March 2009

Do Mills and Richmond have upper hand?

So, it seems as though young Brad Mills can do no wrong in manager Cito Gaston’s eyes. After Friday’s four-run, six-hit, five-inning performance, Gaston was still very forgiving, pointing out missed calls by the umpire and praising Mills’ ability to settle down.

Gaston also offered up this gem:

“Hey, we’re looking forward to having him on this club.”

Quickly adding…

“We’re not sure if he’s going to make it out of camp, but we’ll see what happens in the next week or so.”

On Sunday, Matt Clement and Scott Richmond will pitch in the same game on the road against the Twins. That could be a big game for both of them. Even after today, I get the impression that Mills and Richmond is ahead of Clement in the club’s eyes, which could mean that’s the pair that will be heading north.

An MRI on Janssen’s right shoulder showed a mild muscle strain, according to the Jays, and he’s set to play catch in three days. But, that’s on flat ground. He is now behind and heading north as a starter seems an unlikely scenario, especially with the Jays needing a fifth man right out of the gates.

“He’s going to have to back off either way, whether we want to or not,” said Gaston. “He’s going to be backed off anyway. It might be a little bit of a struggle to get him ready for the season. We have to wait to see what’s going to happen with that.”

As for Richmond, who missed some time due to the WBC and is also a tad behind thanks to not pitching in the tournament, GM J.P. Ricciardi had this to say:

“We’re giving him a little bit of leeway there. Innings wise, he’s behind the other guys, but he’s right in the mix.”

Thoughts, Cito?

“We’re going to try to take the best guys with us and Richmond, he certainly has a great chance of making this ballclub. We all know him, we all like him and he didn’t get a chance to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, but we’ve had him around before and he’s always given us a chance to win a ballgame.”

Ricciardi was very short in his meeting with the media today and worked very hard not to say much of anything. When asked if every start from here on out was a sort of audition for the rotation candidates, this was his response:

“Yeah and no. Right now, we have a pretty good idea what we think we can take. Obviously, if someone goes out and keeps pitching well, it’s only going to make you take notice. But, I think we’re going to take the whole body of work into consideration.”

By “whole body of work,” Ricciardi meant this Spring Training.

Catch you all tomorrow…

~JB

Rays @ Jays pregame

Casey Janssen came through the clubhouse today with MRI results in hand and quickly disappeared into the training room. After he emerged, he shrugged to us reporters and said “Still haven’t heard anything.”

So, as of this writing, there’s no new info on Janssen’s right shoulder, which tightened up on him in the first inning against the Yankees yesterday. Janssen did say his arm “feels a lot better” today, so that’s at least a good sign. I find it hard to believe that he can win a rotation job out of spring now, though.

I think it’s more likely now that Brad Mills is handed one of the available jobs and that Scott Richmond and Matt Clement will be vying for the other. Clement and Richmond and going in the same game on Sunday in Fort Myers. I get the feeling from conversations around camp that Clement is still behind Richmond right now in the team’s eyes.

That being the case, my own opinion is that Richmond takes the other spot to open the season. I also believe that Brett Cecil — unless he gets hurt or struggles mightily at Triple-A — will be up with the Jays by late April or May, likely taking Richmond’s spot (or Clement if he wins the job).

Who really knows, though. I could be dead wrong and Richmond and Clement might both be heading north.

UPDATE — FIRST INNING: Two batters in, Mills has a walk and a home run allowed. Hmmm…Maybe I should rethink my predictions?

UPDATE — FIFTH INNING: Mills still in the game, has allowed four runs on six hits with four strikeouts, one walk, one hit batter and one home run in his first four frames. Not the best showing. Could be be losing his grip on a potential job? Also, the Jays are saying Janssen has a mild muscle strain near his shoulder and he’ll resume throwing in three days. I still don’t see how he can break with the team now that he’s being backed down some.

