August 2009

Stepping Away

Thumbnail image for PleaseStandBy.jpgI am stepping away from the Blue Jays beat for a few weeks. I’m heading back to Chicago now that Baby Bastian is starting to figure out where the exit is located and could be showing his face any moment now. So, I won’t be blogging for a while and the updates on Twitter (@MLBastian) will be minimal over the next couple weeks.

Catch you down the road….

~JB

Game 124: Tampa Bay at Toronto

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Rays.jpgTAMPA BAY RAYS (68-56)
Third place AL East, 10.0 GB

1. Jason Bartlett, SS
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Pat Burrell, DH
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. B.J. Upton, CF
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Gabe Kapler, LF
9. Gabe Gross, RF

Starter: RHP James Shields (7-10, 3.81)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (57-66)
Fourth place AL East, 20.5 GB

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

Starter: LHP Brett Cecil (5-2, 4.58)

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

~JB

Game 123: Tampa Bay at Toronto

Romero.jpgAfter Ricky Romero’s outing against the Red Sox on Tuesday, when the rookie left after allowing six runs in just 3.2 innings, Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg decided to switch things up for the pitcher.

“Right after my last start against Boston,” Romero recalled, “as soon as I went into the dugout, he was like, ‘We have nothing to work on. You’re not going to throw a bullpen this week.'”

So, Romero listened and skipped his usual between-start mound workout. Instead, he did one light flat-ground before taking the mound again on Sunday. Romero then limited the Angels to two runs over six innings en route to his 11th win of the season.

Romero said the lighter work load helped. The young lefty noted that he felt much stronger as the game went on against Los Angeles.

“I did,” he said. “I was talking to some of the guys about it. In the sixth inning, I was throwing kind of hard, as opposed to last week I think I ran out of gas pretty quick. My velocity was down a little bit, so people were wondering what was going on. I wanted to come back and kind of show them that I’m good.”

Going forward, Romero said he may or may not be throwing bullpens between outings — it’ll depend on how he feels. This week, an off-day on Thursday will help and he is scheduled to make his next start on Saturday — not Friday. That will give him an extra day to rest his arm, which has logged 145.2 innnings between Triple-A and MLB this year.

After they pitch on Sept. 4-5, respectively, the Jays plan on shutting rookie lefties Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski down for the season due to innings limitations — roughly 150 for Cecil and 160 for Zep. Romero does not face a similar problem. His career-high in innings is 164.1 in ’08 and he’ll likely fall around 190 this season.

That is if Romero averages roughly six innings per start down the stretch. Having 30-40 more innings than the previous season is what the Blue Jays try to shoot for with their young arms (see: Cecil and Rzep). Romero said he feels great right now health-wise and plans on pitching through the end of the year.

“I already told them that I’m fresh,” Romero said. “I’m ready to go through the whole year. I just look at it as, if i’m going to be one of the guys here, I feel like I need to go the whole year and kind of get on that consistent year-to-year thing. My arm is fresh. It feels good. I haven’t had any arm problems all year and I bounce back pretty quick.”

OTHER ITEMS: The Blue Jays activated LHP Scott Downs from the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Rays and placed Edwin Encarnacion (left hamstring/knee) on the 15-day DL. Downs moves into the bullpen, but might not be used as the closer right away. RHP Jason Frasor has held that role since Downs has been out. … Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said that ace Roy Halladay will make his next start on Sunday in Boston, giving the right-hander an extra day of rest.

Today’s lineups:


Thumbnail image for Rays.jpgTAMPA BAY RAYS (67-56)
Third place AL East, 10.5 GB

1. Jason Bartlett, SS
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Pat Burrell, DH
7. Gregg Zaun, C
8. Gabe Gross, RF
9. B.J. Upton, CF

Starter: RHP Jeff Niemann (11-5, 3.71)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (57-65)
Fourth place AL East, 20.0 GB

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

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (13-6, 2.78)

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

~JB

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Game 122: Los Angeles at Toronto

Downs.jpgOne thing that is not settled going into next season is the Blue Jays’ closer role. B.J. Ryan is gone — though his $10 million 2010 salary is still on the books — and the team is not 100 percent convinced Scott Downs will be the full-time replacement.

