March 2009

Roster taking shape, Jays @ Phils pregame

So, here’s what we now know:

The Blue Jays’ bullpen will include B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson, Brian Tallet, Brandon League, Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp. The bench will have Kevin Millar, Jose Bautista and John McDonald.

The only races left are for the backup catching job and the fifth starting job. No. 5 candidate Brad Mills is taking on the Phils tonight. His competition, Scott Richmond, takes the hill Thursday in Lakeland against the Tigers.

Toronto optioned reliever Jeremy Accardo to Triple-A Las Vegas today and manager Cito Gaston said utility man Joe Inglett will also be sent down. As far as the ‘pen, Gaston said he didn’t want to break up the group that led MLB in bullpen ERA last year. With Inglett, it was purely a numbers game — no room in the inn.

Gaston was also asked if he had any interest in recently released slugger Gary Sheffield and he said no. Adding Sheff would likely mean Travis Snider would be sent to the Minors and Gaston doesn’t feel that would be moving in the right direction. GM J.P. Ricciardi, reached by phone, also said there was no interest in Sheffield on the Jays’ end.

Asked if he was closer to making a decision on taking either Michael Barrett or Raul Chavez north as the backup catcher, Gaston said the move would be made before Friday. All spring, I’ve been saying Barrett was the front-runner for that job, but here’s what Cito had to say today:

“Both have played well. It’s a situation that Chavez has probably played better. But Mike’s starting to come around swinging the bat. It’s going to be one of those things, we’re going to try to do the best thing for the club.”

So, advantage Chavez? We’ll see.

Don’t forget, you can follow my in-game updates at www.twitter.com/mlbastian 

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Jose Bautista, 3B
Adam Lind, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Travis Snider, LF
Rod Barajas, C
Aaron Mathews, RF
John McDonald, SS

Brad Mills, P

PHILLIES
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Jayson Werth, RF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Shane Victorino, CF
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Chris Coste, C
Miguel Cairo, DH

Brett Myers, P

~JB

Romero makes the team, Yanks @ Jays pregame

Vernon Wells was walking into the clubhouse today, when he spotted a group of us reporters gathered not far away. Wells quickly grabbed his left wrist, grimaced in pain and started yelling “Trainer! Trainer!”

Then, he broke into a wide grin and started laughing.

“Just wanted to give you something to write about,” Wells said later. “In case you were bored.”

So, Wells was in a bit of a joking mood about his left wrist, which has been sore for the past few days. Manager Cito Gaston has indicated that Wells will likely return to the Jays’ lineup on Tuesday night. Travis Snider (left knee) said he was feeling better and is back in the lineup today. Rod Barajas (back) was given another day off.

But, about that rotation…

Gaston said this morning that left-hander Ricky Romero has made the team, and will pitch in the No. 4 spot. That leaves Brad Mills (pitching Tuesday) and Scott Richmond (pitching Thursday) for the final rotation job.

Gaston also noted that right-hander Jesse Litsch will slide into the No. 3 hole, with lefty David Purcey moving into the second spot. This move is to break up the rotation some. Righty Roy Halladay, followed by a lefty and then Litsch, another righty. Plus, if Mills also makes it, that’s another two lefties at the back end.

Mills is scheduled to only pitch four or five innings on Tuesday night against the Phils. Gaston said this is in case Mills is going to pitch on Friday or Saturday in Jupiter, which would be on short rest and would also be an abbreviated piggyback outing. Litsch is skedded to start on Friday and Romero on Saturday.

Today’s lineup:

YANKEES
Derek Jeter, SS
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Cody Ransom, 3B
Jose Molina, C
Brett Gardner, CF

Andy Pettitte, P

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Kevin Millar, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Adam Lind, LF
Travis Snider, RF
Michael Barrett, C

David Purcey, P

~JB

Jays @ Astros pregame

Drove through a driving rain to get to ol’ Osceola County Stadium here this morning and with an hour before game time the tarp is still on the diamond. The rain has let up, though, and I don’t think a rainout is in our future.

