July 2008

Jays come up short

TORONTO — Well, I for one was a little surprised at just how active the Blue Jays were at this year’s deadline. No, they didn’t swing any deals in the end, but Toronto came close to acquiring Raul Ibanez and was in on talks about Jason Bay.

The Jays might’ve been able to obtain British Columbia’s Bay, but Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said the price was simply too steep. It’s believed that the Pirates wanted outfield prospect Travis Snider and starter Shaun Marcum, and that might have been just for starters.

Said Ricciardi: “It was pretty steep for us. At the end of the day, we may have been able to get the player, but it would’ve been at a very, very steep price and I don’t know if that would’ve helped us going forward, as opposed to maybe setting us back a little more.”

As for Ibanez, the Jays were ready to pull the trigger until the M’s pulled the plug. Reports are that Toronto was gearing up to send to players from its active roster to Seattle, but the Mariners decided against the move with minutes to spare before the 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Said Ricciardi: “We had some really good talks with Seattle. I’d say they were pretty intense and pretty in depth. We thought, at one point, there was a possibility to get something done there. But, it just didn’t come to fruition. We were ready to go forward. … Both parties worked hard. At the end of the day, they probably weren’t as comfortable making the trade as we were. That happens.”

So, that’s that. The Blue Jays are who they are and Ricciardi said he still thinks the club is still in it, even with four teams ahead of them in the division and five ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Why else would the Jays be in buying mode and also holding on to starter A.J. Burnett? Toronto wants to see if it has a late-season run in there somewhere.

Ricciardi also addressed a couple other topics today. There was the “encouraging news” of Dustin McGowan’s shoulder surgery. McGowan will need 8-9 months of recovery time, but can begin a throwing program in roughly four months. He should be ready for Spring Training, since he required no work on his rotator cuff.

As for Scott Rolen’s recently revealed shoulder woes, Ricciardi said:

“We talked to the doctor again today. Our worries aren’t that great. I think what happened with Scotty is, if you know him at all, he’s not a go-easy guy. I think when he’s working on something, it’s an excess of swings, excess of batting practice. We just have to get him to back off a little bit and give his shoulder a chance to rest a little bit. I talked to the doctor who performed his surgery again today and, medically, nobody has any concerns about him long-term continuing to play. He just needs a couple of days here and there in the course of the middle of the summer. But, we’re not worried at all. Like I’ve said, before we made the trade, we did all the background check we had to do on the surgery and we checked with all the rehab people. We had our doctors check. His shoulder is as strong as it can possibly be. It just gets a little fatigued from overwork.”

As for the “controversy” of calling up Scott Richmond, taking Team Canada’s ace away from the Olympic squad just days before they take off for Beijing:

“Obviously, the first thing we thought about is, ‘We’re not going to bring this kid up for one start and hurt his chances of playing on the Olympic team and putting the Olympic team in any kind of jeopardy.’ We talked about that at length. We said, ‘If this is going to be one start, then we wouldn’t bring the kid up.’ But, I also think that a lot’s being made out of this. Every kid dreams of playing in the big leagues. I think if you went and asked all those Canadian Olympic kids last night, when they were on the field, if they wanted to switch uniforms with a big-league guy right there, as opposed to going to China, I think you’d have a consensus of saying they’d rather be a big-league player. I think that’s an unfair shot at us, saying that we did something that was against the Canadian Olympic team. We have great respect for what they do and we have a great relationship with them. But, if we get a chance to bring a guy up to help our Major Legaue team, unfortunately, we’re not going to let that get in the way of us making the decision. Listen, I was a part of the U.S. Olympic selection committee twice, so I know what gos into it. But, I also know that when a guy comes to the big leagues, nothing gets in the way of that and that’s really what the situation was with Richmond.”

So, there you have it. I’m not hitting the road to Texas, so expect a lack of blogging over the next few days unless there’s news to discuss.

~JB

Deadline Day

TORONTO — I’m hunkered down here at the Bastian residence, monitoring news via various Web sites and making calls today to see what’s up as the Trade Deadline nears. There have been a couple interesting developments as we’ve approached the 4 p.m. ET deadline.

ESPN is reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired about outfielders Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. Toronto is 6.5 games out of the Wild Card, putting them in that spot between being out of it and really being in contention. So, if they could add another bat to what’s been a dismal offense, they might just do it.