Asked if Downs would be defined as “the closer” going into next spring, this is what manager Cito Gaston had to say:

“Probably not. We’ll just wait and see. To say, ‘Who’s your closer?’ and to try to see which one does a better job in Spring Training is a little tough to do.”

By that last statement, Gaston meant that it’s difficult to simulate a ninth-inning situation in the spring, when most big leaguers have bailed long before the final frame. It stands to reason that Downs and Jason Frasor, who both are eligible to become free agents after 2010, will be the leading candidates for the role next year.

Downs has been great over the past few years as Toronto’s main setup man, but his performance as the closer this year — after Ryan was stripped of the role in April before being released on July — has been shaky. Part of the reason for Downs’ struggles, a main reason actually, is he has been dealing off and on with a left foot injury.

Gaston does not believe the injury, and the lack of save chances, have really given Downs an opportunity to show if he is the right person for the closer job.

“Downs did great as a setup man,” Gaston said. “But he hasn’t really had the opportunity to show us that [he should be the closer] one way or the other — not much. He’s had a couple of times out there that didn’t work out, but as far as really showing us that he’s the guy, he hasn’t had the opportunity because he’s been hurt.”

Downs, who is coming off a three-outing Minor League rehab stint with Class A Dunedin, was scheduled to rejoin the Jays on Sunday, according to Gaston. The manager said that Downs would “probably” be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday, but he might not move directly into the stopper role — currently held by Frasor.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Gaston said. “If he got here tomorrow and I said, ‘We’re going to stick him in the closer’s spot right away,’ I’m not sure if that’s fair to him, either. We’ll see who’s hitting. We’ll see what numbers we’ve got on guys and see if it’s a possibility for him to do that.”

Today’s lineups:


Thumbnail image for Angels.gifLOS ANGELES ANGELS (74-47)
First place AL West, — GB

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

Starter: RHP Trevor Bell (1-0, 5.91)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (56-65)
Fourth place AL East, 20.0 GB

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

Starter: LHP Ricky Romero (10-5, 3.95)

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

~JB

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Game 121: Los Angeles at Toronto

Friendly neighbourhood Blue Jays associate reporter Erika Gilbert here, filling in for Jordan while he gets a couple of days off.

On Snider’s spot in the lineup:

Travis Snider is hitting ninth again today, after batting sixth on Friday.

When Snider got out to a hot start to the season, a lot of fans were hoping he’d get moved up from ninth in the batting order. Given the type of hitter he’s expected to be down the line, a spot in the middle of the order seems to be in his future.

Cito Gaston wanted to keep Snider in the nine-hole, though. He didn’t want Snider to feel any extra pressure.

Snider was finally moved up yesterday, batting sixth for the first time. Given what Cito had to say about the change in the order in yesterday’s pre-game chat with reporters, it’s not really surprising that Snider’s back hitting ninth.

“It’s actually out of necessity — more that than anything else,” Gaston said. “We could use an extra bat up here in the middle of that lineup to do
some damage. It’s not the fact of what I said earlier [taking the pressure off] because if we had
the same lineup here he’d probably be hitting ninth, but we don’t have
the same lineup anymore. [Scott] Rolen’s not here, and [Alex] Rios is not here, so that
changes things a little bit too.”

Raul Chavez was in the lineup yesterday, and Rod Barajas is catching today. Here’s what Cito had to say about the bottom of the order:

“Today with the lineup with Barajas back in there… it’s just a choice for me, moving back down there so we have some speed back there. [Snider] didn’t do anything wrong to be put back down  there. It’d be the same thing if I put Barajas hitting ninth — he just hit fourth the other day. You  plummet real quick don’t you?”