Chatted with manager Cito Gaston about a few things today. One being that Vernon Wells, Travis Snider and Rod Barajas — all circled on the travel roster for today — did not make the trip to Kissimmee. Wells hurt his left wrist yesterday and had a cortisone shot, out for a few days. Snider jarred his left knee yesterday and Barajas is nursing a sore back.

Gaston said he doesn’t believe any of the injuries are serious and the disabled list hasn’t been discussed for any of the players at this point, even with the season right around the corner. Well broke the same wrist last year and Cito said the center fielder hurt it during his last at-bat yesterday.

Also talked about Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan, who continue to make their way back from injuries. It’s been tossed out there that Marcum might be ready by August or September, but Cito says he doesn’t see the point in bringing him back before next year. As for McGowan, he continues to be behind and Cito said he might be out of the picture until next year as well.

On the hill today is Ricky Romero, making his last bid for a job in the rotation. It’s down to Romero, Brad Mills and Scott Richmond. Gaston still isn’t showing his hand in terms of which way the Jays are leaning for the Nos. 4-5 slots. I’ve been saying Richmond/Mills all along, but now I could just as easily see them going with Mills/Romero.

We’ll know soon enough…

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Kevin Millar, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Adam Lind, LF
Jose Bautista, 3B
Raul Chavez, C
Moises Sierra, RF

Ricky Romero, P

ASTROS
Kaz Matsui, DH
Hunter Pence, RF
Darin Erstad, 1B
Carlos Lee, LF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Geoff Blum, 3B
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Jason Michaels, CF
Jason Smith, 2B

Brian Moehler, P

~JB

Tigers at Jays pregame

Some minor movement here at Dunedin Stadium this morning. Blue Jays manager called a handful of players into his office — none unexpected — and sent them packing for the Minor Leagues.

Returned to Minors camp were Jason Lane, Russ Adams, Dirk Hayhurt, Scott Campbell and Brad Emaus. Brian Wolfe was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Adams, who is in a similar situation as Curtis Thigpen was before being dealt to the A’s yesterday — no clear home in the organization — said he’d welcome a trade in order to have a fresh start.

“Without question,” Adams said. “It’s one of those things where you’re caught in a bit of a trap and all you can do is continue to play and hope something breaks through at some point, whether it’s here or with somebody else. I’ve just kind of got to take things in stride and hope there’s some kind of a break around the corner.”

With that in mind, Adams was happy that Gaston gave him as much playing time as he did this spring. Same with Lane, who has five homers in Grapefruit League play. Gaston noted that Lane played well enough to make the team, but there’s simply no room for the veteran outfielder with Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Travis Snider and Adam Lind in the fold.

“It’s just one of things with numbers with him,” Gaston said. “He’s just one of those guys that in case something goes down — somebody gets hurt — we’ve got him in the Minor Leagues.”

As for the rotation, Gaston said the roster will be set before the team heads to Jupiter on Friday for two days of exhibition games with the Marlins. Scott Richmond goes today. Gaston also said again that the team might be leaning toward sliding David Purcey into the No. 2 slot to avoid having two or three lefty starters in a row.

Tigers brought a solid A squad today. And the wind is howling straight in from center field. It should be a good test for Richmond. Jays’ lineup — minus Rod Barajas not being in there — looks close to what it will probably be come Opening Day.

Today’s lineup:

TIGERS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Carlos Guillen, LF
Gary Sheffield, DH
Gerald Laird, C
Brandon Inge, 3B
Danny Worth, SS

Edwin Jackson, P

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Adam Lind, DH
Michael Barrett, C
Travis Snider, LF

Scott Richmond, P

~JB

Ryan has no comment, Thigpen traded

Headed over to Dunedin Stadium this afternoon to try to catch up with B.J. Ryan before his appearance here tonight in Bradenton. Ryan was polite and apologetic, but said he declined comment in relation to his velocity issue right now.

