June 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

Thumbnail image for PleaseStandBy.jpgI’m heading home to Chicago this weekend for some family gatherings and won’t be at the ballpark again until next weekend. I’ll be covering the Draft on Tuesday and will be back at Rogers Centre for the Jays’ Interleague set against the Marlins. I’ll blog if warranted and will likely still be updating twitter (@MLBastian) over the next week. Until then…

~JB

Game 56: Los Angeles at Toronto pregame

It isn’t hard to decipher the key to success for Blue Jays reliever Shawn Camp. When he has his slider biting through the strike zone, he is tough on hitters. When he doesn’t have command of that pitch? It can be ugly at times.

On Wednesday night, Camp had his slider working in a big way and he turned in three strong shutout innings of relief that could easily go unnoticed in an 8-1 loss to the Angels. When Camp entered, the Jays trailed 5-1, and his three innings at least gave the offense a chance to make a comeback.

That didn’t happen, but manager Cito Gaston liked what he saw from Camp.

“He got his breaking ball over, which he hasn’t been doing in the past,” Gaston said. “He threw strikes. He was really having trouble with his breaking ball — getting it over. That’s pretty much the kind of pitcher he is. He doesn’t throw hard, so he’s got to spot his fastball and get his breaking ball over.

“Otherwise, he gets in trouble. Last night, he did that. It sounds simple, right?”

Over his last two appearances, Camp has looked sharper, piling up five strikeouts and allowing no runs on three scattered hits over four innings. Last night, Camp dropped his ERA from 5.29 to 4.50. In his previous seven games, the righty had allowed 10 runs on 15 hits with four strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings.

So, what exactly did Camp do against L.A.?

In the fifth, he struck out Vlad Guerrero, Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera in order, and Camp allowed one hit, one walk with one strikeout over the next two frames. In all, Camp threw 37 pitches (25 strikes). Camp used his slider 17 times (12 strikes), and six of his nine outs came via the slider. All four of his strikeouts were ended with the slider as well.

SWITCH IT UP: Gaston finally decided to give a day off to slumping center fielder Vernon Wells (one hit in his last 18 at-bats) on Thursday afternoon. Gaston said he hopes the move can breathe some life into Wells’ bat, similar to how right fielder Alex Rios heated up at the plate after a day off in Baltimore.

Gaston added that he might give a day off to shortstop Marco Scutaro (1 H in last 10 ABs) and second baseman Aaron Hill (0-for-15) this weekend. Said Gaston: “Those guys can’t play every day, so I’m just going to have to suck it up and do it.” Scutaro and Hill are first in the Majors with 56 games played apiece. Scutaro has played every game in the field and Hill has one start as the designated hitter.

BIRDS-EYE VIEW: Prior to joining the Blue Jays’ bullpen, reliever Dirk Hayhurst was put up in the hotel at Rogers Centre for a night. He stayed in a room overlooking the field and was able to watch Doc Halladay strike out 14 Angels on Tuesday night. Gaston couldn’t believe Hayhurst was able to get such a great view.

“I was teasing him,” Gaston said. “He watched it from a room in the hotel. I asked him, ‘How the hell did you get that room?’ I can’t get that room. They won’t give me that room when I’m in that hotel. He said, “I kind of sweet-talked the girl at the desk.’ So, he’s already moved up. That’s pretty good.”

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Angels.gifLOS ANGELES ANGELS (26-25)

1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Vlad Guerrero, DH
4. Torii Hunter, CF
5. Juan Rivera, RF
6. Kendry Morales, 1B
7. Mike Napoli, C
8. Robb Quinlan, LF
9. Howie Kendrick, 2B

Starter: RHP John Lackey (1-1)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (30-25)

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

Starter: LHP Brian Tallet (3-3)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian

~JB

Game 55: Los Angeles at Toronto pregame

Prior to tonight’s game, Blue Jays assistant general manager, and local contract expert, Alex Anthopoulos held court for a few minutes with us reporters, providing us with another lesson in Baseball Transactions 101. Today’s lecture was on “draft-excluded” players.

The subject came up due to the promotion of right-hander Dirk Hayhurst. Had it not been for Hayhurst’s contract situation, he likely would have made the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster. He wowed manager Cito Gaston this spring in seven appearances, striking out 13 with no walks over eight innings.

I’ll do my best to briefly sum up why Hayhurst could not make the team back then:

Hayhurst was added to the San Diego Padres’ 40-man roster after Aug. 15 last season, excluding him from being exposed to other club’s during the December Rule 5 Draft. Toronto then claimed Hayhurst off waivers on October 6, meaning Hayhurst had to be put on its 40-man list.

Now, because Hayhurst fell within the “draft-excluded” category, due to the Padres’ placing him on their 40 when they did, the Blue Jays were not allowed to remove him from their own 40 through outright waivers. The only option would be to release him, giving Hayhurst a chance to look for a job with other teams.

When the Jays had a chance to acquire Matt Bush via trade from San Diego in February, they explained the situation to Hayhurst. Toronto wanted to release him, clearing a spot on the 40, but then planned to re-sign him to a Minor League contract right away. Since he’d be released, the club wouldn’t be able to re-sign him with a Major League contract until May 15.

