March 2010

Game 24 notes

Cecil7.jpgAt the tail end of Spring Training a year ago, with just a few days left until camp broke, left-hander Ricky Romero took the mound at Osceola County Stadium and won a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation with an impressive outing against the Astros in Kissimmee.

On Wednesday, it was hard not to recall that outing.

Lefty Brett Cecil took the hill at Bright House Field, knowing it was his last shot to convince Toronto hand him a starting job. Facing an All-Star studded Phillies lineup, all Cecil did was log six strong innings, allowing two solo homers and striking out four with no walks.

“He delivered,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “He went out and did a great job — just an absolutely great job.”

Will it ultimately win Cecil a spot in the rotation?

We might find out tomorrow. The Jays hope to be able to announce their rotation on Thursday (me too since I have an evening flight tomorrow!), because they fly to Houston on Friday morning and don’t want to bring anyone who will not be with the club on Opening Day.

Lefty Brian Tallet is scheduled to start on Thursday in the Florida spring finale, and his outing could determine if he winds up in the bullpen or rotation. It appears to be down to Cecil, Tallet and Dana Eveland for two spots. That is, unless Brandon Morrow’s right shoulder acts up between now and the season opener.

Toronto will break with 12 pitchers and the club has 14 left in camp right now: Shaun Marcum (lock), Ricky Romero (lock), Morrow, Cecil, Tallet (out of options), Eveland (out of options), Jason Frasor (lock), Scott Downs (lock), Kevin Gregg (lock), Shawn Camp (out of options), Merkin Valdez (out of options), Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo and Josh Roenicke.

I see two rotation scenarios:

1. The Jays go with Cecil and one of Tallet/Eveland in the rotation, and send one of Tallet/Eveland to the bullpen. Under this scenario, two relievers who need to be bumped to the Minors. I’d say Accardo and Roenicke might be the two, since they both have options left and the Jays want to protect their depth if possible.

2. The Jays go with Tallet and Eveland and option Cecil to Triple-A. That’d be a tough break for Cecil, who looks like he’s earned a job with his last few outings. Under this scenario, only one reliever would need to be sent back down to the Minors. Again, I see it coming down to Accardo of Roenicke. Janssen has options, but he’s had a fantastic spring.

THE REST OF THE ROSTER: One minor move on Wednesday brought the makeup of the non-pitching portion of the roster into focus. The Jays reassigned catcher Raul Chavez to Minor League camp, meaning Jose Molina will break as the backup catcher to starter John Buck.

Barring any late-spring additions via waivers or trades, that means the 13 position players will be as follows: 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Aaron Hill, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, LF Travis Snider, CF Vernon Wells, RF Jose Bautista, DH Adam Lind, C John Buck, C Jose Molina, SS John McDonald, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz, UTIL Mike McCoy.

QUOTABLE: “I’m the best looking, that’s for sure.” –Jose Molina, asked which of the Molina brothers was the best catcher

HAPPY TO HELP: One thing that Molina said he prides himself on is having an open line of communication with his pitchers. He enjoyed working with younger pitchers and that’s one reason he chose to sign with the Blue Jays. Ricky Romero offered one example of a time Molina offered some advice already this spring.

“When we threw in Orlando,” Romero said, “he was coming up to me and we were talking about hitters and pitches and it’s always a good feeling when you have that luxury of having a guy like that. The thing he has said is, ‘You have such good stuff at times, it moves so much, that you just have to learn to throw it down the middle and kind of just let it work.’ I think where I get in trouble sometimes is when I try to be too fine with pitches. That’s what gets me deep in counts and stuff like that. It’s good to have him here to talk about things like that.”

BIRD FEED: Opening Day starter Shaun Marcum pitched in a Triple-A game on Wednesday, allowing three runs on five hits, including one homer, over a five-inning, 66-pitch outing. Marcum struck out five and walked none. Buck said Marcum looked “really sharp” in his final tuneup for Opening Day. The lone exception was an elevated pitch that was belted for the homer. … Gaston named Frasor the primary closer on Wednesday, after making it pretty clear last week that that was the way he was leaning. … Hill launched a two-run homer on the first pitch he received from former Jays ace Roy Halladay on Wednesday. … In the first inning against Halladay, the Jays scored four runs on five hits, including three for four for extra bases. “I think we’re all shocked it kind of happened, too,” said Lind, who doubled. … Downs, Frasor and Valdez each logged a shutout inning on Wednesday against the Phillies. Valdez has impressed the Jays this spring and appears to have quietly captured a bullpen job. Again, though, the Jays have not announced any relievers beyond Frasor, Gregg and Downs.

