April 2009

Catch you down the road

Thumbnail image for PleaseStandBy.jpgI am heading back to Toronto in the morning and will have the next four days off — not making the trek to Kansas City for the big John Gibbons-Blue Jays reunion. As much as I’d love to see Gibby, I’ll take the days off at home with The Wife. So, the blog will likely be quiet until Toronto’s next homestand, barring news of course.

~JB

Game 20: Toronto at Chicago pregame

Cito Gaston is well aware of how his batters have fared against particular pitchers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jays manager is going to alter his lineup, especially not the way it’s performing right now.

For example, Kevin Millar — a right-handed bat off the bench who typically starts at first base against left-handers — has great numbers against Sox righty Jose Contreras, who is starting today. In his career, Millar has hit .429 (9-for-21) with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs against Contreras.

Is Millar in the lineup? Nope.

Similarly, in the last series against Texas, Millar had fantastic totals against righty Kevin Millwood — .390 (16-for-41) with a homer and four doubles. Was he in the lineup that day? No, left-handed hitters Adam Lind (DH), Travis Snider (LF) and Lyle Overbay (1B) were starting in both games.

“I could show you some stats from the last couple of days,” Gaston said. “When we were playing against Texas, you should see the stats that Kevin has against him. I could let Kevin go in there and maybe DH and take Lind out of there, but I’m just going to play it the way we’ve been playing it and see what happens.

“So, it is a decision and I’m aware of those things, too.”

It’s similar to how Gaston treats the pinch hitting scenarios with his club. Late in games, he has been letting his batters stay in the batter’s box, even in situations when it might make sense to play the matchup and go with another hitter. This early in the year, Gaston wants to stick with his players to hopefully build their confidence.

“I haven’t really pinch hit for many guys, if you really think about it,” Gaston said. “I know that all these guys have to stay sharp and they need to be in their hitting. I know that, as a player, if you’re looking over your shoulder you kind of lose confidence in yourself.

“What I want these guys to do — not to say that I won’t [pinch hit ever] — but what I want them to do is feel like every time they come off that field and their at-bat comes up they’re going to get a chance to hit.”

As far as in-game matchups, Gaston prefers for a batter to have at least 20 career at-bats against a pitcher to decide whether it might be beneficial to use him as a pinch hitter. Gaston said his philosophy could change as the year goes on. He also noted that, with so many right-handers coming up, some of the right-handed bats will likely get some starts to stay fresh.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (13-6)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Travis Snider, LF

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (3-1)

Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifCHICAGO WHITE SOX (9-8)

1. Brent Lillibridge, 2B
2. Josh Fields, 3B
3. Carlos Quentin, LF
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Jermaine Dye, RF
6. Paul Konerko, 1B
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Brian Anderson, CF
9. Alexei Ramirez, SS

Starter: RHP Jose Contreras (0-3)

~JB

Game 19: Toronto at Chicago pregame

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston continued with his platoon-like situation in left and at first for Saturday’s game here in Chicago. I say “platoon-like” because Gaston insists that it’s not a platoon, that Travis Snider and Lyle Overbay will see time against left-handed pitchers this season.

Saturday’s lineup, as has mainly been the case this year, had right-handed hitters Jose Bautista and Kevin Millar in left and at first, respectively, against Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. Chatted with Snider about some things today, among them not facing lefties regularly up to this point this season.

Snider said all the right things, saying that he understands the situation and doesn’t think it’s a bad thing right now.

“The way Jose’s been playing, the way the team’s been playing, it’d be selfish for me to get caught up thinking like that,” Snider said. “Getting that opportunity to play more often, I think has been great for him with what he’s been doing. For me, as long as I can sit there and watch a guy like that, I’ve got no problem tipping my cap.

“Of course I’d like to be an everyday player, but I understand that there are better things for this ballclub and, for me, it’s about winning.”

Being a rookie, Snider said he also knows his time will come

“I’m 21 and in the big leagues,” he said. “You try not to  get too greedy about things. When you get your opportunities, try to make the most of them. Like I’ve said from Day 1, this organization has done what’s been best for me and my career. At this point, it’s not about me and my career.