“I don’t have anything to say,” he said. “Nothing prosperous.”

Soooo, I guess that’s that for now. We’ll obviously keep trying as the next week rolls along.

Some other movement today: The Jays have dealt catcher Curtis Thigpen to the A’s in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. I hope Thigpen can find a place with Oakland. His stock had fallen with Toronto and catchers J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman had flown passed Thigpen on the depth chart.

Had he not been traded, Thigpen would’ve likely would up at Double-A as the backup to Jeroloman, and maybe would’ve been moved around the field as a kind of super utility guy. Thigpen is a guy I also covered briefly when he was with the Lansing Lugnuts back in ’04, when I was still at Michigan State, so I’ll be pulling for him.

The Jays also released pitchers Mike Maroth and Rick Bauer today. As for Matt Clement, he showed up at Minor League camp and has accepted the invite to pitch at Triple-A. Good move on his part. If he pitches well, he’ll likely receive a chance to start for the Jays at some point this season. He gives the club some veteran depth in a year that will feature a lot of young arms.

It’s a windy night here in Bradenton. More later…

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Brad Emaus, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Rod Barajas, C
Travis Snider, LF
Howie Clark, DH

Roy Halladay, P

PIRATES
Nyjer Morgan, LF
Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Nate McLouth, CF
Ryan Doumit, C
Eric Hinske, 1B
Brandon Moss, RF
Andy LaRoche, 3B
Brian Bixler, SS
Virgil Vasquez, P

~JB

Conerns about Ryan, Jays @ Braves

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston indicated today that the club has some concerns about closer B.J. Ryan, whose pitch velocity is lower than it has been in the past. Ryan is hitting 84-86 mph regularly, compared to being between 86-90 last year.

“We’re just kind of searching for answers right now,” pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said. “We’re trying a little bit of everything. I’ve watched film on him and pulled up three years ago and pulled up last year and it’s just a little bit of an oddity right now to me.”

Arnsberg said he and Ryan have been working on some mechanical adjustments to hopefully help create more pitch speed. One issue is that Arnsberg said Ryan’s cutter and four-seam fastball are registering at about the same velocity right now.

When asked if the Jays might consider using other pitchers in the ninth-inning role should this issue persist, Gaston didn’t say no. Ryan is the closer, but Gaston said he felt, knowing Ryan, that the pitcher would probably come to him and be honest about his ability to contribute if this continues to be a problem.

Check bluejays.com later for more on this…

Other items: The Jays haven’t heard from Matt Clement yet about whether he will accept an assignment to Triple-A. Toronto will likely know by Friday or Saturday. … Casey Janssen had a cortisone shot after injuring his right shoulder last Thursday and played catch for the first time since the injury on Tuesday. … Something to keep in mind about the bullpen race: Of the four right-handers vying for three open spots, Jason Frasor and Jeremy Accardo both have a player option remaining. They can be sent down without needing to be passed through waivers first, and neither have enough service time to refuse a Minor League assignment.

PARCHED: A little disappointed in the Wide World of Sports complex here. Now, the free media lunch was much appreciated and quite delicious, but this might be the only park where you can’t get a bottle of water! Not all of us drink pop, you know. Good thing I brought one from home. Otherwise, this could’ve been a bad day.

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Jason Lane, CF
Jose Bautista, 3B
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS
Brad Mills, P

BRAVES
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Chipper Jones, 3B
Brian McCann, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Greg Norton, 1B
Brandon Jones, LF
Jordan Schafer, CF
Derek Lowe, P

~JB

Clement cut, Phils @ Jays pregame

Wow, just got back into the pressbox after about a five-minute long sneezing fit. The A/C in here was up a tad high I think. I haven’t had a prolonged sneeze attack like that in a looong time. Man am I glad it’s over.

