September 2008

2008 Bastians

ST. PETERSBURG – It’s time to roll out this year’s annual Bastian Postseason Awards. I’m hanging at my hotel here in Florida, getting ready to watch the White Sox and Twins play for the right to join me at Tropicana Field tomorrow. In the meantime, here are my picks:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

CY YOUNG AWARD

1. Roy Halladay, TOR: 20-11, 2.78 ERA, 9 CG, 246 IP, 206 K, 39 BB, 1.05 WHIP, .237 BAA
2. Cliff Lee, CLE: 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 223.1 IP, 170 K, 34 BB, 1.11 WHIP, .253 BAA
3. Francisco Rodriguez, LAA: 62 saves, 2.24 ERA, 77 K, 34 BB, 68.1 IP

Apologies to: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS; Mike Mussina, NYY; Joakim Soria, KC; Mariano Rivera, NYY; Jon Lester, BOS.

COMMENT: No, I am not a homer. But, I will admit that it is a joy to watch Halladay pitch every five days. I give Doc the nod here based on a few things. One, I’m a sucker for innings and complete games. Second, Halladay received 4.72 runs or support to Lee’s 6.13, and pitched in a far tougher division. Consider that in Halladay’s 11 losses, he received just 23 runs to work with from his offense. Lee had a fantastic season, but if you look at everything but their records, Halladay should be the obvious pick — at least to me. I’ve included K-Rod in the top three as an honorary pick for setting the all-time single-season saves record. I realize he arguably wasn’t the best closer this season, but that record is too impressive to ignore.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1. Dustin Pedroia, BOS: .326 AVG, 17 HR, 54 2B, 83 RBI, 213 H, 118 R, .869 OPS
2. Justin Morneau, MIN: .302 AVG, 23 HR, 47 2B, 129 RBI, .877 OPS
3. Kevin Youkilis, BOS: .312 AVG, 29 HR, 115 RBI, .958 OPS

Apologies to: Carlos Quentin, CWS; Miguel Cabrera, DET; Alex Rodriguez, NYY; Joe Mauer, MIN; Josh Hamilton, TEX; Milton Bradley, TEX.

COMMENT: Through August, Quentin seemed destined to take home the AL MVP — that was until he broke his wrist by slapping his bat in frustration. With Quentin missing the final month, this race became wide open. My first reaction was to give it to Morneau, considering Minny wasn’t expected to do anything this season and, without him, they wouldn’t have. But, upon further review, I bought into the Pedroia hype. He plays a strong second base, helped out in the heart of Boston’s order when David Ortiz was out, and put up some solid numbers for a little guy. One that I always look at is strikeouts to walks, and Pedroia fanned 52 times and drew 50 walks — almost even. He also stole 20 bases and was caught just once. Oh, and he led the league in hits and runs scored. Good enough for me.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

1. Evan Longoria, TB: .272 AVG, 27 HR, 31 2B, 85 RBI, .531 SLG, .874 OPS
2. Alexei Ramirez, CWS: .290 AVG, 21 HR, 77 RBI
3. Armando Galarraga, DET: 13-7, 3.73 ERA, 178.2 IP

Apologies to: Jose Arredondo, LAA; David Murphy, TEX; Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS; Mike Aviles, KC; Glen Perkins, MIN; Nick Blackburn, MIN; Jesse Carlson, TOR.

COMMENT: This is a no brainer. Longoria is practically the posterboy for Tampa Bay’s turnaround this season. From worst team in baseball in ’07, to AL East champs in ’08, with Longoria unaware of what it was like to play for a losing team in St. Pete. His numbers would be solid over a full season, but he missed time due to injury, and put up those totals in 448 at-bats. It’s similar to what Ryan Braun did last year for the Brewers en route to the NL’s ROY honor. Behind Longoria, there is a wealth of talent in this rookie class, but Ramirez and Galarraga stand out. Ellsbury could just as easily be among the top three as well.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

1. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay: 97-65
2. Terry Francona, Boston: 95-67
3. Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota, 88-74

COMMENT: Maddon should be a unanimous pick for this award. It’s one thing to show improvement, but to climb out of the cellar and jump over all four AL East teams to claim the crown? And on a $44 million payroll? The Rays should have shed the “Devil” tag a lot sooner. As for Francona, he’s done an admirable job with an injury-riddled roster all year long, and Garden hire took advantage of a surprisingly weak AL Central, putting the Twins within striking distance of the playoffs — maybe even in the playoffs with a win tonight.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

CY YOUNG AWARD

1. Tim Lincecum, SF: 18-5, 2.62 ERA, 265 K, 227 IP, 1.17 WHIP, .221 BAA
2. Brandon Webb, ARI: 22-7, 3.30 ERA, 183 K, 65 BB, 3 CG, 1.20 WHIP
3. Ryan Dempster, CHC: 17-6, 2.96 ERA

Apologies to: Johan Santana, NYM; C.C. Sabathia, MIL; Brad Lidge, PHI.

COMMENT: Anyone wish the Blue Jays would’ve swung that trade for Lincecum now? The young right-hander threw down some wicked numbers for a weak San Francisco squad this season, and no disrespect to Webb and his 22 dubyas, but Lincecum was the top pitcher in the league. Timmy had a 3.15 K/BB ratio and logged a quality start (at least six innings and no more than three earned runs) 79 percent of the time.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1. Albert Pujols, STL: .357 AVG, 37 HR, 44 2B, 116 RBI, 100 R, .653 SLG, 1.114 OPS
2. Ryan Howard, PHI: .251 AVG, 48 HR, 146 RBI, 105 R, .543 SLG
3. David Wright, NYM: .302 AVG, 33 HR, 42 2B, 124 RBI, 115 R, .924 OPS

Apologies to: Chipper Jones, ATL; Lance Berkman, HOU; Hanley Ramirez, FLA; Carlos Delgado, NYM; Ryan Ludwick, STL; Manny Ramirez, LAD.

COMMENT: Why on Earth would Pujols want to get that elbow surgery? If it ain’t broke…you know? Prince Albert had (yawn) another season of .330/30/100 — his fifth such showing in eight years. This year, he did so with a team that wasn’t expected to do much. So they finished fourth, they could’ve been a lot worse off this season, and where would they have been without him? I don’t always buy into the “MVPs shouldn’t be on teams that don’t make the playoffs” argument. The Cardinals were within striking distance most of the season in a year no one thought they’d do anything. That credit goes largely to Albert. There’s a serious case to be made for Howard and Wright as well, and Jones should get some well-earned consideration, too.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

1. Geovany Soto, CHC: .285 AVG, 23 HR, 86 RBI, .868 OPS
2. Joey Votto, CIN: .297 AVG, 24 HR, 84 RBI, .874 OPS
3. Jair Jurrjens, ATL: 13-10, 3.68 ERA, 139 K, 188.1 IP

Apologies to: Kosuke Fukudome, CHC; Johnny Cueto, CIN; Hiroki Kuroda, LAD.

COMMENT: There’s certainly a case to be made for Toronto native Joey Votto, but what Soto has done behind the plate has been integral to the Cubs’ success this year. Handing a rookie catcher a full-time job takes is a leap of faith in its own, but Soto came through in a big way. Offensively, he was strong all year. Behind the plate, Soto had a 3.80 catcher’s ERA, which was the second-best mark among qualified NL regulars. Now, the Cubbies are in the playoffs for the second straight year — a first since 1907-08 — and vying for their first World Series title in a century. Oh, and Soto was nails for my league champion fantasy team. Just saying…

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

1. Lou Piniella, CHC: 97-64
2. Charlie Manuel, PHI: 92-70
3. Cecil Cooper, HOU: 86-75

COMMENT: As noted in the previous section, Cubs fans are enjoying a type of success they haven’t witnessed in 100 years. Piniella deserves all the credit in the world for helping Chicago reach this point. The Cubs were the best team in the National League this year, making me wish I was still just a kid in Chi-town. Manuel and his Phils benefited from another Mets collapse and won the NL East for a second straight year, this time with 92 wins. It helps having a pair of MVPs in your lineup. As for Cooper, I’m including him for Houston’s surprise act in the second half. They came out of nowhere and ended up right in the thick of the Wild Card race.