QUOTABLE II: “It was kind of weird actually toeing up against him. He’s thinner than I thought he was. It could be the red.” –Lind, on Halladay   

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: You may have noticed a slight change to the bluejays.com news content. We are introducing a new feature called “The Beat,” which will include small items that would have been shorter “notebook” news items in past formats. I’m not sure how this will affect how I use this blog, if at all. It’s a work in progress, but should make bluejays.com an even better source for news during the upcoming season.

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading bluejays.com and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on TwitPic.com.

~JB

Game 24 lineups: Jays at Phillies

TORONTO AT PHILADELPHIA
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Clearwater

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (10-12-1)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, LF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Jose Molina, C
9. Brett Cecil, P


Thumbnail image for phillies.gifPHILLIES (12-11-1)
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Jayson Werth, RF
6. Raul Ibanez, LF
7. Shane Victorino, CF
8. Brian Schneider, C
9. Doc Halladay, P

QUICKLY: Jays reassigned catcher Raul Chavez to Minor League camp, meaning Jose Molina wins the backup job. X-rays revealed that Marc Rzepczynski suffered a fracture of his left middle finger and he is expected to miss four to six weeks. Jason Frasor has been officially tabbed as the closer. Check bluejays.com for more later.

~JB

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Jays trim roster by three

The Blue Jays whittled down their roster on Tuesday morning, bringing the Opening Day roster picture a little more into focus. Toronto reassigned outfielder Jeremy Reed to Minor League camp and optioned left-handers Jesse Carlson and David Purcey to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The departure of Reed likely means the only decision left facing the Jays in terms of position players is picking between Jose Molina and Raul Chavez for the backup catching duties. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was quick to note, though, that there is still a chance that Toronto’s roster situation changes due to players being passed through waivers or a potential trade.

Barring any late-spring additions, though, the Blue Jays’ bench would consist of infielder John McDonald, first baseman/designated hitter Randy Ruiz, utility man Mike McCoy and Molina or Chavez. The only other issue that could change the makeup is if third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) needs to open the year on the disabled list.

Carlson had battled a left knee injury throughout the spring and his one-inning showing on Monday marked his first Grapefruit League appearance since March 5. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Carlson simply had not pitched enough to win a job over the other relieving candidates in camp.

Carlson, who has options, will join Purcey in the Triple-A bullpen. Purcey entered camp as a starter, but the Jays limited him to throwing fastballs and sliders this spring and were thrilled with the results. Purcey hoped to fight for a starting role, but showed improved confidence and command as a reliever.

With Carlson and Purcey out of the mix, that leaves Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Casey Janssen, Shawn Camp, Jeremy Accardo, Merkin Valdez, Josh Roenicke, Dana Eveland and possibly Brian Tallet in the bullpen picture. Only Gregg, Frasor and Downs are locks, while Camp, Valdez, Eveland and Tallet are out of options.

Tallet has been a favorite to win a rotation job all spring, but Gaston said on Monday that the veteran lefty might still be considered as a reliever. Eveland has had a fantastic spring and will likely be on the staff in some capacity. The Jays have liked what they’ve seen from Valdez, meaning either Accardo or Roenicke may wind up in the Minors (if Tallet and Eveland are both in the rotation).

As far as the rotation goes, the only locks are Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero. Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Eveland and Tallet are in the running for the Nos. 3-5 slots. Rzepczynski and Cecil will start on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, so Anthopoulos said the starting five will likely be announced Thursday.

~JB

Game 23 lineups: Jays at Yankees

TORONTO AT NEW YORK
at 7:05 p.m. ET in Tampa

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (10-11-1)
1. Jose Bautista, 3B
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
7. Travis Snider, LF
8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
9. Raul Chavez, C

Pitching: Marc Rzepczynski


Thumbnail image for Yankees.jpgYANKEES (11-14)
1. Derk Jeter, SS
2. Nick Johnson, 1B
3. Marcus Thames, LF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Randy Winn, RF
6. Ramiro Pena, 2B
7. Jon Weber, DH
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Greg Golson, CF

Pitching: Sergio Mitre

~JB

Notes from Game 22

Carlson.jpgOne more spot in the bullpen may have been wrapped up on Monday afternoon. In the seventh inning, lefty Jesse Carlson entered the game against the Tigers.