“I feel like we’re doing well as a team and guys are producing every day in that lineup and it’s a fun thing to watch.”

Snider agreed with Gaston’s recent assessment that the young hitter could stand to be more aggressive at the plate. Snider said that — now that pitchers are putting together a book on him — he’s noticed they are throwing more and more offspeed pitches his way. He is the type of hitter who likes to be aggressive early in the count and pitchers have picked up on that.

As for facing lefties, Snider said he felt comfortable against southpaws in the spring because he was seeing them on a regular basis. Now that he is only seeing lefties here and there, well, “it’s one of those things where there’s no excuses at the end of the day,” he said.

ARMS WATCH: Jesse Litsch is going to Birmingham, Ala., to have Dr. James Andrews look at his ailing right forearm/elbow on Monday. Litsch felt tightness while throwing yesterday, felt good this morning and felt something again on last five tosses today. Jays say trip to Andrews is precautionary. Ricky Romero (right oblique strain) set to throw on flat ground Monday.

WEATHER WATCH: The tarp is on the field here and there is a chance of rain, but it looks like we’re positioned on the edge of the storm that’s heading through Chicago. Sooo, it seems like we should be able to get this one in. Keep checking my twitter page (you can find me under @MLBastian) for updates.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (13-5)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Kevin Millar, 1B
8. Jose Bautista, LF
9. Raul Chavez, C

Starter: LHP Brian Burres (0-0)

Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifCHICAGO WHITE SOX (8-8)

1. Brent Lillibridge, 2B
2. Josh Fields, 3B
3. Carlos Quentin, LF
4. Jermain Dye, DH
5. Paul Konerko, 1B
6. Corky Miller, C
7. Brian Anderson, RF
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Jerry Owens, CF

Starter: LHP Mark Buehrle (2-0)

~JB

Game 18: Toronto at Chicago pregame

Ah, Chicago. Coming here brings back all kinds of memories for me. I grew up about 20 minutes south of Comiskey Park…er, U.S. Cellular Field. I was a huge Cubs fan, though, in a family of Sox fans. My ma grew up not too far from old Comiskey back in the 1950s, used to tell me all about the Go Go Sox.

When I was young, my dad was a preacher in downtown Chicago. I used to skip church on some Sundays, hop on the 22 Clark Street bus and head to Wrigley. I’d buy an obstructed view seat, sit somewhere close until one of the little old militant lady security guards booted me out of the section. Good times.

But, enough about me… how ’bout them Blue Jays?

Prior to the game, Brian Burres had his contract selected from Triple-A and he’ll get the nod to start tomorrow against the Sox. Today, Jesse Litsch played catch for the first time since injuring his right forearm/elbow and he is on schedule to make a rehab start early next week. Ricky Romero (right oblique strain) hopes to play catch tomorrow.

Casey Janssen (right shoulder) will have a rehab outing in the Florida State League on Monday and could have two outings there before moving to Double-A. The schedule isn’t set in stone yet. Shaun Marcum (right elbow) is going to throw in a bullpen session in Kansas City — his hometown — on Thursday.

Was chatting with Jays assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos today in the visitors’ dugout and Dustin McGowan was brought up. Asked if McGowan’s diabetes was playing a role in the pitcher’s slow recovery from his right shoulder injury, Alex said, “Being a diabtetic hasn’t helped it, let’s put it that way.” This isn’t to say this is the reason McGowan is taking longer than expected to return, it’s just an added element to the situation.

When we first walked into the clubhouse today, Jose Bautista came up to us reporters sporting a new look. Gone is his full beard. Bautista trimmed up and now has the thin “chin strap” look going. “Hi, I’m the new player on the team,” Bautista said with a grin, shaking each of our hands.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (12-5)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Travis Snider, LF

Starter: LHP Brian Tallet (0-0)




Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifCHICAGO WHITE SOX (8-7)

1. Chris Getz, 2B
2. Josh Fields, 3B
3. Carlos Quentin, LF
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Jermain Dye, RF
6. Paul Konerko, 1B
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Brian Anderson, CF

Starter: RHP Gavin Floyd (2-1)

~JB

Romero and Ryan to DL

DSC02312.jpgThe Jays placed closer B.J. Ryan and rookie lefty Ricky Romero on the 15-day disabled list today. Ryan is out with tightness in his left trapezius muscle and Romero has a right oblique strain.