So, there you have it. Comments and arguments are always welcome. Who are your picks?

That's all she wrote

BALTIMORE — So, this is it. The fat lady is warming up, while the Blue Jays get ready to play out Game No. 162 to complete this 2008 campaign. It’s been an interesting season — stellar pitching, subpar hitting, a managerial change and a fourth place finish for Toronto.

There were some silver linings: Doc Halladay doing what he does best, A.J. Burnett having a career year, B.J. Ryan coming back from Tommy John, the bullpen performing as baseball’s best, the promotion of Travis Snider, the emergence of Joe Inglett and Jesse Carlson, the versatility of Marco Scutaro and the return of Cito Gaston.

There were some forgettable items: Aaron Hill being knocked out for the year with a concussion, Alex Rios struggling to clear the fence, Vernon Wells landing on the shelf twice due to freak injuries, Scott Rolen battling a shoulder injury — again, the losses of Dustin McGowan until next year, the loss of Shaun Marcum until 2010, the canning of John Gibbons, and that mild war of words between J.P. Ricciardi and Adam Dunn.

Now comes the offseason: Jays trying to convince Burnett to stay, maybe going after a designated hitter or a shortstop, the possible resignation of president and CEO Paul Godfrey, and Toronto trying to avoid a bleak forecast for its rotation.

As for me, I’ll be following the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the playoffs and then running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12. I’ll be blogging throughout the winter and will be back at it again in 2009. Coming this week, I’ll dish out the 2008 Bastian Awards, providing my picks for the annual season-end awards.

And, one last time this year, here are:

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (85-76) at BALTIMORE (68-92)
at 1:35 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

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

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (12-9, 3.67)

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

PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-11, 3.57)

The preparing pitch to keep Burnett

BALTIMORE — A source with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed on Saturday that the Blue Jays are preparing to offer pitcher A.J. Burnett two additional years at around $30 million on top of his current contract, which expires after 2010.

“I don’t think a number has been put down yet,” the source said. “That’s probably as good a guess as anything, though. But, terms haven’t really been discussed.”

Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has repeatedly noted that he hasn’t been in contact with Burnett’s representative, but the pitcher said Saturday that his agent, Darek Braunecker, met with Ricciardi recently in Toronto.

Upon hearing that, Ricciardi altered his story.

“We talked, but it wasn’t about money or anything like that,” he said.

If the contract extension being offered is indeed four-years, $54 million through 2012, including the $24 million Burnett is owed over the next two seasons under his current deal, it will fall short of what the right-hander could command on the open market.

Another source indicated that Burnett could potentially fetch between $15-20 million annually over a long-term deal as a free agent. Burnett said he still hasn’t decided whether or not he’s going to opt out of his contract to test his value.

“I haven’t decided that. I don’t know,” Burnett said. “It depends on what these guys offer and on what me and my family think and then we’ll make that decision after that. But I’m not 100 percent going to opt out.”

Toronto’s best shot at signing Burnett is in October, before other teams can start talking to him.

“That’s the only way,” a source said. “If he declares the opt out, chances decrease tremendously.”

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (85-75) at BALTIMORE (67-92)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

BLUE JAYS
MaJoe Inglett, 2B
Jose Bautista, 3B
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Brad Wilkerson, CF
Kevin Mench, LF
Travis Snider, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: LHP John Parrish (1-0, 4.10)

ORIOLES
Jay Payton, RF
Luis Montanez, LF
Melvin Mora, DH
Oscar Salazar, 3B
Adam Jones, CF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Kevin Millar, 1B
Alex Cintron, SS
Brandon Fahey, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Brian Bass (3-4, 5.08)

Cito's Wishlist

BALTIMORE — Prior to tonight’s game here against the O’s at Camden Yards, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was asked what his wishlist would be for this offseason, if he had the luxury of an unlimited payroll.