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

Today’s lineup:

RAYS
Jason Bartlett, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Gabe Kapler, CF
Carlos Pena, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Chris Richard, 1B
Morgan Ensberg, 3B
Ray Sadler, RF
Adam Kennedy, 2B

Matt Garza, P

JAYS
Russ Adams, LF
Jose Bautista, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, DH
Kevin Millar, 1B
Jason Lane, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Brad Emaus, 2B
Kevin Ahrens, 3B

Brad Mills, P

~JB

Jays @ Yanks pregame

Good news on the Vernon Wells front. Jays skip Cito Gaston said Wells is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring as a designated hitter on Friday in Dunedin. Wells is coming back from a strained left hammy, suffered Feb. 23.

Gaston said Wells will play center field for maybe three innings on Saturday, will be off on Sunday and then will DH again on Monday. The hope is that Wells will be fine to play center by Opening Day. He played in a Minors game again on Thursday with no issues.

Gaston said Scott Rolen (stiff back) is scheduled to take some batting practice tomorrow and he should be OK in a day or two to play. As for Travis Snider (left knee), Gaston said he’s going to be given a few days off, but the injury isn’t considered serious.

Rod Barajas and Alex Rios, both back from the World Baseball Classic, will be in the lineup tomorrow in Dunedin as well. Gaston also said that Scott Downs looked good in his Minor League appearance on Wednesday. Downs is skedded to pitch one inning on Saturday in his first Grapefruit League game.

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jason Lane, CF
Jose Bautista, LF
Scott Campbell, 3B
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS

Casey Janssen, P

YANKEES
Jorge Posada, C
Johnny Damon, LF
Nick Swisher, 1B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Xavier Nady, RF
Cody Ransom, 3B
Melky Cabrera, CF
Angel Berroa, 2B
Ramiro Pena, SS

A.J. Burnett, P

~JB

Know Your Role + Jays@Phils pregame

Stopped by Dunedin Stadium this morning for batting practice. The Jays hold BP at home on days they play the Phillies in nearby Clearwater. And glad I did roll over there, because one of the best moments of the spring occurred.

Roy Halladay headed over to the snack cart and reached into the bucket of gum to grab a few pieces. As he walked away, Doc accidentally dumped the entire bucket and its hundreds of Double Bubble pieces all over the ground. Without as much as a flinch, Doc kept walking and left the mess in front of the clubhouse exit.

Not 10 seconds later, rook Travis Snider heads over and gets on hands and knees and begins picking up all the gum, completely knowing his role. As he was reaching under the cart to retrieve every last piece, Doc walked by and had the biggest grin you’ve ever seen the guy have.

“You’re all over it, Snider,” Halladay said with a laugh as he headed out to the field.

“It’s a good start to the day,” said Snider to the group of us reporters standing there enjoying the whole scene. “I got Doc on my side.”

Classic stuff.

Rod Barajas is back in camp after Mexico was bounced from the World Baseball Classic. Alex Rios should be around tomorrow or the next day now that Puerto Rico is out as well. USA! USA! USA!

Barajas had great things to say about the tournament and also about youngster Brad Mills. When asked if he was surprised to see Mill sill in camp, Barajas offered this:

“Absolutely not. I caught his first bullpen on accident. I’m looking through the line of pitchers and I’m trying to find the guys that I think are going to be challenging fo that spot and I hadn’t heard Mills’ name yet. But everybody had somebody else and I saw him and I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll take this little lefty.’ I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting that out of him. So, the next time he threw a bullpen, I wanted to catch him again and his stuff was right there. It was unbelievable.”

Scott Downs threw in a Minor League intrasquad game today and center fielder Vernon Wells got some more ABs in that game as well. Wells is hoping to get into a Grapefruit League game this weekend. Said Cito: “Hopefully, we can start the season with him in center field. That’d be great.”