But, enough about me…

The Jays sent Matt Clement and Curtis Thigpen — no surprises there — back to Minor League camp. Clement is going to talk to his agent and discuss whether he should accept a Triple-A assignment. As for Thigpen, it’s not clear what’s next. Could be a backup in Double-A with playing time at multiple spots.

Here’s what GM J.P. Ricciardi had to say on Clement:

“The only thing we can do is if a guy goes down and pitches well they get the opportunity to come back to the big leagues. But, we can’t give you any assurance that we’re going to call you up to the big leagues. It’s all based on performance.

“I think Matt is getting better. Every time out, he gets a little better and I think he owes it to himself to go down for a couple more months and give himself a real legit shot. He’s coming back from something major and I think he’s made major strides.

“But, right now, we don’t think he can make our big league club — right now. That doesn’t mean in June he might be more equipped to do that. He’s definitely got to pitch somewhere. He likes it here. He likes the guys that are here and he likes Arnsberg.

“He’s in a good situation, we know him. We just think he needs a little more time and we’re willing to give him that time. It’s up to him if he wants to take advantage of it.”

Travis Snider is back in the lineup, Marco Scutaro is as well, but Lyle Overbay was sent home with the flu. Overbay took part in morning BP and fielding drills. Minus Overbay, the lineup is probably pretty darn close to what you’ll see come Opening Day.

Beyond Clement and Thigpen, the Jays also returned Brian Burres, Randy Ruiz and Angel Sanchez to Minors camp. With Thigpen gone, it’s down to Michael Barrett and Raul Chavez for the backup jobs — Barrett in the lead. With Clement out, it’s down to Scott Richmond, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero for the Nos. 4-5 starting jobs. I still say it’ll be Richmond and Mills… we’ll see.

Today’s lineups:

PHILLIES
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Shane Victorino, CF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Raul Ibanez, LF
Pedrio Feliz, 3B
Chris Coste, DH
Carlos Ruiz, C

Chan Ho Park, P

JAYS
Marco Scutaro, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Vernon Wells, DH
Scott Rolen, 3B
Kevin Millar, 1B
Adam Lind, LF
Rod Barajas, C
Travis Snider, RF

David Purcey, P

~JB

Jays @ Reds

It’s spitting rain here at Ed Smith Stadium, but not really enough to call this game I wouldn’t think. Then again, I’m not a weatherman. I’m hoping it goes on as planned, because I’m looking forward to seeing if Ricky Romero can really pull himself back into the hunt for a rotation job.

Manager Cito Gaston still wouldn’t say whether Matt Clement would be gretting another start, but he didn’t sound confident that was going to happen. Gaston keeps noting that the Jays are reaching the point where the innings need to go to the guys who might be heading north, and I’d find it hard to believe Clement is still in the mix.

So, we’re still left with Scott Richmond, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero. Gaston said that there is no hesitation on Toronto’s part to hand a job to Mills due to the fact that he has no career innings at Triple-A. That doesn’t mean Mills has a job, just that his lack of AAA innings isn’t going to be an obstacle.

Gaston did say that, in the event that three lefties (David Purcey, Mills and Romero) wind up in the rotation come Opening Day, Jesse Litsch might be moved into the No. 3 hole to break up all the left-handers. Gaston said, if that happened, he’d be sure to talk with Litsch to assure him that it wasn’t a demotion at all.

Marco Scutaro has returned to the Jays and Gaston said he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow. Same for Travis Snider, who didn’t make the trip to Sarasota today as originally planned. Snider is coming back from a sore left knee and Gaston said he was playing in a Minor League game as a DH back in Dunedin today.

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Randy Ruiz, 1B
Aaron Matthews, LF
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS

Ricky Romero, P

REDS
Norris Hopper, CF
Chris Dickerson, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Adam Rosales, 3B
Jay Bruce, RF
Jeff Keppinger, 2B
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Ryan Hanigan, C
Edinson Volquez, P

~JB

Jays @ Twins pregame

It’s no coincidence that Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi mentioned Ricky Romero as a rotation candidate again yesterday, a few days after Casey Janssen fell out of the running due to muscle tightness near his right shoulder. With Janssen out, Romero is being given another look.

