That’s how long remains until the Blue Jays’ pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training in Dunedin, Fla. Mark it down: February 14. That means it’s three weeks until yours truly hops on a plane and jets for the Florida sun, leaving the bitter cold of Toronto behind.
It’s been a while since I blogged and, well, I guess you could blame this winter of inactivity on the Blue Jays’ part. There hasn’t been a ton going on, with the exception of a few Minor League contracts (Matt Clement, Mike Maroth, Michael Barrett, Raul Chavez).
On Tuesday night, I did head over to the annual State of the Franchise event, which gives season-ticket holders a townhall type setting to hit the Blue Jays’ brass with questions. GM J.P. Ricciardi, manager Cito Gaston and interim prez Paul Beeston were all on hand for the hour-long Q&A.
Typically, this event has included a lot of questions about the ballpark — whether it’s concerns about concessions or renovations — or about ticket sales and other off-the-field topics. This year, the questions were nearly all about the roster or the budget, and the lack of moves made by the team this offseason.
Of note from the question-and-answer session:
–Ricciardi said the Jays did not agressively pursue slugger Jason Giambi because, A) it’d make the lineup too left-handed (what?) and, B) it’d take at-bats away from youngsters Adam Lind and Travis Snider. The latter would seem to be the main concern.
–It was revealed that, if healthy, Casey Janssen is likely the frontrunner for a spot in Toronto’s rotation. Ricciardi said that would leave Scott Richmond battling out Maroth and Clement for the fifth spot. Then again, the GM added that if a young arm (Cecil, Romero, Mills, for example) steps up in a big way this spring, they could fight their way into a job.
–Ricciardi said the Jays are stepping up their scouting overseas and noted that the club is even in talks right now with a Japanese pitcher.
–Ricciardi and Gaston both said they’d prefer a “catch and throw guy” for the No. 2 catcher’s job. That being the case, one catcher to monitor this spring is prospect Brian Jeroloman. He’ll be battling Chavez, Barrett and Thigpen for the backup role.
–The Jays didn’t ask Halladay to skip the World Baseball Classic, but the team doesn’t mind that he decided against taking part. Gaston and Ricciardi are both hoping the tourney can help hitters like Wells and Rios get off to a hot start, as was the case in 2006.
–Beeston emphasized that Toronto’s budget doesn’t have a limit. He said lowering the payroll to $85 million was “an organizational decision” aimed at helping the club break even financially. Once the club gets into a better financial state, it will be able to better afford high-profile players in future offseasons. With the current economy, and the injuries within the rotation, the club felt this season was better used as a way to get better footing financially, while also giving some young players some much-needed experience.
There was more, but for now, those are some of the highlights for you all to ponder and discuss. And, with the Jays offseason activity in mind, I leave you with this: