May 2009

Game 28: Cleveland at Toronto pregame

Glancing at the American League’s offensive charts, it’s not hard to find the Blue Jays — they’re right there near the top in most team categories. There is one area where Toronto is lacking, though. No big surprise: Jays rank 12th in the league in stolen bases.

Through 27 games, the Birds nabbed 12 bags and were only caught once. A great success rate, but not a whole heckuva lot of tries. Only Oakland and Kansas City — with 11 each — had fewer in the league. Toronto’s leader? Vernon Wells with three.

So what gives?

“I might have to ask you how many they stole this time last year,” said Jays manager Cito Gaston, when asked about the low robbery rate. “I think you better check that one. They might not have that many last year — I don’t know.”

Actually, turns out that the Go Go Jays had 22 (10 CS) through 27 games last season under former manager John Gibbons. Alex Rios, who ended with 32 swipes in ’08, led the way with six and was followed by Marco Scutaro (three), John McDonald (two), Aaron Hill (two), Joe Inglett (two), David Eckstein (two), Gregg Zaun (two!), Scott Rolen (one), Buck Coats (remember him? one) and Wells (one).

One Jays scribe asked if the low stolen bases total so far this season could be a result of the strong offense. Why take risks when the group is hitting so well and producing so many runs?

“It’s not about that. It’s about opportunities and chances that you take,” Gaston replied. “Sometimes, we run according to who’s on that mound — how fast they’re unloading. You see us try to steal third sometimes, because some guys get where they get a little lackadaisical paying attention to guys on second.”

Despite the early numbers, Gaston said he is definitely a fan of stealing bases,

“Absolutely,” he said. “The running game creates a lot of trouble for people. If you can run, you can cause a lot of problems. Instead of hitting doubles, you can run into a double or run into a triple. If you have speed, it’s great.”

UPDATES: LHP Ricky Romero (strained right oblique) postponed his schedule bullpen session until Tuesday. The change came because Romero has been pushed back to pitch one day after RHP Casey Janssen (right shoulder). Janssen’s next start for Class A Dunedin is slated for Wednesday and Romero’s first rehab start for Dunedin will be Thursday. … RHP Jesse Litsch (right elbow tightness) is on a tad slower schedule than Romero/Janssen, who could be back after two-three more Minors starts, but is only about a week behind, according to GM J.P. Ricciardi. Litsch is on a throwing program in Florida, but there is no target date for his first rehab start yet. … LHP B.J. Ryan (left trapezius tightness) threw in the bullpen on Monday and will head to Florida to begin a rehab stint with Class A Dunedin on Wednesday. There is no timetable for Ryan’s return, but the plan is for him to progress up the Minor League system. … RHP Shaun Marcum (Tommy John on right elbow at end of last season) has been throwing in bullpen sessions and Ricciardi said the pitcher “might” be able to begin pitching in Minor League games some time in June. He is WAY ahead of schedule. … RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) is currently playing catch, but it’s still unlikely he is back this season.

GOING TO CALI: I will not be covering Tuesday’s game, missing out on the big league debut for Jays lefty Brett Cecil. I’ll be traveling to the West Coast for Toronto’s two-game set with the Angels. So the blog will be dormant until Wednesday. I won’t be making the trek to Oakland. Instead, will be spending a couple extra days in Anaheim to visit some family.

Today’s lineups:


Thumbnail image for Indians.jpgCLEVELAND INDIANS (9-16)

1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
5. Mark DeRosa, 3B
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Ryan Garko, 1B
8. Matt LaPorta, LF
9. Ben Francisco, DH

Starter: RHP Fausto Carmona (1-3)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (18-9)

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

Starter: LHP Brian Tallet (1-1)

~JB

Game 27: Baltimore at Toronto pregame

For the first time this season, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston pulled one of his regulars off the field and pinch-hit for him based on the situation. It happened in the eighth inning on Saturday, with an Orioles lefty on the mound and Lyle Overbay at the plate with bases loaded and two outs.

Overbay was mired in a 1-for-20 funk at the plate, while Millar was batting more than .300 with one grand slam already this season. So, going against his typical trend, Gaston sent Millar to the plate and called Overbay back to the dugout. Millar flew out to end the inning.