The only issue with Bay is what the Pirates might want in return. If Pittsburgh wants a three- or four-prospect package, including Travis Snider, my bet would be that the Jays balk. Now, Toronto might be willing to move Adam Lind while his stock is high, especially with Snider waiting in the wings — just speculating here.

I don’t really have a gut feeling about what Toronto will do with less than two hours to go before the deadline. Players such as David Eckstein, Gregg Zaun and John McDonald, or a few relievers, could be dealt, but they just might as easily stick around (at least for now — there’s always August).

We’ll be talking to Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi later this evening to discuss what did or didn’t happen on the trade front, and also to hopefully find out how Dustin McGowan’s right shoulder surgery went. Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE — 2:55: The Blue Jays interest in Pirates outfielder Jason Bay reportedly ended with precisely one phone call. Pittsburgh apparently asked for Toronto starter Shaun Marcum and top outfield prospect Travis Snider for starters, leading the Jays to move on.

UPDATE — 3:15: Talks between the Jays and Mariners about Raul Ibanez are reportedly ongoing, though no other names involved in the deal have been made public. Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail is reporting that the Marlins have inquired about Matt Stairs. No word about catcher Gregg Zaun, who has been tied to Florida in previous reports.

UPDATE — 3:53: Seven minutes to go and apparently the M’s had second thoughts about parting with Ibanez. ESPN is reporting that it would’ve been a 2-for-1 swap with the Jays, involving all Major League players. Interesting. It’s looking like the Jays will be standing pat after all. Stay tuned…

UPDATE — 4:45: Blue Jays stand pat. Disgruntled Gregg Zaun stays put, as does A.J. Burnett. And it’s sounding like Manny is going to be Manny under Joe Torre in L.A. Bay goes to Boston and the Pirates get four minor leaguers in the three-team blockbuster. Also, good news for Jays starter Dustin McGowan. He had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but did not need work on his rotator cuff. He can begin a throwing program in roughly four months. This is good news.

Rolen's left shoulder ailing

TORONTO — Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen — mired in an 0-for-17 slump at the plate — was held out of the starting lineup on Wednesday. Days off might become more common for the third baseman as the season wears on.

Rolen admitted today that his left shoulder, which has been operated on three times previously, has been bothering him of late. He met with a physical therapist on Monday and saw a team doctor on Tuesday and they determined that his shoulder is fine strength-wise.

Rolen said the issue has been mechanically — that the shoulder doesn’t seem to be functioning the way it should be. It sounds more like a fatigue issue, but Rolen said another surgery isn’t necessary. He is hoping rehab-type work, combined with more days off can help ease the discomfort.

Today’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY (62-44) at TORONTO (54-53)
at 12:37 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

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

PITCHING: RHP Edwin Jackson (6-7, 4.22)

JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
Marco Scutaro, 3B
Alex Rios, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Matt Stairs, DH
Adam Lind, LF
Brad Wilkerson, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Scott Richmond (MLB debut)

Zaun upset, would welcome trade

TORONTO — Upset over his diminished playing time this season, Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun told MLB.com on Tuesday that he would welcome a trade out of Toronto. The Marlins, who Zaun played for from 1996-98, were recently linked to the catcher in rumors.

“Trades are a part of baseball,” Zaun said. “Things haven’t worked out the way I planned them to this year here in Toronto. Getting an opportunity to play on a regular basis for a pennant contender, or going back to a place that I’m familiar with, it would probably be a good thing.”

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi confirmed that he’s talked to the Marlins, as well as the Royals, about Zaun, but was quick to point out that there is little to no interest for the 37-year-old catcher.

“We’re aware that Zaunie is unhappy,” Ricciardi said. “We wish he wouldn’t go through the media with it. We wish he would come to us, especially knowing we have a good relationship. Unfortunately, right now, there are no takers for him. If there are, we’ll definitely oblige him.

“I think we’ve been a little bit more proactive than maybe Zaunie thinks,” he continued. “Part of making a trade is someone has to want you. Right now, there’s no one that has expressed an interest in him. That’s where we’re at.”