In Ryan’s case, GM J.P. Ricciardi said he only learned of the injury a couple days ago and manager Cito Gaston said he didn’t hear about it until after Wednesday’s game. Both Ricciardi and Gaston said they didn’t know if the injury dates back to the spring.

“They said trapeze — I thought it was a circus act,” Ricciardi said with a laugh.

One reporter quickly quipped: “Some might argue it is.”

No word on who the callups will be to replace Ryan and Romero on the roster. Brian Wolfe and Jeremy Accardo appear to be the likely bullpen candidates. For Saturday’s start, it looks like it might be lefty Brian Burres.

Romero said he’s felt some discomfort in his side for a few outings and he told the club about it after his start in Minnesota. He said he first felt pain after sneezing before that appearance. Brought back memories of when Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa threw his back out with a sneeze.

Ricciardi said Romero will likely be out until the middle of May, when the Jays also hope to have Jesse Litsch and Casey Janssen back in the mix. At that point, it’s possible that — if the starters are performing well — Janssen could be headed back to the bullpen.

More info on both of these injuries will be on bluejays.com later. I’m adding more detail to the quick news story that’s currently online.

Today’s lineups:

Rangers.jpgTEXAS RANGERS (6-8)

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Hank Blalock, DH
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Chris Davis, 1B
7. David Murphy, LF
8. Taylor Teagarden, C
9. Elvis Andrus, SS

Starter: RHP Kevin Millwood (1-1)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (11-5)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Travis Snider, LF

Starter: RHP Scott Richmond (1-0)

~JB

Game 16: Texas at Toronto pregame

On this date 39 years ago — April 22, 1970 — Cito Gaston suited up for the Padres and out onto the field at Shea Stadium for a tilt against the Mets. New York’s Tom Seaver went on to strike out 19, including 10 in a row to finish the game.

Gaston was victim No. 9 in the amazing stretch.

“He’s a Hall of Famer,” Gaston said on Wednesday. “He didn’t need any help. But, there were a lot of shadows at Shea that day. The ball got on you quick.”

There is Seaver and then there is Toronto’s David Purcey. Honestly, it’s hard to know what to expect from the young lefty tonight. He’s coming off two rough performances — one in Cleveland that was downright confusing (10 Ks, 6 BB) — and Texas will be throwing a tough lineup at him.

The Rangers will be without slugger Josh Hamilton, though. He bruised his ribs during a catch attempt at the wall in center last night and is out of the order today. Hamilton expects to be back in the lineup on Thursday. On the mound for Texas is another struggling lefty in Matt Harrison.

As simple as it sounds, and I know I have written this before, the key for Purcey is just to pound the strike zone. The Jays would probably be a little more understanding if he was throwing strikes and getting hit, but issuing so many walks is not acceptable on this stage.

“You don’t survive by walking people. You really don’t,” Gaston said. “You can go back and look at Doc. Doc got hit, but he threw strikes. You can look back at young guys that came through this organization — Jimmy Key threw strikes, David Wells threw strikes. You do have to throw strikes to stay at this level.

“You can’t stay here throwing balls, because sooner or later it’s going to hurt yourself and hurt the team.”

So, another really rough performance and the Jays might ave to discuss Purcey’s immediate future.

“We don’t want to damage him, either, get him to where he has no confidence at all,” Gaston said.

Spoke with catcher Michael Barrett this afternoon. Still doesn’t know if he has a fracture — there’s still too much swelling. He said he can move his arm better — even mimicked a throwing motion for me — and he “got a lot accomplished” in the training room today.

Today’s lineups:

Rangers.jpgTEXAS RANGERS (6-7)

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Omar Vizquel, SS
3. Michael Young, 3B
4. Andruw Jones, LF
5. Hank Blalock, DH
6. Marlon Byrd, CF
7. Nelson Cruz, RF
8. Chris Davis, 1B
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Starter: LHP Matt Harrison (0-2)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (10-5)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Kevin Millar, 1B
8. Rod Barajss, C
9. Jose Bautista, LF

Starter: LHP David Purcey (0-1)

~JB

Game 15: Texas at Toronto pregame

Walked into the Jays’ clubhouse this afternoon and Alex Rios and Vernon Wells were yucking it up over at Rios’ locker, watching a video clip of a Wells interview that has been making its way around the internet. I’m sure you can find it if you’re really interested.