“It’s good to be back out there,” Carlson said with a smile.

That may have been all it took.

If the Blue Jays believed there was a serious chance that Carlson needed to open the season on the disabled list, it’s most likely that the team would have continued to have the southpaw test his left knee out in Minor League games.

It marked Carlson’s first Grapefruit League appearance since March 5, giving the Jays time to backdate a DL stint if necessary. Now, if Carlson is as healthy as it he seems to be, he will likely break camp with the big club.

“It felt good,” Carlson said. “My arm felt good. My knee felt great. So, overall I’m pretty happy.”

Carlson threw 17 pitches (12 strikes) and mainly stuck with fastballs. The lefty gave up two singles and faced five batters in all. A fielding error on a would-be double-play grounder forced him to fire off a few extra pitches. He threw a couple breaking balls, one that resulted in a broken-bat bloop single to center field.

“Nothing you could do there,” he said with a shrug.

The final Detroit hitter to face Carlson, third baseman Brandon Inge, worked through a seven-pitch at-bat, driving the lefty’s pitch count a little higher than he probably would have liked. After two foul balls, though, Carlson was able to induce a lineout to third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

“That’s what I need,” Carlson said of the 17-pitch outing. “I’m sure I’ll be a little tight tomorrow, but it’ll be a good tightness. This time of the year, your arm shouldn’t feel too good — as good as mine does — because obviously I haven’t been in there. I’m looking forward to the body starting to get there and getting ready to get back out there in another day.”

It says here that Carlson makes the Opening Day bullpen. The only relievers deemed locks to this point are Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg. Behind them, I’d put money on Shawn Camp and Carlson making the team. It’s the final two slots that will likely consume more debate behind Toronto’s closed doors.

Ask me, and I’d say Casey Janssen deserves to be in the bullpen in light of the strong spring he has had. He has options, but there’s something to be said for loyalty and honoring someone who has put up results in a competition. That would leave one spot for either Dana Eveland, Merkin Valdez, Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke or David Purcey.

Eveland and Valdez are out of options and know that the Jays will definitely take that into consideration. Eveland is trying to make the rotation, but could wind up in the ‘pen due to the pile of starting candidates left. Roenicke and Accardo (both with options) will likely open the year at Triple-A. That leaves Valdez and Purcey. In an effort to maintain depth, Valdez may have the edge if it came down to those two arms.

THE ROTATION: Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on Monday that the only locks for the rotation are Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero. After a spring-long stance that Brian Tallet will likely be in the rotation, Gaston finally changed his tune some and said there’s a chance Tallet could wind up back in the bullpen.

“The way he’s pitched, he’s still a guy you could put in the bullpen, too,” Gaston said of Tallet. “Right now, you can bank on those two [Marcum and Romero], but we’ll see what happens in the next few days on the rest of those guys.”

That altered view on Tallet might have had a little something to do with the six shutout innings that Eveland spun against the Tigers on Monday, lowering his spring ERA to a tidy 1.23. Toronto has also handed Eveland a team-high 22 innings this spring. So they’re taking a good, hard look at him.

Right now, Eveland looks like he has made the club.

“He’s pitched well enough to pitch on this club,” Gaston said. “We just want to wait and see where we’re going to put him, if he’s going to be a starter or if he’s going to be someone that you bring out of the bullpen.”

Much depends on the health of Brandon Morrow, but he worked through a 52-pitch simulated game on Monday and came away pain-free and still confident that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. He’s down to start Saturday in Houston. Barring a setback, he appears poised to break camp in the rotation.

Where does this leave Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil? Maybe at Triple-A. On Friday, Cito said, “Anything’s possible,” when asked if the pair of young lefties could both open the year in the Minors. Unless Rzepczynski is just lights out on Tuesday against the Yankees, there’s a good shot he winds up at Vegas and not in Toronto.

Why start the two youngsters in the Minors? Well… why not? The Jays want to get out of the practice of rushing players to the Majors. Developing properly takes priority and this is a season more about developing than contending. When there are guys like Tallet and Eveland to buy time for younger arms, why not use them and make sure the kids are good and ready?

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Opening Day Predictions: Part 6

Based on the above analysis of the current bullpen and rotation situation, here is an updated projection of who I believe will be on the Blue Jays pitching staff come Opening Day:

PITCHERS – Starters: RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Dana Eveland, LHP Brian Tallet. Relievers: RHP Jason Frasor (closer), LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Shawn Camp, LHP Jesse Carlson, RHP Casey Janssen, RHP Merkin Valdez.

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A TWITTER POLL: Following today’s game, I tweeted this question, “Behind Marcum & Romero, who’s in your rotation? Choices for 3 vacancies: Morrow, Rzepczynski, Cecil, Eveland, Tallet.” I stopped counting the votes at 5:45 p.m. ET.

If it were up to my followers on Twitter,
here is who would occupy the Nos. 3-5 slots:

3. Morrow — 45 votes
4. Eveland — 42 votes
5. Rzepczynski — 37 votes

Others receiving votes:

6. Cecil — 13 votes
7. Tallet — 5 votes
8. David Purcey — 1 vote
9. Johnny Mac? — 1 vote

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LATE SCRATCHES: First baseman Lyle Overbay was in the starting lineup for the Blue Jays on Monday, but was removed at the last minute. Overbay’s left knee — banged up in a collision with Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford on Friday — is still sore and the first baseman was not ready to resume game action.

“He was a little sore,” Gaston said. “So we didn’t want to run him out there. He’ll be in there tomorrow I’m pretty sure.”

Also scratched from the original lineup was catcher Raul Chavez, though nothing is wrong with the backup catching candidate. Chavez has not caught Rzepczynski in a game this spring, so he switched places with Jose Molina and will now start on Tuesday night, when Zep takes the hill against the Yankees.

BIRD FEED: Let’s get something straightened out really quick. Earlier this week, Gaston said he is leaning toward handing the closer’s role to Frasor. Gaston did not declare that Frasor has already won the team’s closer’s job. It’ll likely come down to Frasor and Gregg, and Frasor will probably have the primary job come Opening Day. That said, Gaston has not officially named a closer. … Former Jays ace Roy Halladay is scheduled to pitch against his old buddies when the Phillies host Toronto on Wednesday. On Thursday, former Jay A.J. Burnett will face Toronto when the Jays host the Yankees. … The Blue Jays were no-hit through five innings on Monday. The streak was broken by a single from John McDonald with one out in the sixth. Jose Bautista then doubled and Aaron Hill drove home both runners. … After nine innings, the Jays and Tigers agreed to end the contest in a 2-2 tie. Both teams had enough pitchers to go another frame. I guess they figured 63 innings between the clubs was plenty this spring. … Following Zep on Tuesday will be Camp and Janssen for the Jays. Scheduled to make the trip to Tampa for Tuesday’s nightcap against New York are John Buck, Chavez, Edwin Encarcnaion, Alex Gonzalez, Hill, Mike McCoy, McDonald, Overbay, Randy Ruiz, Bautista, Adam Lind, Jeremy Reed, Travis Snider and Vernon Wells. … Cecil is slated to work six innings against the Phillies on Wednesday. Frasor, Downs, Carlson and Roenicke would follow him. Marcum is down to pitch a Minors game on Wednesday.

GLStrophy.jpgPOP THE CORKS! Even with a tie game ending the epic, seven-game spring series between the Blue Jays and Tigers, Detroit came away the 2010 Grapefruit League Series champions of the world. The Tigers went 4-2-1 to clinch the title.

I’ll award the first-ever Grapefruit League MVP Award to Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera, who hit .467 with two homers and seven RBIs.

Series Results:

GAME ONE: Tigers 7, Blue Jays 6 (March 3)
GAME TWO: Blue Jays 9, Tigers 7 (March 4
GAME THREE: Blue Jays 8, Tigers 5 (March 7)
GAME FOUR: Tigers 10, Blue Jays 7 (March 15)
GAME FIVE: Tigers 8, Blue Jays 2 (March 22)
GAME SIX: Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1 (March 25)
GAME SEVEN: Blue Jays 2, Tigers 2 (March 29)

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading bluejays.com and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on TwitPic.com.