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

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Russ Adams, LF
Jose Bautista, SS
Jason Lane, CF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Travis Snider, RF
Michael Barrett, C
Brad Emaus, 2B
Jesse Litsch, P

PHILLIES
Chase Utley, 2B
Miguel Cairo, SS
Greg Dobbs, RF
Jayson Werth, CF
Matt Stairs, LF
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Chris Coste, 1B
Ronny Paulino, C
J.A. Happ, P

~JB

Wells update plus BoSox @ Jays pregame

Vernon Wells was in a pleasant mood today and why not? He had six at-bats as a designated hitter in a Minor League game today and felt good. Wells said he was excited to get back out there and he thinks he’ll play in his first game by this weekend.

Wells also said he doesn’t see why he wouldn’t be able to play center field for Toronto come Opening Day, adding that if it were the regular season right now he would’ve been back on the field a week or so ago. So, don’t purchase your Jason Lane jerseys just yet.

Chatted a bit with catcher Michael Barret, too. He had a significant wrap on his right elbow, but it was just normal icing maintenance. Said he’s been picking Gene Tenace’s brain and working with Doug Davis and his arm feels great right now. He’s had a couple nice throws to nab would-be stealers this spring.

Matt Clement threw in an intrasquad Minor League game today, working five clean innings. He said he feels great and he really wants to convince the Jays to put him in the rotation. If there’s no job with Toronto, he’s undecided if he’ll accept a Minor League assignment. He doesn’t want to pitch in the Minors if he can help it.

Brian Wolfe played catch today lightly for the first time since hurting his right shoulder. Threw from 60 feet and felt OK — some mild soreness, but more from what the trainers have been doing, not from the injury, according to Wolfe.

The B game for Wednesday has been cancelled, but Minor League games are beginning so that’s not a huge deal. Scott Downs was down to pitch in the B game, and he said he’s not sure where he’ll be working now, but he will definitely still be pitching Wednesday.

Moves today: Brian Jeroloman and J.P. Arencibia were returned to Minor League camp. Bill Murphy, Davis Romero and Robert Ray optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

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

Today’s lineup:

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Jed Lowrie, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
Chris Carter, 1B
Josh Bard, DH
Jeff Bailey, LF
Angel Chavez, 3B
Nick Green, 2B
Dusty Brown, C

Justin Masterson, P

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, LF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jose Bautista, 3B
Jason Lane, CF
Travis Snider, RF
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS

Roy Halladay, P

~JB

Cecil, Maroth out of rotation race + pregame

More coming on this later today (on bluejays.com), but just to get the news up here for you all: Brett Cecil and Mike Maroth have been returned to Minor League camp. In Maroth’s case, he’s going to talk to his agent and decide whether to accept a Minors assignment or to ask for his release.

GM J.P. Ricciardi said Cecil isn’t ready to make the club and he needs to continue to work on his fastball command. Brad Mills has been the talk of camp all spring and Ricciardi said the young lefty is “pushing the envelope” in terms of making a case for having a job in the rotation.

Matt Clement is behind Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond and Mills for one of the starting jobs, according to Ricciardi. He added that Janssen doesn’t necessarily need to open in the Minors because he is slightly behind the rest of the pitchers. He’s very much in the running for a spot.

Other moves today: Adam Loewen, Brian Dopirak and Ken Takahashi were also returned to Minors camp.

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

Today’s lineup:

REDS
Norris Hopper, CF
Chris Dickerson, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Jay Bruce, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Lance Nix, DH
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Ryan Hanigan, C

Johnny Cueto, P

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Jose Bautista, CF
Kevin Millar, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Jason Lane, DH
Travis Snider, RF
Michael Barrett, C
Russ Adams, LF

Brad Mills, P

~JB

Jays @ Tigers pregame

So Mrs. Bastian had the single greatest dream of all-time last night. Had me laughing so hard this morning. In it, she dreamt that I had developed, at 26 years old, a horrible case of Tourettes Syndrome — not the best disorder to have in my position.

In the dream, us reporters were in the middle of an interview with Roy Halladay and while we were trying to ask questions, I kept blurting things out randomly, disrupting everything. Halladay stops and says he can’t deal with this and walks away, and I promptly lose my job.

Flash forward, The Wife and I had moved back to Chicago and she came home to find me sitting in front of my computer — in some new editorial position now so I could work from home with my disease — spewing expletives as I read through stories.

