August 2008

Angels out, D-backs in on Eckstein

NEW YORK — On the day the Blue Jays say farewell to Yankee Stadium, David Eckstein might also be saying goodbye to Toronto. The Jays are still in talks with the Diamondbacks about possibly dealing the seldom-used infielder to Arizona.

The Angels garnered most of the trade rumor attention over the past few days, but Jays Gm J.P. Ricciardi noted today that there would “probably not” be a match with the Halos. Angels also inquired about Marco Scutaro and John McDonald, but the Jays would be reluctant to deal either.

Twins, Rays and Dodgers have also been mentioned in trade rumors about Eckstein, though they appear to be unlikely suitors. My sources have pretty much shot down any deal with the Rays or Twins. Ricciardi said talks could down to the wire as tonight’s midnight deadline nears, so stay tuned for more…

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (69-66) at NEW YORK (72-63)
at 1:05 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium

JAYS
Marco Scutaro, 2B
David Eckstein, DH
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Adam Lind, LF
Jose Bautista, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (16-9, 2.69)

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jason Giambi, 1B
Xavier Nady, LF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jose Molina, C

PITCHING: LHP Andy Pettitte (13-10, 4.37)

Stairs dealt; Shortstop next?

NEW YORK — The Matt Stairs trade was officially announced today, but there’s still no word on who is coming to the Jays in return. All that’s being revealed at this point is that Stairs did indeed go to the Phillies for a player to be named.

Now, the waiting begins for Toronto’s three shortstops. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi is still talking to the Angels about a deal that could send one of David Eckstein, John McDonald or Marco Scutaro to L.A.

Here today, Eckstein is starting at short for the first time since July 26. Could the Jays be showcasing him? More like Toronto is trying anything to squeeze a little more offense from their lifeless bats (three runs in the past three games).

“It gives David a chance to play,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “It just mixes our lineup a little bit. We’re not scoring any runs, so I thought I’d put a few different faces out there today.”

That included Jose Bautista (riding an 0-for-26 slump), starting at third base instead of Scott Rolen. Gaston said Rolen was fine, but the skipper just wanted to give him a rest since the Jays are playing a day game after a night game.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (68-66) at NEW YORK (72-62)
at 1:05 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium

JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
David Eckstein, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jose Bautista, 3B
Gregg Zaun, C
Travis Snider, DH

PITCHING: LHP John Parrish (1-0, 4.05)

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jason Giambi, 1B
Xavier Nady, LF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Ivan Rodriguez, C

PITCHING: RHP Darrell Rasner (5-9, 5.03)

This is baseball, there are rules

NEW YORK — And it’s those rules, so to speak, that are keeping Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi from shedding some light on all the Matt Stairs rumors. Well, “all” is an overstatement. Basically, Stairs is going to the Phillies, but the Blue Jays can’t say so just yet.

No word on what the hold up is, but Ricciardi tiptoed around the topic today.

“If you’re guessing that it could be in the state of Pennsylvania,” Ricciardi said, “I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. But, I’m not going to tell you anything else.”

Word is that the Jays are to receive Minor League left-hander Fabio Castro. Again, no confirmation from any Toronto types about that either, though. It looks like this trade will probably be finalized tomorrow.

Ricciardi did confirm that he’s talking to the Angels about a possible trade that could send one of John McDonald, Marco Scutaro or David Eckstein to L.A. The Halos are in dire need of a shortstop and have two days to trade for a guy in order to have him eligible for the playoffs.

As for the other development here, young Travis Snider was in the starting lineup for the first time in his career. He was able to fly some family and friends out from Washington on short notice to catch him in his first big-league game, in Yankee Stadium, in his first-ever trip to New York, for that matter.

Jays manager Cito Gaston started Snider in left field tonight. He and Lind will probably shift in and out of left and the DH spot down the stretch. Ricciardi said the Jays want to see if they can potentially solve their need for a DH in 2009 with this combo. Otherwise, there’s always free agency.

Snider is typically a right fielder. In fact, he hasn’t played left at all this year, according to Ricciardi. But, in his first game in the Majors, Ricciardi didn’t want him fighting those all-too-common rookie jitters between at-bats in the dugout as the DH today.

“This way, somebody can throw a battery at him or swear at him,” Ricciardi joked. “Keep his mind off the game.”

Snider was obviously excited to see his name in the Blue Jays lineup for the first time, even if it was spelled “Snyder.”

“It happened in Triple-A, too,” he said, shaking his head and managing a slight laugh. “Hey, it could be a lot worse.”

CLICK HERE for a feature I wrote on Mr. Snider during Spring Training.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (68-65) at NEW YORK (71-62)
at 7:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field

JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Scott Rolen, 3B
Travis Snider, LF

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (16-9, 4.58)

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jason Giambi, 1B
Xavier Nady, LF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Ivan Rodriguez, C

PITCHING: RHP Carl Pavano (1-0, 5.40)

Stairs being dealt; Snider promoted

ST. PETERSBURG – The Blue Jays have designated Matt Stairs for assignment and are working out a trade that could potentially send the veteran to a contending club. Replacing Stairs on Toronto’s roster is top prospect, outfielder Travis Snider.

The Blue Jays would not reveal which team was attempting to acquire Stairs — only that the deal will hopefully be completed within the next two days. This season, the 40-year-old Stairs hit .250 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 105 games for Toronto.

Last year, Stairs hit .289 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs over 125 games for the Jays, who inked him to a two-year contract extension worth $3.25 million in November. Stairs is under contract for $2.25 million this year and is scheduled to make $1 million in 2009.

Snider, 20, had his contract purchased from Triple-A Syracuse after hitting .344 with two homers and 17 RBIs through 18 games with the Chiefs. Between stints with Class A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Syracuse this year, the left-handed-hitting outfielder hit .275 with 23 homers and 91 RBIs over 133 games.

The Blue Jays selected Snider with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 June First-Year Player Draft. Toronto manager Cito Gaston said that Snider will rotate between left and right field and will receive some playing time as the club’s designated hitter. Snider is also scheduled to take part in the Arizona Fall League in October.

That's man strength

ST. PETERSBURG — I don’t know how many of you guys caught it last night, but Jays shortstop John McDonald showed off his man strength in the fifth inning on Wednesday night. With one out, McDonald walked to the plate and lightly tapped his bat on home plate.

Then, Johnny Mac tapped the bat on the plate again — this time a tad harder — and the bat shattered. McDonald just stared down and the broken lumber and shook his head, an embarrassed grin forming on his face.

“Tell them what you told the catcher,” Aaron Hill said to McDonald on Thursday.

“I told the catcher, ‘I worked out today,’” McDonald said. “The catcher laughed and I said, ‘No, seriously, I worked out today.’”

Guess what type of bat it was: “Maple,” McDonald said. “It was defective. I got that bat yesterday. It was brand new.”

When asked if he’d ever had that happen to him, Lyle Overbay laughed.

“I don’t have that kind of pop.”

LINEUP ISSUE: The Blue Jays lineup card that hangs in the clubhouse on a daily basis always includes the pitchers in the bullpen on the list. Today, there was a blob of white out over someone’s name and “Camp” scribbled over it in pen. Upon seeing the lineup, which is always prepared by bench coach Brian Butterfield, Shawn Camp poked some fun at the coach.

“Hey, Butter,” said Camp, pointing to the card. “That’s real comforting.”

UPDATES: Shaun Marcum made his first start with Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday — seven innings, three runs, five hits, nine strikeouts, two walks, 104 pitches, 71 strikes and a loss. Marcum will likely make one more start for the Chiefs on Monday before being promoted back to Toronto and inserted into the rotation again. … On Wednesday, manager Cito Gaston said it was “more than likely” that Scott Rolen would start in the finale against the Rays today. Well, Rolen isn’t in the lineup. Gaston decided to give the third baseman one more day of batting practice and he’ll likely start on Friday in New York. … It’s being reported that the Angels — in need of a shortstop — have talked to the Jays about infielders David Eckstein, John McDonald and Marco Scutaro. The waiver trade deadline is by the end of the day on Sunday.

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (68-64) at TAMPA BAY (80-51)
at 7:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field

JAYS
Joe Inglett, LF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Jose Bautista, 3B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (9-7, 4.01)

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
B.J. Upton, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Cliff Floyd, DH
Willy Aybar, 3B
Eric Hinske, LF
Gabe Gross, RF
Shawn Riggans, C
Jason Bartlett, SS

PITCHING: RHP Edwin Jackson (10-8, 3.93)

All in favor?