Wish Numero Uno was for the Blue Jays to find a way to retain pitcher A.J. Burnett, who will likely opt out of his contract at the end of the year. Gaston then said Toronto would benefit from maybe adding some more power to the lineup. When pressed, Cito offered up some names.

“There’s a few of them out there,” Gaston said. “Giambi is out there. I think the kid down in Texas, Bradley is out there. The guys that have a little pop. I don’t know who else. There’s a few more out there, I’m pretty sure, but those names come to mind.”

Jason Giambi of the Yankees, who has ties to Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi from their days in Oakland, will likely have his $22 million club option for 2009 declined by New York. Milton Bradley, who is having a great season for the Rangers, is due to become a free agent as well.

When told of Cito’s comments, Ricciardi shook his head and laughed.

“Our manager shoudn’t be talking about players that are playing for other teams,” he said with a chuckle. “We’ll see. We’ll see what the market bears. We’ll see what we can do. Our first priority will be to try to get A.J. to see if we can keep him here.

“I think things will build off that. If we get him, then we can do other things. If we can’t, then we’ll try other things.”

Today’s lineups:

TORONTO (84-75) at BALTIMORE (67-91)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Jose Bautista, 1B
Alex Rios, CF
Vernon Wells, DH
Adam Lind, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Travis Snider, RF
Curtis Thigpen, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Scott Richmond (0-3, 5.14)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Nick Markakis, RF
Melvin Mora, DH
Aubrey Huff, 3B
Oscar Salazar, 1B
Adam Jones, CF
Luke Scott, LF
Omir Santos, C
Brandon Fahey, SS

PITCHING: LHP Chris Waters (3-4, 5.06)

Jays extend Cito

TORONTO – The Blue Jays reached an agreement on a two-year contract extension for manager Cito Gaston on Thursday afternoon, keeping him at the helm through the 2010 season. Toronto did not disclose the financial terms of Gaston’s new deal.

After an 11-year absence from the manager’s seat, the 64-year-old Gaston was named the Blue Jays’ manager on June 20, after the club dismissed John Gibbons. Through 84 games since Gaston’s arrivale, Toronto has posted a 48-36 record and pulled within striking distance of the American League Wild Card in early September.

Prior to joining Toronto this season, Gaston last managed the Blue Jays from 1989-97, guiding the team to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93. Gaston, who is the first two-time manager in franchise history, owns a career managerial record of 749-685 in his time with the Blue Jays.

Toronto hasn’t announced its coaching staff for 2009, though Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said an announcement could come this weekend. Gaston has indicated that he’d like each of the Jays’ coaches to return, and those who decide to stay with the club will likely receive two-year contracts as well.

Today’s lineups:

NEW YORK (87-71) at TORONTO (83-75)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

YANKEES
Brett Gardner, CF
Robinson Cano. 2B
Bobby Abreu, DH
Xavier Nady, RF
Jason Giambi, 1B
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Cody Ransom, SS
Melky Cabrera, LF
Francisco Cervelli, C

PITCHING: RHP Carl Pavano (4-1, 4.99)

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

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (19-11, 2.81)

A.J.'s last stand?

TORONTO — Could this be A.J. Burnett’s final start in a Blue Jays uniform? That seems to be a very realistic possibility. Burnett could come back on short rest and potentially go for win No. 20 on the season’s final day, but he’s already said he won’t do that.

Why would he? Burnett is on the verge of cashing in big time as a free agent, if he opts out of his contract, and winning 20 won’t fetch him much more dough that he would get otherwise. So why risk a possible injury in your final start?

Aaron Hill took some time to speak with reporters today and Toronto’s second baseman is feeling good. He has an appointment with a neurologist in the area on Thursday, and he said he full expects to be cleared to begin his normal offseason routine. So, good news.