Some notes on playing time:

-Jose Bautista has gotten a little less playing time since Rolen was traded, since Bautista used to fill in when the team played day games after night games. Cito said Bautista will probably be getting more playing time down the stretch than he has since the Edwin Encarnacion era began.

-Cito on the catching situation: “We might bring another catcher [in September]. The biggest thing with Barajas is he is a free agent. I want to make sure he gets some playing time in, but also maybe play Chavez a little bit going down to the end. Next month is one off day … so he’ll probably play a little bit more.”

You can follow me on Twitter at @e_gilbert

-Erika

Game 119: Boston at Toronto

citoump.jpg

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently issued a warning, saying his team would retaliate on a two-for-one basis if he believed one of his players was hit intentionally with a pitch. On Thursday, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was asked about Guillen’s comments and he had this to say.

“I don’t think there is a manager in the league that’s not going to protect his guys.”

That being said, Gaston quickly added that he does not agree with the macho-baseball “tradition” of hitting a player with a pitch after somebody launches a home run. On Wednesday night, Jays reliever Brandon League hut Kevin Youkilis one batter after Victor Martinez belted a homer off the pitcher.

Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher immediately issued warnings to both the Red Sox and Blue Jays, which was fine with Gaston. The manager just wanted to make it clear to Fletcher and everyone else that League absolutely did not hit Youkilis on purpose. League hit him with a splitter — a dead giveaway that it was not intentional.

“If this kid is going to hit you, he’s going to hit you with about a 97 [mph fastball],” Gaston said. “He didn’t hit him with a fastball. I guess the league is just a little jumpy on all the things that have happened lately, so they issued warnings right away.”

That is just fine by Gaston, too, because he believes things got out of hand in the past.

“You know what? I think it’s better nowadays,” Gaston said. “I used to go up after someone who just hit a home run and get knocked down all the time. To me, I didn’t hit the home run, so don’t knock me down. If I strike out, and I throw my bat at you… you know?

“So, I never agreed with all that [stuff] that used to go on about throwing at people anyway. Now, I think they have more of a handle on it and I think it should be stopped. You’re jeopardizing someone’s career by hitting them in the head with a ball and they can’t stand out there and throw a bat at you, so I agree with [the umpires].

“I’m glad it’s that way. It should’ve been that way a long time ago. You can say it’s tough … baseball or whatever. It was stupid and senseless the way they used to do it. Somebody hit a home run, they hit the next guy. Does that make any sense?”

Not really, no.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifBOSTON RED SOX (68-51)
Second place AL East, 7.0 GB

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Mike Lowell, 3B
8. J.D. Drew, RF
9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

Starter: LHP Jon Lester (9-7, 3.71)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (55-63)
Fourth place AL East, 19.5 GB

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Vernon Wells, CF
4. Rod Barajas, C
5. Kevin Millar, 1B
6. Randy Ruiz, DH
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Jose Bautista, LF
9. Travis Snider, RF

Starter: LHP Brett Cecil (5-1, 4.35)

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

~JB

Game 118: Boston at Toronto

Thumbnail image for arencibia.jpgOne of the areas that the Blue Jays will be re-evaluating this coming winter is the situation behind the plate. Entering the year, the club hoped that catching prospects J.P. Arencibia (right) and Brian Jeroloman would be big-league ready some time this year, or at least by 2010.

Given their performance this season, the Jays are now thinking the young catchers might need a little more time.

“I dont think they’ll be ready for next year,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on Wednesday. “I think it’s going to take another year or so to step up and be ready.”

In 96 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, Arencibia has hit .227 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs, posting a .277 on-base percentage. In 95 games at Double-A New Hampshire, Jeroloman has batted .226 with six homers and 28 RBIs. Jeroloman has reached bast at a .341 clip.

This offseason, the Blue Jays will have to decide whether to try to re-sign free-agent catcher Rod Barajas. Backup Raul Chavez is eligible for arbitration. Barajas might seek a multi-year contract and Toronto needs to decide whether it’s willing to do that in light of the development of the young catchers.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to look into for next year,” Gaston said. “Is Rod going to be back? Is Chavez going to be back? Are both going to be back and let the kids play another year in Triple-A? Or, do you go out and get a different catcher and you keep one of the two guys you have here now.”

Yup, that about covers it…

Come early September, the Blue Jays plan on shutting down rookie starters Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski due to innings limits. Gaston said the club has not decided who will slide into the rotation down the stretch. Brian Tallet will likely be one of the replacements, as he’s been all year, and the Jays will need to look to the Minors for the other. “There’s a good chance” that David Purcey might be one of the guys, according to Gaston.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifBOSTON RED SOX (67-51)
Second place AL East, 7.0 GB

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. J.D. Drew, RF
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. David Ortiz, DH
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
8. Nick Green, 2B
9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

Starter: RHP Clay Buchholz (1-3, 4.45)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (55-62)
Fourth place AL East, 18.5 GB

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

Starter: RHP Roy Halladay (13-5, 2.65)

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

~JB

Game 117: Boston at Toronto

travis-snider-2.jpgHe’s back. After watching box score after box score show that Travis Snider was mashing at a ridiculous rate with Triple-A Las Vegas, the Blue Jays decided to bring the kid back to Toronto on Tuesday.

Snider’s production — .337 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 48 games for Vegas — might have netted a call-up earlier, but the Jays were keeping a close eye on his service time. Why not? The team is not in the running and holding him back could save millions.

By waiting until Tuesday to promote Snider, he will likely fall a few days short of reaching Super Two status after the 2011 season. What this means is he would not have an extra year of arbitration eligibility. It made complete sense for the organization to handle the situation this way.

When Snider was up witht he big league club earlier this season, he played against right-handed pitching. Now, manager Cito Gaston said he’ll play against “everybody.” Snider did not like seeing Alex Rios go, but he said he is looking forward to taking advantage of the chance to play in right field on a daily basis.

We also chatted with GM J.P. Ricciardi today about the Jays’ unsigned Draft picks. Check bluejays.com later tonight for more on that and for Snider’s comments on being called up. The Jays optioned Joe Inglett to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for Snider.

Today’s lineups:


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifBOSTON RED SOX (66-51)
Second place AL East, 7.0 GB

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. J.D. Drew, RF
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. Mike Lowell, 3B
7. David Ortiz, DH
8. Nick Green, 2B
9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

Starter: RHP Josh Beckett (14-4, 3.10)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (55-61)
Fourth place AL East, 17.5 GB

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

Starter: LHP Ricky Romero (10-5, 3.70)

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

~JB

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Game 116: Toronto at Tampa Bay

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (55-60)
Fourth place AL East, 18.0 GB

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, LF
4. Lyle Overbay, 1B
5. Vernon Wells, CF
6. Randy Ruiz, DH
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Joe Inglett, RF

Starter: LHP Marc Rzepczynski (1-3, 4.38)

Thumbnail image for Rays.jpgTAMPA BAY RAYS (62-54)
Third place AL East, 11.5 GB

1. Jason Bartlett, SS
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Willy Aybar, DH
7. Gabe Kapler, RF
8. Dioner Navarro, C
9. B.J. Upton, CF

Starter: RHP Matt Garza (7-8, 3.80)

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

~JB

Game 115: Toronto at Tampa Bay

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (55-59)
Fourth place AL East, 17.0 GB

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

Starter: LHP Brian Tallet (5-6, 4.85)

Thumbnail image for Rays.jpgTAMPA BAY RAYS (61-54)
Third place AL East, 11.5 GB

1. Jason Bartlett, SS
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Willy Aybar, DH
7. Gabe Kapler, RF
8. Dioner Navarro, C
9. B.J. Upton, CF

Starter: LHP Scott Kazmir (6-7, 6.50)

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

~JB

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