring? Would Toronto move either Eckstein or McDonald and risk thinning out the infield depth? Or, will it be one of Mench or Wilkerson to go when that time comes? It’s certainly a topic of debate for now.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (17-19) at CLEVELAND (16-18)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Vernon Wells, CF
Kevin Mench, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Brad Wilkerson, LF
Marco Scutaro, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
David Dellucci, LF
Victor Martinez, C
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Travis Hafner, DH
Ryan Garko, 1B
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: LHP C.C. Sabathia

COUNT ‘EM: 31 different Jays lineups in 36 games

Eckdonald lands on DL

TORONTO – I’m not at the ballpark today, but I just received word that both shorstops David Eckstein (strained right hip flexor) and John McDonald (sprained right ankle) have been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Neither infielder is seriously injured, but the Jays can keep running out two men short until they’re completely recovered.

For the time being, the Jays have recalled Mighty Joe Inglett from Triple-A Syracuse. I’m told a subsequent move will be coming on Friday. There’s been rumblings that the Jays have been scouring the market for a right-handed bat. Robinzon Diaz would’ve been an option, but he’s out 2-3 weeks with an ankle injury all his own.

I’ll catch you all from Cleveland tomorrow.

Eck, Mac show their grit

TORONTO — One day after Jays shortstops David Eckstein and John McDonald both left a game with injuries, the pair showed just how scrappy they really are. Neither Eckstein nor McDonald were placed on the disabled list.

McDonald, who was on crutches as recent as this morning after spraining his right ankle, was walking around fine before the game and even hit some baseballs off a tee. Eckstein was at a local hospital undergoing an MRI on his strained hip flexor, but was potentially available for Wednesday’s game.

“The way Johnny Mac went down, I thought a sniper got him from the fifth deck,” Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi joked. “Today, they’re better than I thought. The powers of modern medicine.”

Just in case, the Jays promoted shortstop Jorge Velandia from Triple-A Syracuse, though Marco Scutaro will man short until either Eckstein or McDonald are ready to come back. Ricciardi said the Jays would wait until Thursday to determine whether or not Johnny Mac would need a trip to the DL.

“Going on the DL is the last thing I want,” McDonald said. “The more minutes and hours that J.P. and [manager John Gibbons] will give me to get healthy and get back on the field I’ll take. But I understand that they’ve got a lot of other things to think about besides my health.”

To clear room on the active roster for Velandia, the Jays optioned Adam Lind back to Triple-A Syracuse, where he can get regular playing time. Lind — 1-for-19 with Toronto — was receiving little action since Shannon Stewart was named the regular left fielder. No need to clear room on the 40-man, since Frank Thomas’ dismissal left the roster at 39.

Today’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY (17-15) at TORONTO (16-18)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Eric Hinske, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Gabe Gross, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS

PITCHING: RHP Matt Garza

JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Shannon Stewart, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Rod Barajas, C
Marco Scuatro, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

Copy and paste

TORONTO — It’s amazing! The Blue Jays have rolled out an identical lineup for the second game in a row. That makes this lineup the second-most used order of the season — tied with two other variations. Consider that, of the 28 different lineups used, the one that’s been used the most has only been penned four times.

“I don’t know how many more times I can change it, to be honest with you,” Gibbons joked.

On a different note, the barking that was coming from the White Sox side in the ninth inning last night apparently was Chicago trying to get the umpires to follow ump Bruce Dreckman’s lead, calling a balk on B.J. Ryan. Dreckman called a balk on Ryan in Boston in the ninth on Thursday, nearly costing Toronto a win.

Gibbons believes that, ever since Dreckman made that call, ruling that Ryan didnt come set in his delivery, other teams may be watching the lefty a little more closely.

“Oh yeah. I’m sure theyre looking for it now. Definitely,” Gibbons said. “I think that’s what [the Sox] were screaming about yesterday, is that right? I still don’t think the umpire would call that with the game on the line and the closer in the game. Those teams may be looking for it, but if they didn’t do it yesterday, I have a hard time believing they’ll do it.”

The bottom line is Ryan has pitched this way his whole career. He’s consistent with his delivery and calling him on it now is a little ridicilous. A balk is an intentional attempt to deceive and when Ryan does the same thing on every pitch, I hardly think it can really be throwing too many hitters or baserunners off.

But I digress…

Talked to David Eckstein today and he gave us this reaction to the Jays decision to use John McDonald as a late-inning defensive replacement in close games:

“Everyone knows that feelings don’t really matter in this scenario. The only thing that matters is going out there and winning games. That’s the decision they made and, being a professional, you just have to go out there and keep trying to do your best.”

So, whether of not Eckstein agrees with the decision is a moot point, because: “It doesn’t matter. We’re here to win games and that’s the only thing that matters,” he said.

Today’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY (16-15) at TORONTO (16-17)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
B.J. Upton, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Eric Hinske, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Gabe Gross, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS

PITCHING: RHP Andy Sonnanstine

JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Shannon Stewart, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
David Eckstein, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

THIS JUST IN: Mike Wilner of The Fan 590 has just confirmed that “Hangin’ Tough” by the New Kids on the Block, which was blaring out of the Roger Centre’s sound system while A.J. Burnett warmed up, was in fact requested by Mr. Burnett. Amazing. Or not…

Running with it

TORONTO — Oh the sights you’ll see when running along the Toronto lakefront. Beautiful day out today, so I got in a cool five miles and stopped to say hello to Alan Ashby and his wife, waved as I jogged by Roy Halladay and strength and conditioning coach Donovan Santas and said hi to Marty Pevey later on when I was walking my dog.

Over at the ballyard, the Jays ran out yet another lineup. (See what I did there? Sticking with the running theme?) The cool new thing to do is to move Shannon Stewart into the No. 2 hole and slide Master of Grit David Eckstein to the No. 9 spot. That makes, ready for it? 28 different lineup in 33 games. That’s an 85-percent new lineup rate.

“It’s just a different look,” Jays skip John Gibbons said. “We’ve tinkered here and there to try some different things. We’ll just try this and see how this works.”

Gibby said he’d try this lineup for a few days to see if it amounts to anything. He believes getting Stewart in the mix on a more regular basis can help get his bat going. Gibbons added that “it’s too early” to be thinking this switch means Adam Lind (1-for-19 since being called up) might have a trip back to Triple-A in store.

There’s been a whole heckuva lot of lineups used, but there have been factors involved — this isn’t just Gibby flip-flopping John Kerry style. Consider that the Jays once employed a guy named Frank Thomas, shuffling people in and out of DH since he was released. Scott Rolen was injured and Toronto mixed and matched at third until he came back.

Once upon a time there was a platoon in left field…so there’s been things forcing Gibbons’ hand some. Not to mention the offense’s struggles, leading Gibbons to switch things up to try to find some sort of consistency. So 28 out of 33 is high, no doubt, but it’s not really too surprising when you think about it.

In other news — I hate that segue — Gibbons said that the Jays can now use B.J. Ryan in consecutive games. You probably won’t see him in three games in a row yet and you won’t see him used in multi-inning saves this year, but this is good news for the Jays. No more closer by committee every other day.

Today’s lineups:

CHICAGO (14-15) at TORONTO (15-17)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

WHITE SOX
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Carlos Quentin, LF
Jim Thome, DH
Paul Konerko, 1B
Jermaine Dye, RF
Nick Swisher, CF
*Pablo Ozuna, 3B
Juan Uribe, 2B
Toby Hall, C

PITCHING: RHP Javier Vazquez

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Shannon Stewart, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
David Eckstein, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

*Sox 3B Joe Crede scratched with a migraine

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.