“He’s struggling right now,” Gaston said of Overbay. “I haven’t done that all year, but I just felt like he’s struggling and Millar, I don’t think he’s struggling, so I thought we’d give it a shot. It didn’t work out for us, but if Millar is struggling and we get in that situation, and Overbay is swinging the bat really well, then I’ll pinch-hit for him, too.

“There’s very few people that you will pinch hit for on this team.”

It marked only the third time that Gaston used a pinch-hitter this season — the second-fewest in the Majors, trailing only the Indians (twice). The only other times Gaston pinch-hit for someone came during a blowout (John McDonald on April 25 and Travis Snider on April 15).

What the latest situation did show, as Gaston has said all along, is that he is willing to change things every now and then, even though he feels very strongly about certain philosophies.

Along those same lines, Gaston is very hesitant to change his lineup. That’s why someone like the struggling Alex Rios remains in the No. 3 hole game in and game out. Gaston has no plans on pulling Rios out of that spot right now, either.

“In order for us to win, he will have to hit and he certainly has to be a part of this team,” Gaston said. “So why knock him down by moving him and taking away some of his confidence? So, you know what? I might get criticized for not moving him, but we’ll see what happens in the end.”

Today’s lineups:

Orioles.gifBALTIMORE ORIOLES (9-15)

1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
5. Melvin Mora, 3B
6. Luke Scott, DH
7. Chad Moeller, C
8. Felix Pie, LF
9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Starter: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-1)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (17-9)

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 (3-0)

~JB

Game 26: Baltimore at Toronto pregame

One storyline that hasn’t received a whole lot of attention this week has been the return of catcher Gregg Zaun, who spent the past five seasons with the Blue Jays. Last night, Zaun received a mixed reception from the crowd, but there were plenty of boos.

Zaun noticed.

“Thats pretty flattering, too,” Zaun said. “It’s been a long time since I was booed that vehemently. It’s been weird. It’s been kind of surreal.”

It was also a bit strange for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay to have to face Zaun, especially considering the veteran catcher knows the right-hander’s repertoire inside and out. Two pitches into their first meeting on Friday night, Zaun drilled an 0-1 offering into center field for a two-out double in the second.

One writer jokingly asked if Halladay grooved a pitch to Zaun for old time’s sake.

“No, but I thought about hitting him in the ribs,” Doc quipped.

Halladay did say facing Zaun presented a unique challenge.

“He’s a smart guy,” Halladay said. “There’s a little bit of cat and mouse, because you know he’s got a good idea of what you do and you’re always trying to stay one step ahead of him. The whole time he was here, he was an intelligent hitter, and he’s always had good at-bats, quality at-bats.

“It’s never fun facing guys like that.”

Halladay got Zaun to ground out to short in the fourth inning and he struck him out in the seventh.

“He gave it to me the next two at-bats for sure,” Zaun said.

UPDATES: LHP Ricky Romero (sidelined with a right oblique strain) threw 40-45 pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday morning and felt good, according to manager Cito Gaston. Toronto’s skip said Romero will throw another ‘pen on Monday and will likely be sent out on a Minor League rehab after that. … Gaston rested 3B Scott Rolen on Saturday and gave the nod to Jose Bautista. While it won’t be this way every time, Gaston said he will probably give Rolen the day off on day games after night games throughout the season. It’s a way to hopefully guard against the right shoulder injury that has bothered Rolen late in the year in recent seasons. … Gaston said RHP Robert Ray is able to throw 100 pitches, even though his latest Minor League start was only 4 1/3 innings. “I hope that gets us through eight,” Cito said with a smile.

Today’s lineups:

Orioles.gifBALTIMORE ORIOLES (9-14)

1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
5. Melvin Mora, 3B
6. Luke Scott, DH
7. Lou Montanez, LF
8. Gregg Zaun, C
9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Starter: RHP Brad Bergesen (1-0)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (16-9)

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

Starter: RHP Robert Ray (MLB debut)

LOOKALIKE:

Ray.jpg

Blue Jays righty Robert Ray

AJBurnett_2007_017.jpg

Former Blue Jays righty A.J. Burnett

Just saying…

~JB

Game 25: Baltimore at Toronto pregame

The other day Mrs. Bastian wanted to stop in the Blue Jays gift shop here in Rogers Centre and I chuckled when I noticed that there was still a large image of A.J. Burnett on one of the windows of the stadium. It was just distorted enough, though, that it could easily also be a picture of pitcher Robert Ray, who looks like he could be A.J’s kid brother.