ST. PETERSBURG — Not everyone within the Blue Jays’ clubhouse are big fans of the new instant replay ruling that Major League Baseball has implemented. Count Roy Halladay and Matt Stairs among those who aren’t entirely in favor or the decision.

“You kind of hate to see it, just because you’re starting to change the game,” Halladay saod. “Really, I think it’s probably going to be more fair and it’s probably going to be the right way to do it, but it’s starting to change the game — change the way it’s always been called.”

OK, Stairs wasn’t entirely against it — let’s be honest.

“I think changing the game and putting instant replay in, in my mind, is wrong,” Stairs said. “Next thing you know, it’s going to be computerized strike zones with no umpires. That’s the next step. I just don’t agree with bringing the instant replay in. It makes the umpires look bad if they’re wrong.”

Beginning Friday for the Jays, any questionable home runs can be reviewed by the umpires. The process involves calling MLB Advanced Media’s headquarters in New York City, where a technician and a umpire supervisor or former MLB ump, who will review the play and relay their findings to the crew at the game in question.

As Stairs put it: “The pitchers are going to suffer because of the fact that he has to stand on the mound and not do anything.”

That is certainly one concern for Halladay.

“Hopefully, they just find a way to do it quickly,” he said. “You don’t want to be standing out there every time somebody hits a home run waiting for them to figure it out. Let’s see how it works. Maybe it’s something that goes quickly and it’s not even an issue. But, yeah, that’d be a concern, especially with them trying to speed games up, I think that would put a hamper on that.”

Now, there were plenty of Blue Jays who were in favor of the new initiative, but most said that will only remain so as long as the guidelines remain as is. Stairs expressed concern that this could open the door for more reviews being allowed down the road and that’s something the players don’t want to see, or the coaches for that matter.

“I don’t want the human element taken out of this game,” bench coach Brian Butterfield said. “I don’t want there to be computers or machines doing the job of our umpires.”

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (68-63) at TAMPE BAY (79-51)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field

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

PITCHING: LHP David Purcey (2-4, 6.55)

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
B.J. Upton, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Rocco Baldelli, DH
Willy Aybar, 3B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Shawn Riggans, C
Justin Ruggiano, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS

PITCHING: RHP Matt Garza (10-7, 3.71)

Rolen returns with new swing

ST. PETERSBURG — Strolled into the clubhouse today at the Trop and spied Scott Rolen in a closed-door meeting with manager Cito Gaston. That big glass window was sure helpful. Rolen was discussing his recovering left shoulder with the manager and filling Cito in on the new swing he’s using.

While on the disabled list, Rolen retreated here to Florida and worked with his long-time trainer on figuring out a way to work through his fatigued shoulder. The fact that the injury cropped up again this year had Rolen doubting his future in the game — seriously. But, after letting down his guard and agreeing to retool the swing he’s used for 15 years, Rolen is confident he can continue.

Gaston’s going to give him every opportunity, too. Rolen won’t be in the lineup tonight and probably not tomorrow, but Gaston said he’ll be the regular third baseman with no built in days off down the stretch. That is, unless Rolen says he needs some time off, which is doubtful, knowing him.

Rolen has lowered his hands some and shortened his load and he says it helps take some stress off his left shoulder. He’s been hitting a lot recent and he’s confident he can catch up to pitches again — an issue before he was DL’d. Here’s hoping, considering he’s under contract for the next two seasons.

Now, the big question seems to be why bring in Jose Bautista if Rolen is already back? Well, as insurance, first of all. But, Gaston said Bautista will still be used, and it sounds like he’ll be used similarly to Kevin Mench. Bautista will mainly be used against left-handers and he could see some time at third, DH, second, the outfield or even first base.