“That’s one of the reasons,” manager Cito Gaston said on Sunday. “He’s pitched over at the complex, too. He’s pitched well. I guess the last time we played Philly, J.P. went over and watched him pitch and [pitching coach Brad] Arnsberg has been working with him and he really says he’s come on quick. He retains well and I’m looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.

“I know he has the arm to pitch here, that’s for sure. He really does.”

Romero is being handed six innings in tomorrow’s “A” game against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla. Righty Jesse Litsch will move over to Minor League camp to get his scheduled start in. Today, we’ve got Scott Richmond and Matt Clement set to make their case for a job. Sp, another day, another element added to the rotation situation.

Still no word on the signing of Shawn Hill to a Minor League contract. He’s talking to other teams as well, but the Jays remain very much in the picture. When and if he signs, I will be sure to let you guys know. Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava said Leon Boyd will likely open at Double-A.

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Russ Adams, RF
Brad Emaus, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Jason Lane, CF
Michael Barrett, C
Randy Ruiz, 1B
Scott Campbell, 3B
Kyle Phillips, DH
Justin Jackson, SS

Matt Clement, P
Scott Richmond, P

TWINS
Denard Span, CF
Nick Punto, SS
Jason Kubel, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Joe Crede, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Tolbert, 2B

Scott Baker, P

~JB

Astros @ Jays pregame

A bunch of little things were discussed by GM J.P. Ricciardi here today at camp. Among them were the news of Toronto trying to sign Shawn Hill, hoping to put the finishing touches on that today, and finally stating what we’ve been assuming about Casey Janssen.

“I think if we can just ease him, he might be another guy by the end of april he’s ready to come back up here. It’s not advantageous for us to let him try to just get up to four or five innings right away. We’ll just ease him back in.”

So, Janssen is set to open the season at extended spring training or at Triple-A, depending on how many innings he can build back up to over the next couple weeks. That leaves Scott Richmond, Matt Clement and Brad Mills in the running for the two rotation jobs. But, Ricciardi tossed Ricky Romero’s name back into the mix today as well.

As for Hill, he’s been righting a right forearm injury all spring, and wouldn’t be signed to come in and compete for a big league job. The Jays are trying to stockpile arms and maybe have more experienced options to help the organization avoid throwing the young arms into the fire before absolutely necessary. Ricciardi wasn’t sure when Hill might be ready to pitch.

“I don’t know outside of just trying to sign him right now. If we sign him, we’ll get him in here. If we get him, he’ll have a physical and then we’ll have a better idea of where he’s at. So obviously we wouldn’t be signing him to come in here and make the major league staff. We’d have to get him up to speed.”

Ricciardi also discussed the backup catching situation, which is down to Michael Barrett, Raul Chavez and Curtis Thigpen. Brian Jeroloman will open at Double-A and J.P. Arencibia at Triple-A. J.P. also noted that the Jays tried to bring catcher Ivan Rodriguez into camp, but couldn’t afford it. More on the catching and rotation stuff later on bluejays.com.

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said today that Travis Snider (left knee) is scheduled to get back into a game on Monday in Sarasota.

Today’s lineup:

ASTROS
Michael Bourn, CF
Jason Smith, SS
Jason Michaels, RF
Carlos Lee, DH
Geoff Blum, 3B
Darin Erstad, 1B
David Newhan, LF
Edwin Maysonet, 2B
Lou Santangelo, C

Jose Capellan, P

JAYS
Joe Inglett, LF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Curtis Thigpen, C
John McDonald, SS

Roy Halladay, P
B.J. Ryan, P
Brian Tallet, P
Scott Downs

~JB

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