Hill was asked if he’d be willing to potentially move to shortstop next season, if the Blue Jays asked as much from him. Hill said he’d prefer to stay at second base, and said most of his teammates have told him they’d prefer him there as well. Hill said it’d take his teammates telling him a move to short was best for the team for him to move.

Also, manager Cito Gaston said last week that he believed his contract extension might be announced before the end of this homestand. Well, that’s tomorrow, so we’ll see if his prediction holds up. Cito didn’t sound entirely confident that it’d be settled as early as Thursday when the topic came up today:

“I dont know. I’m going to probably be back for a day or so next week. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, who knows? Hopefully, before the week’s up.”

Today’s lineups:

NEW YORK (86-71) at TORONTO (83-74)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

YANKEES
Brett Gardner, CF
Robinson Cano. 2B
Bobby Abreu, RF
Xavier Nady, LF
Jason Giambi, DH
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Cody Ransom, SS
Juan Miranda, 1B
Chad Moeller, C

PITCHING: RHP Phil Hughes (0-4, 7.96)

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

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (18-9, 4.18)

Moose has few fans in TO

TORONTO — Riding the elevator up to the press level here at Rogers Centre, I was standing beside Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi and the friendly elevator operator. He turned to J.P., points to Mike Mussina’s name on the lineup sheet that was taped to the wall and said, “I don’t like this guy.”

He isn’t alone. It’s no secret that Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston isn’t a fan of Mussina, and that’s putting it lightly. Earlier this season, when asked about Mussina — tonight’s starter for the Yankees — Gaston said, “Mike Mussina can kiss my [posterior], and you can tell him I said that,”

Today, when told that Mussina might never win 20 games in a season if Toronto won tonight’s game, Gaston smiled and said, “Man, I wish I was playing.” There were laughs all around as Cito left the dugout. Gaston’s dislike of Mussina dates back to the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore, when the manager didn’t use the pitcher in his home city.

In the ninth inning, Mussina began to warm up in the bullpen — without the go-ahead from Gaston — and he later claimed that he was simply throwing a side session in preparation for his next start. That was his story, but it was thought by some to be Mussina’s way of trying to force his way into the game. Gaston instead used Toronto’s Duane Ward to finish off the AL’s win.

Good times.

As for today’s Blue Jays? Casey Janssen is in town and is throwing from a distance of roughly 105 feet. He’ll work his way up to 120 feet and then on to a mound over the next month before shutting it down for a month or so.

Gaston said that the rotation for the upcoming series in Baltimore will be Scott Richmond, John Parrish and Jesse Litsch. David Purcey has been shut down for the season in light of the volume of innings he’s thrown between Triple-A and Toronto.

Today’s lineups:

NEW YORK (85-71) at TORONTO (83-73)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

YANKEES
Brett Gardner, CF
Johnny Damon, LF
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jason Giambi, 1B
Xavier Nady, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Cody Ransom, SS
Jose Molina, C

PITCHING: RHP Mike Mussina (18-9, 3.57)

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

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (12-8, 3.72)

Marcum sets a date

TORONTO — Back after a day of fighting a nasty cold, but feeling better today. Pretty relaxed morning over here at the Rogers Centre, where the Jays lounged around playing cards and listening to the Bloodhound Gang. Awesome.

While hanging out in the clubhouse, Shaun Marcum strolled by and said he’s down to go under the knife on Sept. 30. Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery in Birmingham, Ala. In a best-case scenario, Marcum could be throwing again by June or so and maybe even pitching a few innings for the Jays by next September.

Also, young Travis Snider — he of the .333 average and .549 slugging since being promoted to Toronto — will not be taking part in the Arizona Fall League this October. Snider was originally down to play in the AFL, but that was before the Blue Jays decided to call him up for the season’s final month.

Today’s lineups:

BOSTON (90-64) at TORONTO (83-72)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Mark Kotsay, RF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Sean Casey, 1B
Jason Varitek, C

PITCHING: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (17-2, 2.93)

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

PITCHING: RHP Scott Richmond (0-2, 5.06)

Marcum done until 2010

TORONTO – In case the news hasn’t reached you yet, Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum is done for the season — next season, that is. Marcum needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and won’t be able to pitch for Toronto until 2010. Bad news in Bird Land.