On another note, reliever Jeremy Accardo is done for the year. And he’s scheduled to go visit…uh oh…Dr. James Andrews. Now, Shaun Marcum saw Dr. Andrews and came back without a need for surgery, so that development doesn’t always mean impending doom for a pitcher. The Jays want Accardo to have his ailing right forearm examined again. Earlier this year, Accardo tried to work through the injury to avoid Tommy John surgery. So, to be continued…

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (66-62) at TAMPE BAY (79-50)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field

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

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (15-9, 2.68)

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
B.J. Upton, CF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Cliff Floyd, DH
Willy Aybar, 3B
Eric Hinske, LF
Dioner Navarro, C
Gabe Gross, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS

PITCHING: RHP James Shields (11-7, 3.68)

Shooting for six

TORONTO — If the Jays win today to take this series against the Red Sox, Toronto will have cut its deficit in the American League Wild Card race down to six games. That’d be much better than the alternative with a road trip through Tampa Bay and New York on the horizon.

Not a whole heckuva lot going on here today. Some follow up to the Shaun Marcum demotion, though. It was suggested on Mike Wilner’s blog that the trip to Triple-A had possibly had something to do with an attitude adjustment for the pitcher. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said that’s simply not the case.

Went to ask pitching coach Brad Arnsberg about the move, and he declined comment. Keep in mind, Arnsberg wasn’t asked for his input when the Jays decided to demote Jesse Litsch to the Minors earlier this year. Just saying…

Today’s lineups:

BOSTON (74-54) TORONTO (66-62)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Jason Varitek, C
Alex Cora, SS
Coco Crisp, CF

PITCHING: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-2, 2.77)

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

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (16-9, 4.51)

Coming soon?

TORONTO — One lingering questions around the Blue Jays right now is, “When will third baseman Scott Rolen be coming back from the disabled list?” According to general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Rolen could rejoin Toronto soon.

It would seem to make sense that, if the Blue Jays fell completely out of the playoff hunt, that the club would consider just telling Rolen to take the season’s last month off to rest his fatigued left shoulder, getting an early start to the offseason to come back at full strength for Spring Training.

Ricciardi shot down that suggestion today.

“He’s feeling better,” Ricciardi said. “Actually, we had a good report yesterday and he’s looking forward to coming back. I think we’ll get him back sooner than later.”

Following this series against Boston, the Jays have an off-day on Monday and open a set against the Rays on the road on Tuesday. Rolen is currently rehabbing in Florida and will probably stop by the Trop to visit with the Jays during that series. So, to be continued…

Today’s lineups:

BOSTON (74-54) TORONTO (66-62)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Jason Varitek, C
Alex Cora, SS
Coco Crisp, CF

PITCHING: LHP Jon Lester (12-4, 3.17)

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Jose Bautista, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, LF
Rod Barajas, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Kevin Mench, DH
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (8-7, 4.20)

UPDATE: 1:04 p.m. ET — The Jays have optioned Shaun Marcum to Triple-A Syracuse in light of his recent command woes. More later on bluejays.com.

Bautista arrives, Wilkerson DL'd

TORONTO – It felt a little like a Sportscenter commercial this afternoon when I arrived at Rogers Centre, seeing John McDonald in his Blue Jays uniform at the gate where media checks in.

It’s certainly odd to see a player in his uni outside of the clubhouse or not on the field. A couple Jays fans tried to get in the gate to ask for Johnny Mac’s autograph and were quickly escorted back outside.

Knowing Mac, he would’ve signed, but he understandably didn’t want to step out into the street in his full uniform for fear of being swarmed by all the fans outside at the ticket counter. I’m sure he’d apologize to those fans who tried to get inside to where he was standing.

There was a new player in uniform for the Jays today as well. Jose Bautista was on hand, but not in the lineup. He’ll start at third on Saturday with Boston lefty Jon Lester on the hill. To make room on the roster, Toronto placed Brad Wilkerson on the disabled list.

That was a little unexpected, but apparently Wilkerson has been bothered by back spasms fof late. He’s also nursing a sore left shoulder and will have it checked out while on the DL, but manager Cito Gaston stressed that the arm issue wasn’t why he was disabled.

Leaning on the bench in the dugout was a bat that I’m assuming Bautista brought along for batting practice purposes. But, instead of his name, it had Pirates second baseman and 2006 NL batting champ Freddy Sanchez’s name engraved on the side. Not a bad strip of lumber to practice with.

Today’s lineups:

BOSTON (73-54) TORONTO (66-61)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Jason Varitek, C
Alex Cora, SS
Coco Crisp, CF

PITCHING: RHP Paul Byrd (7-11, 4.54)

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

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum (8-5, 3.36)

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