~JB

Game 22 lineups: Tigers at Jays

THE 2010 GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE SERIES

GAME SEVEN: DETROIT AT TORONTO
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Dunedin

Tigers.gifTIGERS (14-10, 4-2 vs. Jays)
1. Brandon Inge, 3B
2. Adam Everett, SS
3. Scott Sizemore, 2B
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Gerald Laird, C
6. Ryan Raburn, RF
7. Don Kelly, CF
8. Jeff Larish, LF
9. Alex Avila, DH

Pitching: Rick Porcello

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (10-11, 2-4 vs. Tigers)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
*5. Randy Ruiz, 1B
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
7. Travis Snider, LF
**8. Jose Molina, C
9. John McDonald, SS

Pitching: Dana Eveland

Series Results:

GAME ONE: Tigers 7, Blue Jays 6 (March 3)
GAME TWO: Blue Jays 9, Tigers 7 (March 4
GAME THREE: Blue Jays 8, Tigers 5 (March 7)
GAME FOUR: Tigers 10, Blue Jays 7 (March 15)
GAME FIVE: Tigers 8, Blue Jays 2 (March 22)
GAME SIX: Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1 (March 25)

*Lyle Overbay was a late scratch. Overbay suffered a left knee contusion on Friday and has been resting his leg since then. The Jays penciled him into the lineup, but Overbay wanted at least one more day off for recovery.

**Raul Chavez was initially penciled into the lineup, but was replaced at the last minute by Molina. Chavez said the switch was made because he has yet to catch lefty Marc Rzepczynski in a game. Zep is slated to start Tuesday night with Chavez behind the plate.

~JB

Game 22: Orioles at Jays

TAMPA BAY AT TORONTO
at 1:05 p.m. ET* in Dunedin


Thumbnail image for Orioles.gifORIOLES (10-14)
1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Felix Pie, CF
3. Nolan Reimold, RF
4. Luke Scott, 1B
5. Garrett Atkins, DH
6. Lou Montanez, LF
7. Scott Moore, 3B
8. Chad Moeller, C
9. Robert Andino, SS

Pitching: Jeremy Guthrie

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (10-11)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Randy Ruiz, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. John McDonald, SS

Pitching: Ricky Romero

*rain could cause a problem

~JB

Notes from Game 21

Thumbnail image for tallet.jpgThat’s a photo of Jays lefty Brian Tallet from last season, when he first slid into the rotation for Toronto. He started rockin’ a similar ‘stache this week.

Tallet is also rockin’ a spot among the Jays’ starting five heading into this season. Which spot?

The lanky lefty’s schedule makes it seem as though he is the fifth, but no one is saying so just yet.

“I’m not really worried about where I fit in the rotation,” Tallet said on Saturday. “As long as I get a chance to go take the ball, that’s what I enjoy, just getting out there and pitching. It doesn’t matter who I pitch against. It’s just an opponent.”

I asked if Tallet was studying the Rangers’ or Orioles’ hitters. He didn’t bite.

“Actually, I havent started yet,” he said with a smile. “They haven’t told me what I’m doing.”

The only rotation spot locked up is the No. 1. The Jays handed that honor to Shaun Marcum, who will start on Opening Day against the Rangers on April 5 in Texas. The next two games in Texas look like they are lined up for Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, respectively, before Toronto heads to Baltimore for the season’s second series.

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said there’s a chance Tallet might wind up starting in Texas, though.

“He might. He might,” Gaston said.

“Or, he might start in Baltimore…” I quickly added.

Gaston chuckled.

We’ll likely know how the rotation will shape up on Tuesday, according to Gaston. That gives the Jays a chance to see how Morrow fares in a Minors game on Monday before maybe making a decision. One way or another, Gaston has said he wants to be able to announce the Opening Day roster before Toronto flies to Houston for tune-up games on April 2-3.

As for Tallet, he looked good enough on Saturday against the Pirates, logging five shutout innings during which he surrendered just two hits and finished with five strikeouts, one walk and about 80 pitches. Gaston was impressed and Tallet was happy with the performance.

“I had a good downward plane today with my fastball and the rest of my pitches,” Tallet said. “I had good comand. I was able to throw the ball to the corners today and just hit the mitt. Any time you can go out there and do that you, have a chance to succeed.”