Today’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY (61-44) at TORONTO (54-52)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

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

PITCHING: RHP Matt Garza (8-6, 3.83)

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

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (12-7, 2.82)

Toeing the rubber

TORONTO — Whodathunk that a stubbed toe would lead to one of the more unlikely callups of the season for the Blue Jays? Word is that lefty Brian Tallet jammed his right pinky toe while walking through his apartment late at night a few evenings ago.

He stubbed the poor toe so bad that he suffered a non-displaced spiral fracture — got that? Toronto manager Cito Gaston said he prefers to stick with the four lefties in the bullpen, so that meant John Parrish was pulled from the rotation and put in with the relievers.

Up for Wednesday’s start is Canada’s own Scott Richmond, who was all geared up for a trip to Beijing to pitch for Team Canada in the Olympics. Now, while the team gets introduced on Wednesday at Rogers Centre, Richmond will be introduced as Toronto’s starting pitcher. Not bad for a guy who was pitching for Edmonton in the independent leagues a year ago.

It’s a great story — I mean, this guy went from working in a shipyard in North Vancouver to pitching for the Jays — but is this really the best guy on the farm to fill in? On the year, the 28-year-old Richmond is 5-10 with a 4.29 ERA in 21 starts between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse.

At Syracuse, the 6-foot-5 righty went a tough-luck 0-2, but had a tidy 2.53 ERA in five starts, striking out 31 and issuing just six walks over 32 innings. Even Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said he’d never seen Richmond pitch. But, this is the “prospect” who is getting the call. Who know, maybe he’ll turn out to be a late bloomer.

As for pitching prospects Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero, they’ve been promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. That’s a quick climb for Cecil and, well, Romero should’ve been there already, seeing as he was the top pick by the Jays in 2005. In his last seven starts at Double-A, Romero was 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA.

In other news, Ricciardi once again declared that A.J. Burnett isn’t going to be traded — this time saying so definitely. He said he’s received a lot of calls on a lot of players, just “kicking the tires,” and he expects talks to heat up in the next few days as the deadline nears.

Today’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY (61-43) at TORONTO (53-52)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

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

PITCHING: RHP James Shields (9-6, 3.66)

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

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (11-9, 4.73)

Still an up-Hill battle

TORONTO – Been out for a few days, taking a break from the beat and trying to get rid of this nasty cough that’s been bugging me for the past week or so. Also had the opportunity to take Mrs. Bastian to see The Dark Knight, which was maybe even better upon second viewing.

I’m out for a couple days and Alex Rios figures out how to hit homers again, Dustin McGowan is done for the year and Aaron Hill has rejoined the club. Had a chance to catch up with Hill today. Basically, he said he wasn’t doing anything in Florida he couldn’t have been doing all this time with the team, so he decided it was best to head back to Toronto.

His condition isn’t much improved, though slightly better, and Hill isn’t ready to call it quits on his season. He did say that he’d expect the club to maybe say he’s out for the year before he’d ever admit such a thing. Hill hasn’t had a dizzy spell in about two weeks, but is still only taking part in light activities. Check out bluejays.com later for more.

Until then…

Today’s lineups:

SEATTLE (39-64) at TORONTO (53-51)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

MARINERS
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Jose Vidro, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Jose Lopez, 2B
Jeremy Reed, CF
Kenji Johjima, C
Bryan LaHair, 1B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

PITCHING: LHP Jarrod Washburn (4-9, 4.75)

BLUE JAYS
David Eckstein, DH
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Adam Lind, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Kevin Mench, RF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.05)

Let's play one and a third

BALTIMORE — Well it’s a beautiful day at Camden Yards, where the weather isn’t nearly as hot as it has been for the past couple of days. Maybe the rain last night helped cool things down. We’re about 15 minutes away from resuming last night’s game as well.

When play starts, A.J. Burnett will be in line for a win and Scott Rolen will be in the batter’s box with a 1-0 count, two outs and a runner on third base. The Jays are leading, 2-1, and Jays manager Cito Gaston said Jesse Carlson will likely pitch the home half of the sixth.

After the rain-shortened game last night, Burnett said Roy Halladay was kiddingly suggesting that he’d ask to start both games today: “Doc was even joking about. He said, ‘Well maybe I can talk them into letting me throw the first one and then I’ll ride my bike for a half hour and then start the second one.’ I was like, ‘Doc, I don’t think so, buddy.'”

“Don’t put it past him,” Gaston said with a laugh.