I’m sure there are some who are going to try to turn this into some sort of controversy — some reporters were even whispering about it and chasing after Wells and Hill today. I mean, sure, it was a tad risky for Wells to say some of the things he said, but c’mon, it was all in good-natured fun and it’s Wells doing his typical deadpan routine.

Hill and Wells are good buddies and it was just a joke. No big deal. I told Wells today I had a good laugh over it and he cracked up. This reminds me of when Frank Thomas slammed a kid with a pillow in a Blue Jays commercial. A lot of people here were up in arms over it. It was all in good fun and some people overreacted. Anyways…

On to other items…

Lineup below look familiar? That’s because it’s the sixth time Cito has used this one this season. It’s a much different feeling than when John Gibbons ran the show, mixing and matching the lineup on a daily basis. The hitters definitely like the lineup stability, and why change it while it’s working?

Gaston was also asked today about leaving Marco Scutaro in at shortstop in close and late situations this season. Last year, John McDonald was turned to as a defensive replacement in late innings. This year, McDonald has been rarely used — mostly as a pinch runner. Cito said last year it was more because David Eckstein was at short.

“I think that was the case last year, when Ecks was here,” said Gaston, who added that he believes Scutaro is underrated defensively. “Scutaro’s a great shortstop, too, so there’s no need to bring in Mac so far to do that. I’m pretty sure that was the only reason I did it last year, when Ecks was at shortstop.”

Today’s lineups:


Rangers.jpgTEXAS RANGERS (5-7)

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Hank Blalock, DH
5. Marlon Byrd, LF
6. Nelson Cruz, RF
7. Chris Davis, 1B
8. Jarod Saltalamacchia, C
9. Elvis Andrus, SS

Starter: RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-0)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (10-4)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Rod Barajss, C
9. Travis Snider, LF

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (3-0)

~JB

Game 12: Oakland at Toronto pregame

It was a strange Friday afternoon here at the home. The batting cage was pulled onto the field, but there were no players in sight. Given the late flight out of Minnesota last night, manager Cito Gaston gave his team the day off from batting practice.

“You know what time we got home?” Gaston said with a chuckle. “I got to bed at six o’clock myself. Ah, BP is overrated anyway. It is.”

The only bit of “news” that came out of our meeting with Gaston today was him indicating that having Brian Tallet in the rotation could kind of a “long-term” move, possibly around a month. That’s at least how long Jesse Litsch is expected to be out with his elbow/forearm injury.

Litsch might be back in mid-May or closer to June, and Casey Janssen is expected to be ready somewhere in there as well. There’s a chance Tallet will hold down the fort until one of them returns. It also affords the Jays more time to hand starts to prospects Brett Cecil and Brad Mills, pitchers who will likely be up at some point.

Hey, remember when the Blue Jays acquired Marco Scutaro from the A’s two winters ago, dealing a pair of Minor League pitchers for the super utility man? Funny thing, Scutaro has three homers already this year. Oakland has three homers AS A TEAM. That’s turned out to be a nice little trade for Toronto.

Also, I’m getting a couple days off this weekend, so the blog will likely be quiet, barring news.

Today’s lineups:


athletics.gifOAKLAND ATHLETICS (4-5)

1. Ryan Sweeney, CF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Jason Giambi, 1B
4. Matt Holliday, LF
5. Nomar Garciaparra, DH
6. Jack Cust, RF
7. Kurt Suzuki, C
8. Mark Ellis, 2B
9. Bobby Crosby, 3B

Starter: LHP Josh Outman (0-0

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (8-3)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Kevin Millar, 1B
8. Michael Barrett, C
9. Jose Bautista, LF

Starter: LHP David Purcey (0-1)

~JB

Game 11: Farewell to the Metrodome

Thumbnail image for metrodome.jpg

“I won’t say I’ll miss this place, but there are a lot of things I’ll remember about it.”