Ray will start for the Jays on Saturday for his Major League debut, and lefty prospect Brett Cecil will follow suit on Tuesday. This gives the Jays 3 rookies (Scott Richmond as well) and one converted reliever (Brian Tallet) in the rotation behind ace Roy Halladay. Ray and Cecil are likely temporary fill-ins.

Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi didn’t sugarcoat the situation this afternoon. When asked what he liked about Ray, Ricciardi hesitated and offered this dose of reality:

“Well, he’s healthy,” Ricciardi said. “He’s healthy and it’s his turn to throw. We like him. He’s one of our guys that we think is going to be here eventually, but he may be here too soon.”

The same goes for Cecil, who has had poor results through one month with Triple-A Las Vegas and said he has been working on finding a consistent arm slot. So far, he has struggled in that regard and the result has been a slider that has been more horizontal and a fastball that runs flat.

Ricciardi said the hope is that the Blue Jays can stay afloat with this rotation through May 11, the team’s next off-day. Then, between May 12-20, Toronto hopes to have both Ricky Romero (right oblique) and Casey Janssen (right shoulder) back in the mix. Shortly thereafter, Jesse Litsch (right forearm/elbow) may be back and Brian Tallet will likely be back in the ‘pen.

According to Ricciardi, Ray, Cecil and Tallet might each have two more starts before the club reasses its starting staff.

“In all fairness to these guys, they shouldn’t be here right now,” Ricciardi said. “We’re kind of forcing them based on circumstances. We like these guys — they’re going to be a part of what we do here — but circumstances have put us in this spot. So, for a 10-day period, we’ll just see if we can hold the fort down.”

Some other updates: Romero is scheduled to throw in a bullpen session on Saturday. He might throw another on either Monday or Tuesday, or he might begin a rehab assignment. … Litsch played catch on Friday and will be re-evaluated on Saturday. … Closer B.J. Ryan (left trapezius) will travel to the Jays’ complex in Florida after this homestand and he’ll be put on a throwing program. He isn’t throwing right now. … Beyond Ray and Cecil, the Jays also promoted reliever Brian Wolfe. Ricciardi and manager Cito Gaston said they chose Wolfe over righty Jeremy Accardo because Wolfe is more able to jump in as a long reliever. Accardo has been working one-inning outings for the most part. … Sent to Triple-A were David Purcey, Brian Burres and Bryan Bullington.

Today’s lineups:



Orioles.gifBALTIMORE ORIOLES (9-13)

1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
5. Melvin Mora, 3B
6. Luke Scott, LF
7. Ty Wigginton, DH
8. Gregg Zaun, C
9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Starter: LHP Mark Hendrickson (1-3)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (15-9)

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 (4-1)

~JB

Purcey down, Cecil up, other moves

It seemed like only a matter of time until this move was made, considering David Purcey’s persistent struggled through the first month. Purcey has been shipped out to Triple-A Las Vegas and the Blue Jays have summoned lefty Brett Cecil.

Other pitching moves: Up from Vegas are Robert Ray and Brian Wolfe, down to Vegas are Brian Burres and Bryan Bullington. Burres was unspectacular in two starts for the Jays and Bullington, well, six walks in six innings isn’t going to cut it.

With Purcey and Burres gone, the Jays need starters for Saturday and for Tuesday, May 5. Cecil’s last outing was this past Tuesday, so he will make his debut on Tuesday. Ray has been working as a starter and last pitched on Sunday, so he will make his big league debut tomorrow.

Ricky Romero is also eligible to come of the 15-day disabled list on May 5, so we’ll see. Jays will likely give him a little extra time to come back from the strained right oblique that’s been ailing him. More details after I get to the ballpark this afternoon.

So, stay tuned…

~JB

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.