My wife comes over and asks, “Is this the Tourretts, or are you just angry?”

“I’m just mad!”

Thus ended the best dream ever. Us scribes things a “Tourettes Reporter” skit on SNL would make for great comedy.

On the way to Lakeland today, Mike Wilner of the Fan and his fam and I stopped for breakfast at Waffle House — a rite of spring. Last year, we had a waiter named Trampus, who I dubbed “Trampus — King of Waffles.” Today, our waitress, missing quite a few teeth, thanked me for not having her repeat my menu choices, because “Biscuits is a real hard word to say.”

True story.

As for pregame notes? Well, Justin Jackson is on the trip and manager Cito Gaston was gushing over him this morning. Jackson is considered the shortstop of the future and he’s here for the game today. Gaston also talked a lot about Jose Bautista, who is back from the WBC and starting in center field.

Bautista said he has played center for the past seven years in winter ball in the DR, so it’s nothing new for him. What will be new is manning short, something Cito wants to have him and Joe Inglett try this spring. More on Bautista on bluejays.com later on.

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

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Russ Adams, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jason Lane, RF
Jose Bautista, CF
Brad Emaus, 3B
Raul Chavez, C
John McDonald, SS

Casey Janssen, P
Mike Maroth, P

TIGERS
Brandon Inge, 3B
Placido Polanco, 2B
Gary Sheffield, DH
Jeff Larish, 1B
Gerald Laird, C
Ryan Raburn, CF
Timo Perez, LF
Alexis Gomez, RF
Adam Everett, SS

Dontrelle Willis, P

~JB

Rays @ Jays pregame

Did our rounds in the clubhouse this mornign, checking in with a few players and their respective injuries.

Brian Wolfe isn’t sure when he’s going to begin throwing again after hurting his right shoulder. Manager Cito Gaston guesstimated about a week. Wolfe said all he knows is he’s waiting for the swelling to go down and the pain to subside before playing catch again. No kidding. As for learning that he had no structural damage: “Those were good words to hear.”

Dustin McGowan did not play catch today and he doesn’t know when he’s going to begin throwing again either. Jays are slowing his throwing program down. Vernon Wells thought he might DH in a Minors game today, but that didn’t come to pass. Jays are also taking it really slow with his left hammy injury.

Jesse Litsch, Scott Richmond and Ricky Romero all threw in a Minors game today. Didn’t get a chance to really chat with Litsch or Romero, but Richmond said it definitely felt good too get back out on a mound after being idle for so long — with Canada being bounced from the WBC and all. He logged 32 pitches in two innings.

Hey, and Howie Clark is back in camp. He signed a Minor League deal with the club in January and was available off the bench today.

Don’t forget, you can follow my in-game updates at www.twitter.com/mlbastian … I’ll be honest, though. I’m not feeling all that great today and I’m not sure how much twittering I’ll be doing.

Today’s lineup:

RAYS
Elliot Johnson, CF
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Morgan Ensberg, DH
Chris Richard, 1B
Shawn Riggans, C
Reid Brignac, 2B
Ray Olmedo, SS
Adam Kennedy, 3B

Carlos Hernandez, P

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, LF
Brad Emaus, 2B
Adam Lind, DH
Kevin Millar, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Jason Lane, CF
Travis Snider, RF
John McDonald, SS
Michael Barrett, C

Brett Cecil, P
David Purcey, P

~JB

Pirates @ Jays pregame

Chatted with Dustin McGowan this morning about his “setback” and he sounded more relieved than anything. He said his shoulder was feeling more weak than anything, as opposed to the sharp pain he felt prior to his surgery on July.

Dustin said he wanted to see Dr. Kremchek for some reassurance that what he was feeling was normal, and that’s precisely what the doc said. McGowan wants to get back as soon as possible, but said he’s trying to be smart, knowing that there’s no timetable he’s racing against.

“I want to get back to playing, but I’ve go tto be smart. I’ve got to do it the right way so I can avoid injury again and not go through this again,” he said.