Bird watching

BALTIMORE – It’s certainly interesting that the Phillies have a scout on hand here at Camden Yards on the day that A.J. Burnett takes the mound for the Jays. Coincidence? Maybe and, then again, maybe not.

Philadelphia already has acquired Joe Blanton for its rotation, so aiming for another starter might not be the goal at the moment. The Phils are in the market for some left-handed help in their bullpen and All-Star closer George Sherrill of the O’s undoubtedly fits that mold. For the Jays, Jesse Carlson and Brian Tallet are also there.

In the meantime, the Phils also get another look at Burnett, though prior to his last start, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi said he “didn’t see A.J. going anywhere.” I guess we’ll know if that’ll indeed be the case come July 31.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (49-51) at BALTIMORE (48-51)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, RF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Matt Stairs, DH
Scott Rolen, 3B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (10-9, 4.84)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Aubrey Huff, DH
Melvin Mora, 3B
Luke Scott, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Brandon Fahey, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (6-7, 3.60)

Baby steps

BALTIMORE — Shaun Marcum is off the disabled list today, Brian Wolfe got sent down last night, aaaaaaand, that’s about all that’s going on here. So, tonight I bring you some stats to fill some space.

UNDER JOHN GIBBONS

35-39 record
.258 AVG/.336 OBP/.377 SLG
4.0 runs per game
.231 (155-67) runners in scoring position

UNDER CITO GASTON

13-12 record
.262/.331/.400
4.8 runs per game
.269 (61-227) runners in scoring position

“It might’ve got a little better since I’ve been here,” Gaston said. “But, it hasn’t been great, either.”

Very true.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (48-51) at BALTIMORE (48-50)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at a still sweltering Camden Yards

BLUE JAYS
David Eckstein, DH
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Adam Lind, LF
Kevin Mench, RF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum (5-4, 2.65)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Aubrey Huff, DH
Melvin Mora, 3B
Luke Scott, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Juan Castro, SS

PITCHING: LHP Garrett Olson (6-5, 5.79)

Hot air

BALTIMORE — It is stinkin’ hot here in Baltimore. It’s about as hot temperature-wise as it was in Florida, but here you feel like you’re just wearing the weather. The humidity is unbelievable and this outdoor pressbox is like a sauna.

While sitting and chatting with Jays skipper Cito Gaston today, Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer was standing nearby. Someone asked Gaston if he’d ever had the unfortunate task of trying to hit against Palmer back in the day.

“I might’ve faced him in Spring Training, but he was in the American League all that time and I was in the National League,” said Gaston, who then chuckled. “And that was a good thing. I know Gino has faced him…”

At that, Gaston called Jays hitting coach Gene Tenace over and pointed to Palmer: “How’d you do against that guy over there?”

“Terrible,” said Tenace, shaking his head and walking away. “I helped him get to the Hall of Fame.”

A strange observation from today: inside the Jays clubhouse was a bunch of balloons. The largest was in the shape of a turtle and it read: “Have a speedy recovery.” A few of the others had messages like “You’re awesome” and “Thinking of you.” A note attached had a short poem and finished with the line “We still believe!”

No players had a clue who sent the mystery balloons.

Oh, actual news? Well, as the Toronto Sun reported today, Mel Queen is back in the Jays organization, working with Minor Leaguers. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said, though, that contrary to the report, Queen was not brought back to “evaluate the farm system” and it was also false that Rob Ducey was on deck to be the next farm director.

Ricciardi said he helped bring Queen back to give the Jays former pitching coach a chance to work in the game again after being out for so many years. Ricciardi said that the 66-year-old Queen will help with “special projects,” working individually with pitchers in the system. That’s all there is to it, says the GM.

Ricciardi and Gaston also noted that lefty John Parrish will get at least one more turn in the rotation. Ricciardi went on to say that Parrish would be evaluated after his next outing and added that the club wants to get David Purcey up for an extended look at some point this season.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (48-50) at BALTIMORE (47-50)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at a sweltering Camden Yards

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, RF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Matt Stairs, DH
Scott Rolen, 3B
Adam Lind, LF
David Eckstein, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (8-6, 4.16)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Aubrey Huff, DH
Melvin Mora, 3B
Luke Scott, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Brandon Fahey, SS

PITCHING: RHP Radhames Liz (3-2, 7.57)

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