ZEP V. BRETT: One battle that is not drawing much attention right now is the quiet competition between young lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil for a rotation spot. It has ben assumed all spring that Rzepczynski — a favorite of Gaston’s — was a virtual lock. It’s worth noting that general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the near three-hour drive to Fort Myers on Friday to watch Cecil spin a strong five-inning outing.

“Spring Training is so funny,” Gaston said. “Zep has had a tough first few innings. Cecil’s had two good turns out his last two times out. Automatic, he’s going to move to the top. He’s going to move to the top of the list, but it’s still not over. We go back and forth all the time on that. One guy one day and another guy the next day. Both of them still have a chance. We’ll sit down with Alex and [assistant GM Tony Lacava] and work it out.

“It could change in a week still. If guys don’t make the team and they go down to [Triple-A] Vegas, who knows what mappen happen a week from now? We do have those guys down there and if somebody gets off to a bad start and we feel like we need to make a swtich, we’re fortunate to have the guys to make that switch.”

ADJUSTING WELL: Tallet said making the switch from relieving to starting has been an easy transition for him. Why? Before he joined the Jays in 2006, Tallet spent his career as a starter. He said adjusting to the bullpen when he first joined the Jays was more difficult for him. Now, Tallet is going back to what he knows.

“It was actually harder for me to adjust coming from that starting role into the bullpen,” Tallet said. “It took so long to figure out what it took to get ready to get into the game. As a reliever, you just basically get your arm ready. Your pitches, you have to trust that your pitches are there. As a starter, you’re getting ready for a ballgame, you’re throwing your pitches and you’ve got to have them. You’ve got to have at least two. If you don’t have at least two, you’re in trouble. As a reliver, you can have just one pitch and if it’s good that day, they’re not going to hit you.”

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STAT OF THE DAY

TALLET AS A STARTER IN 2009

Overall in 25 starts: 7-8 record, 5.41 ERA, 139.2 IP, 84 ER
The 3 worst starts: 0-2 record, 22.65 ERA, 10.1 IP, 26 ER
The other 23 starts: 7-6 record, 4.04 ERA, 129.1 IP, 58 ER

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ANOTHER VIEW: This is a leftover quote from Friday’s game against the Rays, but here is what Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had to say about the potential that the Blue Jays’ pitching staff has:

“I’ll say it again, I’ve been saying it for several years, I think they have among the best young pitching in the American League. A couple years ago, I had arguments with different people that they had the best pitching in the American League. They’ve had injuries — that has really hurt them. [Dustin] McGowan. [Shaun] Marcum is coming back. Particularly, [BJ] Ryan goes down and then eventually gets released. They’ve been able to match up in the past, Brian Tallet and [Scott] Downs on the left side and then they’ve had a bunch of power dudes on the right side. I love [Casey] Janssen. They’ve got so many guys here that I like. [Ricky] Romero. I mean, you could talk about him. I think they’ve done a great job pitching wise. They’ve had some injuries, I get that, but physical potential among their pitchers I think is among the best.”

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Opening Day Predictions: Part 5

Every weekend leading up to the end of camp, I have included my current predictions for the Opening Day roster. After 21 games, this is my final educated guess about who I believe will be among the 25 players headed north for the Blue Jays:

PITCHERS – Starters: RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Marc Rzepczynski. Relievers: RHP Jason Frasor (closer), LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Shawn Camp, LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Casey Janssen, LHP Jesse Carlson.

POS. PLAYERS: C John Buck, C Jose Molina, 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Aaron Hill, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, DH Adam Lind, LF Travis Snider, CF Vernon Wells, RF Jose Bautista, INF John McDonald, UTIL Mike McCoy, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz.

CHANGES: LHP David Purcey removed. RHP Merkin Valdez removed. Eveland added. Carlson added.