Basically, Hayhurst could have pursued work elsewhere, or head into spring with the Jays on a Minor League contract knowing that he couldn’t make the team, and that Toronto couldn’t possibly promote him until at least May 15. Hayhurst chose the latter, re-signing on Feb. 13, expressing to the Jays that it meant a lot to him that they wanted him in the first place.

So, Hayhurst went into camp knowing he couldn’t win a job, but with a chance to show the Jays something. That’s what he did, and that’s something Gaston remembers. Asked on Wednesday why Hayhurst got the call over, say, Jeremy Accardo, Gaston cited Hayhurst’s performance during the spring, and the fact that he showed loyalty to the organization.

With Triple-A Las Vegas, Accardo currently has a 3.60 ERA in 17 games, in which he’s allowed 23 hits and compiled 19 strikeouts versus seven walks over 20 innings with a .280 oppponents’ batting average. Hayhurst had a 5.11 in 15 games for Vegas, but his numbers are skewed by a rough stint as a starter.

Hayhurst made five starts out of necessity to open the year and posted a 6.75 ERA in those outings. As a reliever, the right-hander was much sharper, limiting hitters to a .239 average with 16 strikeouts, five walks and a 3.44 ERA over 18 1/3 innings across 10 games. More than anything, it was his showing this spring that won Gaston over.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Angels.gifLOS ANGELES ANGELS (25-25)

1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Vlad Guerrero, DH
4. Kendry Morales, 1B
5. Juan Rivera, LF
6. Maicer Izturis, 2B
7. Gary Matthews Jr., CF
8. Jeff Mathis, C
9. Erick Aybar, SS

Starter: RHP Jered Weaver (4-2)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (30-24)

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. Kevin Millar, DH
9. Rod Barajas, C

Starter: RHP Casey Janssen (1-1)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian

~JB

Game 54: Los Angeles at Toronto pregame

One thing Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff keep a close eye on is how they use their ace, Doc Halladay. Take a look at the Major League leaderboard right now, and you’ll find Halladay atop the world in innings with 82, and that number will rise tonight.

Gaston and the Jays don’t always look at the innings total, though. With Halladay, that can be deceiving.

“You have to go with pitches instead of the innings, because he does throw a lot less pitches,” Gaston said. “Doc, when he’s on, he’s got great control and that’s about 95 percent of the time he goes out there. You go by pitches.”

Entering tonight, Halladay leads the game in innings, but he also is first in the American League with just 14.3 pitches per inning and eighth in the game with 1,171 pitches thrown. There are three pitchers with over 1,200 pitches (C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Millwood and Chad Billingsley) and each are at least four innings behind Doc.

That’s the way Doc works: pitch to contact, induce ground balls, only go for the strikeout when the situation dictates it.

Take a look at the 10 starters with the most pitches thrown last season and their P/IP average and see how Halladay stacks up: Sabathia (3,814; 15.1), Tim Lincecum (3,682; 16.2), A.J. Burnett (3,650; 16.5), Matt Cain (3,607; 16.6), Johan Santana (3,598; 15.4), Halladay (3,559; 14.5), Gil Meche (3,555; 16.9), Justin Verlander (3,528; 17.6), Bronson Arroyo (3,436; 17.2) and Ervin Santana (3,429; 15.7).

Among that group, only Sabathia (253) had more innings and complete games (10) than Halladay (246; 9), but Halladay was first among the 10 with a 5.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio and his 394 groundouts led the American League. He also finished fifth overall with 206 strikeouts, despite throwing fewer pitches.

This season, Gaston has kept Halladay on the hill for 100+ pitches in nine of his 11 starts. Doc has topped out at 119 (4/26 @ CWS) and his fewest was 95 (5/22 @ ATL). Halladay has also logged at least seven innings in each of his outings so far, averaging just 3.60 pitches per plate appearance.

“If Doc can get us through eight innings, or seven innings, with 110-115 pitches, that’s great for him,” Gaston said.  “If he feels like he can go another inning, most of the time I’m going to let him go another inning. Sometimes I won’t, but most of the time if he feels strong about it then you let him go. Let him at it.”

That being said, Gaston also keeps in mind that later in the season, if the Jays are still in the running for a playoff spot, he might want to have Halladay healthy and ready to go on short rest. Toronto did that with him last season. What Gaston doesn’t want to ever do is put Halladay at risk of injury, though.

“You certainly have to tkeep an eye on him,” Gaston said. “I know Doc’s a free agent after next year. Whether he decides to stay here or leave, he’s one guy you’d like to stay here healthy or leave here healthy, because he deserves to be that way with what he’s done for this organization.”

Today’s lineups:


Thumbnail image for Angels.gifLOS ANGELES ANGELS (25-24)

1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Vlad Guerrero, DH
4. Torii Hunter, CF
5. Kendry Morales, 1B
6. Maicer Izturis, SS
7. Mike Napoli, C
8. Gary Matthews Jr., LF
9. Howie Kendrick, 2B

Starter: LHP Joe Saunders (6-3)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (29-24)

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 Doc Halladay (8-1)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian

~JB

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