Then there is Shaun Marcum, who has been playing catch and wowing Toronto’s coaches an medical staff. There’s even talk that Marcum could possibly be back as early as August. We’ll see about that, though.

“You talk to Marcum, he would pitch right now if you let him,” Gaston said with a laugh, “We have to slow him down a little bit too. I actually spoke to him this morning. I told him ‘Remember, you’re pitching next year — not this year.’ Just slow him down a little bit.”

Russ Adams, who is basically auditioning for other clubs this spring, left yesterday’s game with a sore left quad and Jays skip Cito Gaston said he might be held out of games through Saturday — the off day tomorrow helps.

Scott Richmond is also back in camp with the Jays. He’s scheduled to log three innings in a Minor League game on Friday. Vernon Wells ran again today and said he “felt good.” Probably another week before he’s in a game.

And former Cub great (and Canadian) Fergie Jenkins was on hand to toss out the first pitch today.

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

Today’s lineup:

PIRATES
Nyger Morgan, LF
Andrew McCutchen, RF
Nate McLouth, CF
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Craig Monroe, DH
Andy LaRoche, #B
Shelby Ford, 2B
Jason Jaramillo, C
Luis Cruz, SS

Paul Maholm, P

BLUE JAYS
John McDonald, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Kevin Millar, DH
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jason Lane, CF
Travis Snider, RF
Michael Barrett, C
Scott Campbell, 3B

Roy Halladay, P

~JB

Jays @ Rays pregame: McGowan update

Here at lovely Charlotte Sports Park, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite spring sites. They really cleaned this place up nicely. As for the surrounding town? Not much going on. At least the area around Dunedin has plenty of things to keep you busy.

Chatted with Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg here today and got a few items out of him. One being that Dustin McGowan — making his way back from right shoulder surgery — visited with Dr. Timothy Kremchek on Sunday after complaining of tightness in his arm.

Kremcheck called the soreness “normal”, but the Jays are backing off McGowan’s throwing program some. “I wouldn’t even call it a setback,” Arnsberg said. “We’re just slowing him down.” And why not? The Jays don’t have a date established for McGowan’s return and there is no rush on there end to get him back into the rotation.

OTHER ITEMS: Arnsberg isn’t sure when RHP Scott Richmond is due back in camp since Team Canada has been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic. So it’s still TBA in terms of when Richmond will pitch next. … Arnsberg has been giving a lot of innings to his relievers over at Minor League camp. On Monday, B.J. Ryan threw a six-pitch inning. LHP Mike Maroth also logged three innings and struggled some, according to Arnsberg. … LHP Scott Downs, coming back from a sore left elbow suffered earlier this spring, is down to pitch in a plive BP session at Minors camp on Friday. After that, the Jays will determine whether he needs to throw another BP session or if he can be worked into his first game of the spring. … LHP Ken Takahashi (sore calf) is still a couple days away from working off a mound again. … LHP Ricky Romero and RHP Jesse Litsch are scheduled to pitch four innings, against each other, in a Minors game on Friday. RHP Matt Bush will pitch, too. … Arnsberg said RHP Casey Janssen’s velocity is back to where it used to be. Impressed with him so far this spring. … Arnsberg said RHP Matt Clement’s velocity has improved throughout camp and he touched 88 mph in his last outing.

Also, big props to the Blue Jays’ PR staff for rolling out the 2009 media guides today. Nice cover with manager Cito Gaston and lovely improvements throughout the book. I’ve given them a hard time in the past (all in good-natured fun), so today I applaud their effort. Good work guys.

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

Today’s lineup:

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
Russ Adams, LF
Travis Snider, RF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Brian Dopirak, 1B
Buck Coats, CF
J.P. Arencibia, DH
Curtis Thigpen, C
Angel Sanchez, SS

Matt Clement, P

RAYS
Fernando Perez, CF
Reid Brignac, SS
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Pat Burrell, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Gabe Gross, RF
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Ray Olmedo, 2B

Matt Garza, P
David Price, P

~JB

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