REASONING: Carlson returns to my bullpen due to the strides he has made in the past week with his left knee issue. The lefty has worked in a Minor League game, is pitching every other day and is down to appear in a Grapefruit League Sunday. He wouldn’t be down to pitch in a big league game if Toronto didn’t think he was going to be ready in time for Opening Day. I added Eveland because he has pitched well this spring and is out of options. The Jays have been very impressed with Purcey, but it may come down to who has and does not have an option. If it’s Purcey vs. Eveland for a job, Eveland has the edge. It doesn’t hurt that he is stretched out, so he could  fill in as a spot starter or slide easily into a long relief role. Valdez is removed, but like Eveland he is out of options. I think Janssen has pitched his way on the team, but it could be Valdez vs. Janssen like it could be Eveland vs. Purcey. In the former case, though, I think Janssen deserves the spot. It would be risky exposing Valdez to waivers, though. On offense, the only question mark I see if with Encarnacion. If the Jays feel he needs more time to get ready, and place him on the DL, then Jeremy Reed seems a good bet to break camp with Toronto. For the 25th spot, I just think McCoy is too versatile not to put on the bench. He has speed and the ability to get on base and man at least six positions. Rotation-wise, the only iffy spot might be Rzepczynski. He has struggled some of late, while Brett Cecil has performed well. Then again, there’s a chance Cecil and Rzepczynski both wind up in Triple-A and Eveland makes the starting staff. We’ll all know soon enough.

———————————————————————————-

BIRD FEED: Infielder John McDonald will not be with the Blue Jays in Houston for the exhibition games against the Astros on April 2 and April 3 at Minute Maid Park. McDonald plans on heading home to Connecticut to be with his father, Jack, who battling advanced liver cancer. McDonald will rejoin Toronto in time for its Sunday workout before Opening Day. …  1B Lyle Overbay is only expected to miss a few games after suffering a left knee contusion on Friday. Overbay did not make the trip to Bradenton on Saturday, but Gaston said the first baseman was feeling much better. Team trainers advised Overbay to rest his knee for three days, while Overbay indicated to Gaston that he felt only one day was necessary. Gaston will follow up with Overbay prior to Sunday’s game in Dunedin. … Leadoff man Jose Bautista belted a mammoth solo homer for the Jays with two outs in the fourth. The ball towered high above left field and bounced off the roof of a building beyond the wall. Bautista also drew his first walk of Spring Training in the second inning. … Reed went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, raising his spring average to .420. He is competing against Mike McCoy for a spot on the bench. McCoy went 1-for-2 with a run scored and lifted his average to .476. … Joey Gathright (.167 average this spring) was a favorite to win a bench job entering camp, but Gaston was candid about Gathright’s situation on Saturday. “We’ll play him,” Gaston said. “But there’s guys ahead of him right now. I won’t sit here and lie to you. You know that as well as I do — there’s guys ahead of him. He just hasn’t played well.” If the Jays don’t have a job to offer in the big leagues, Gathright said he is willing to accept an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Janssen logged 1 2/3 shutout innings on Saturday, keeping his spring ERA at a tidy 0.00. … Jeremy Accardo worked 1 1/3 shutout innings after Janssen. … Encarnacion finished 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and five runners left on base. He is trying to get his timing down after missing most of the spring slate with a left wrist issue.  

GLOVE SAVE: Tallet benefited from a pair of spectacular catches in the outfield on Saturday, one from Gathright in center and another from Reed in right. Tallet’s favorite? Reed’s grab in the third inning, which bailed the lefty out after he allowed a single to Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen one batter earlier.

“Jeremy’s was probably the best one, considering I had just given up a hit to the pitcher,” Tallet said with a laugh. “I’m probably going to get some crap in camp once they hear about it. It’s one of those things. I can probably strike him out on a changeup and all that, but what’re you gaining out of that, striking the pitcher out with a changeup? You know you can do it, so let’s see if you can get him out with something else.”

Told that the single gave Pirates’ pitchers a three-game hitting streak, Tallet rolled his eyes and smiles.

“Just keep it going then,” he said.

QUOTABLE: “I really wanted to have a good spring, because I really like the team. I don’t know, man. It’s just been one of those springs where nothing’s been working. But, I can’t get down on myself.” –Gathright

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading bluejays.com and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on TwitPic.com.

~JB

Game 21: Jays at Pirates

TORONTO AT PITTSBURGH
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Bradenton

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (9-11)
1. Jose Bautista, 3B
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Jeremy Reed, RF
4. Kyle Phillips, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Chris Lubanski, LF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Jose Molina, C
9. Joey Gathright, CF

Pitching: Brian Tallet


Pirates.gifPIRATES (6-14)
1. Aki Iwamura, 2B
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF
3. Garrett Jones, RF
4. Ryan Doumit, C
5. Lastings Milledge, LF
6. Jeff Clement, 1B
7. Andy LaRoche, 3B
8. Daniel McCutchen, P
9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

Pitching: Daniel McCutchen

~JB

Notes from Game 19 (and 20)

Marcum3.jpgRough outing for the Bulldog this afternoon here in Dunedin. Shaun Marcum — in his first showing since being named the Opening Day starter — laid one hefty egg against the Rays.