That comment comes from Blue Jays shortstop John Mcdonald and it pretty much sums up the overall feeling about the Metrodome. From the day the ballpark opened in 1982, visiting players didn’t like playing in the teflon-covered dome.

“After you played in it one game, you really didn’t want to play in it again,” said Toronto first base coach Dwayne Murphy, who was with the A’s in ’82. “You’d lose too many balls and too many games were decided by lost balls. The top was really white and clean.”

Other aspects that visiting teams won’t miss: the long flight of stairs — 48 steps in all — that leads from the clubhouse to the dugout. Kevin Millar recalled having to walk up the stairs behind Nomar Garciaparra during their days with Boston.

“He’d go step by step by step. That’s a long walk,” Millar said with a laugh.

There are some special memories here for a few players, though. McDonald gloved his first career grounder as a shortstop at the Metrodome, teaming with Roberto Alomar for a double play when they were both with the Indians. Rookie Travis Snider, making his first and last trip to the dome, had his first career mult-homer game here on Monday.

“Those are the ones that you really remember,” Snider said.

I’ll be writing a story today on more Metrodome memories from the Jays.

Other items from today…

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston on Alex Rios’ early struggles: “We’re still trying to get him off his back side. He’s a little bit late getting started right now. It’s timing. It’s all about timing and he’s just starting a little late. We’re talking to him about it.”

Gaston was also asked about the fact that Jose Bautista and Kevin Millar both were in the lineup again against a left-handed pitcher. Gaston has insisted that it’s not a platoon situation with left fielder Travis Snider and first baseman Lyle Overbay, and one reporter compared it to the saying, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”

Gaston laughed and said, “It’s still early. It’s still not a platoon, even though it walks like a duck and talks like a duck. The duck will walk differently soon.”

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (7-3)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Kevin Millar, 1B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Jose Bautista, LF

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (2-0)

Twins.jpgMINNESOTA TWINS (4-6)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Justin Morneau, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Brian Buscher, 3B
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Jose Morales, C
9. Brendan Harris, SS

Starter: LHP Francisco Liriano (0-2)

~JB

Game 10: Toronto at Minnesota pregame

My inbox was flooded after last night’s game with notes from Blue Jays fans begging to know why on earth manager Cito Gaston didn’t use Travis Snider as a pinch hitter on Tuesday night. The game was tied in the 10th, a righty was on the mound, and Gaston kept Jose Bautista in the game.

Gaston explained the decision today. Basically, Bautista is going to see action at third base this season on days Scott Rolen is off, so he’s going to have to face right-handed pitching. That played a role in the move. Also, Gaston isn’t one to potentially mess with the confidence/trust factor.

“It’s kind of one of those touchy things,” Gaston said. “You take a veteran out for a rookie to hit for him? I’ve always believed I might lose a game here or there, but I’m going to win one down the road by not doing things like that.”

Now, later in the season, Gaston might not make a similar decision. Being only nine games in, though, he doesn’t want to make a move that might have one of his players questioning the skipper’s faith in him. Things were certainly magnified last night in light of the fact that Snider hit two bombs the game before.

Would I have subbed Snider for Bautista in that situation? Sure. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t see where Gaston is coming from. A similar scenario came up earlier in the season with first baseman Lyle Overbay — a point where Kevin Millar could have pinch hit against a lefty. Overbay is the first baseman and Gaston reiterated that by keeping him in the game.

There’s more to managing than just making moves on the field. Gaston has to keep in mind the varying personalities within the clubhouse, and how certain players might react to being pulled from the game. Sometimes, remembering that aspect during certain situations might help explain some of Gaston’s decisions.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (6-3)

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Michael Barrett, C
9. Travis Snider, LF

Starter: RHP Scott Richmond (0-0)

Twins.jpgMINNESOTA TWINS (4-5)

1. Denard Span, LF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Justin Morneau, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Joe Crede, 3B
7. Mike Redmond, C
8. Nick Punto, SS
9. Carlos Gomez, CF

Starter: RHP Scott Baker (0-0)

~JB

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.