So, if A.J. Burnett opts out of his contract — the most likely scenario — Toronto’s projected rotation for Opening Day 2009 includes Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, aaaaand….Casey Janssen? Brett Cecil? Ricky Romero? Scott Richmond? Behind the top three, it’s all up in the air.

But, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi the sudden loss of Marcum doesn’t figure to impact any of his offseason plans. So, while he’s said Toronto might offer another year or two on Burnett’s contract in an effort to sway him to stay, Ricciardi said he won’t be pushing any panic buttons due to the rotation’s cloudy forecast.

“We’re not going to do something out of panic,” Ricciardi said. “I don’t feel like we have to do anything. I feel like we’ve got young pitchers here who we’re pretty much convinced that they can come here and pitch. We’ll go with those guys.”

Marcum, meanwhile, fought back tears as he delivered the news of his upcoming surgery to reporters this afternoon. Toronto hasn’t heard back from Dr. James Andrews just yet, and there’s no schedule date as of now for the operation, but the procedure is coming and it’ll take Marcum out of the picture for all of next season.

“You’ve got to deal with it,” Marcum said. “It’s part of the game — injuries happen. I’ve just got to move forward and try to get healthy as soon as possible and be back here to help this club in 2010.”

Today’s lineups:

BOSTON (89-63-83) at TORONTO (82-71)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Sean Casey, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Mark Kotsay, RF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Jason Varitek, C

PITCHING: RHP Paul Byrd (11-12, 4.53)

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

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.19)

Marcum's status murky

TORONTO – There is still no news about the status of Jays starter Shaun Marcum, but the extent of the lack of update seemed almost cryptic. Basically, Marcum underwent an MRI on his right arm, but the Jays won’t say what the results are just yet.

Instead, Toronto is getting a second opinion from arm specialist Dr. James Andrews and plans on announcing the extent of Marcum’s injury on Friday. Marcum, meanwhile, said his forearm is still tender, though there’s no more numbness in his hand.

“Right now, we’re still looking at results and we’ll probably know a little bit more tomorrow,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “They still want to look at it a little more before I can say anything to you guys. They want to make sure what they’re seeing is what they’re seeing.”

If what they’re seeing requires surgery, that would immediately put Marcum in doubt to break camp with the Jays at the start of 2009. So, behind Roy Halladay, you’re talking about a mix of Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen, David Purcey, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and maybe Scott Richmond for starting jobs.

“It just means one of the other kids has to step up and go in that role,” Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but I guess you’ve got to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

There’s the chance that the Jays would consider Scott Downs or Brian Wolfe as starters. Dustin McGowan could be out until May. A.J. Burnett could opt out and become a free agent. In the latter department, Ricciardi did not that the Jays are willing to explore adding a year or two on Burnett’s contract to maybe convince him to stick around.

“We’d love to have him stay,” Ricciardi said. “But if someone wants to blow him out of the water, that won’t be us. We would think about that, adding some years, but we’re not going to get in a bidding war. There’s got to be an interest on his part to stay, too.”

As for catcher Rod Barajas, he has a Grade 2 tear of his left hamstring and could be done for the season. Downs is still day to day with a right ankle injury. Me? I’m injury free — over a nasty bout of tendinitis — and counting down the days to the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12. Last thing I need is hamstring or ankle issues. Arm problems I can deal with…

Today’s lineups:

BALTIMORE (67-83) at TORONTO (81-71)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Alex Cintron, SS
Nick Markakis, RF
Aubrey Huff, 3B
Kevin Millar, 1B
Luke Scott, LF
Oscar Salazar, DH
Jay Payton, CF
Omir Santos, C

PITCHING: LHP Garrett Olson (9-8, 6.84)

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Jose Bautista, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, DH
Scott Rolen, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Curtis Thigpen, C
Travis Snider, LF

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (11-8, 3.75)

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