Five innings. Nine runs. Nine hits. Two homers.

“It was just a bad day locating pitches,” Marcum said.

So, what was the problem? For starters, he was having issues hitting the corners, especially down and away with his fastball. What did he do? He kept trying, and was never able to correct the issue. But, Spring Training is the time to work, so he’ll take his lumps now.

During the season?

“Some of those pitch selections I probbaly wouldn’t have thrown in a normal game during the season,” Marcum said. “I wanted to try to hit that spot down and away, which I was struggling with today. Then again, we still have some time and I’d rather it be now than on April 5 or April whatever after that.

“It’s good to get that one out of the way and move on and get ready for that next start.”

Marcum was focusing on his two-seam and cut fastball in the 93-pitch outing, straying away from the changeups he’ll throw more often once the bell rings. It was ugly, but take it for what it is: a bad spring start during which a pitcher was working on something specific.

EARLY EXITS: First baseman Lyle Overbay left Friday’s game after colliding with Carl Crawford during a play at the bag in the first inning. Overbay was checked out by Dr. Steve Mirabello and the Jays said he suffered a left knee contusion. He’s day-to-day and the injury is not deemed serious.

In the other split-squad game in Fort Myers on Friday, Blue Jays catcher John Buck exited after only playing a few innings. No, Toronto’s players are not dropping like flies. Buck left due to a family emergency that came up on Friday. Boston’s Mike Lowell also left with a left knee contusion. Weird.

INJURY UPDATES: Prior to Friday’s game, Brandon Morrow threw off a mound in a normal bullpen session and he said his right shoulder felt fine during and after the workout. Morrow is slated to throw three innings in a Minor League game on Monday and then five innings (or 75-80 pitches) on April 3 in Houston. Barring any setbacks, pitching coach Bruce Walton said Morrow is on pace to break camp with the team.

Also on Friday, left-handed reliever Jesse Carlson tested out his left knee during a Minor League appearance for the Jays. Carlson worked one inning, tossed 11 pitches and had zeroes across. Like Morre, the Jays are optimistic about Carlson’s chances of being ready for Opening Day.

IN THE NINTH: Following Friday’s game, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said he is leaning toward naming Jason Frasor the club’s primary closer because, “he hasn’t really done anything to lose that opportunity.” Gaston added that nothing is official, but it appears as though Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg will serve as setup men.

SHUT DOWN: Dustin McGowan did not suffer another setback, but Gaston said the Jays will shut the pitcher down for another two weeks to rest his fatigued right shoulder. McGowan was instructed to rest for one week after his two-inning start last Friday, and the Jays want to give him more rest before he resumes throwing. There is no rush to bring McGowan back, so Toronto is taking a very conservative approach.

BIRD FEED: Kyle Phillips entered for Overbay in the first and all he did was homer in his first at-bat and finish 3-for-5 with four RBIs. … Leadoff man Jose Bautista went 0-for-4, but is still hitting .441 this spring. … Second baseman Aaron Hill went 3-for-4, as did outfielder Jeremy Reed. They are hitting .417 and .413, respectively this spring. Reed is having a great spring and appears to be in a battle with Mike McCoy for the 25th roster spot. … Lefty David Purcey logged 1 1/3 shutout innings, continuing to look great as a reliever. Gaston noted again today that, even if he doesn’t heard north with the Jays, Purcey will remain as a reliever to start the season. If it ain’t broke and all that. … Gregg and Merkin Valdez logged a shutout inning apiece against the Rays. Valdez is out of options and is vying for one of the final spots in the ‘pen. … In Fort Myers, McCoy went 1-for-4 and Edwin Encarnacion went 0-for-2 with a walk. McCoy is coming back from a right shoulder issue and EE a left wrist injury. … Lefty Brett Cecil started against the Red Sox and allowed no runs on two hits over five innings, ending with four strikeouts and one walk. A strong outing, but Cecil appears to be blocked from a rotation spot right now unless Morrow isn’t ready. .. Randy Ruiz went 2-for-4 against Boston.

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading bluejays.com and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on TwitPic.com.

~JB

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