Notes from Game 1

Snider3.jpg

The plan wasn’t for Travis Snider to only face left-handed pitching during Wednesday’s Grapefruit League debut. That’s just the way it turned out. The first eight batters faced righty Jeremy Bonderman. Snider got lefty Nate Robertson.

It had manager Cito Gaston chuckling, recalling a similar situation years back with Shawn Green.

“I’ll never forget I had Green here one time, when he was a kid,” Gaston said, “and it seemed like every time I put him up there he was hitting against a left-hander. I thought for a while that kid probably is thinking I’m doing that intentionally.”

Making things worse, Snider finished his spring debut with two strikeouts. And the pair of punchouts included a few rough swings at pitches that tailed well outside of the strike zone and far from Snider’s swing.

Gaston said Snider needs to learn to avoid such temptation.

“The pitches he was swinging at were pitches he can’t hit,” Gaston said. “I don’t think a good hitter is going to hit those. Good hitters will probably take those — experienced hitters. I don’t believe any of them were a strike. They all were balls.

“That’s one thing that’s he’s got to work on — get a strike. If he takes those pitches, now he gets the chance to hit a fastball. Now you get a chance to hit a ball you can handle.”

Hitting lefties, along with improved plate discipline, are things that the Jays want to see from Snider this spring.

Last year, Snider hit .225 with a .275 slugging percentage and 20 strikeouts in 40 at-bats against lefties in the Majors. Now, most of Snider’s playing time was against righties, so his at-bats against left-handers was a bit sporadic. That was especially true early in the year, when he platooned with Jose Bautista in left field.

“We were just try to protect him a little bit,” Gaston said of putting Snider in a platoon last year. “Trying to build some confidence with him.”

Snider won’t receive similar treatment this year. If he is going to be on the Opening Day roster, Snider is going to play every day. But, Snider needs a strong spring to earn that right. Gaston said he would prefer to have Snider getting regular at-bats at Triple-A if it looks like he isn’t ready for an everyday role with the Jays.

“If he’s going to play every day, he’s going to have to hit some left-handers,” Gaston said. “I’m not sure we want to really platoon him. We haven’t really talked about it in-depth, but I’d almost think — at 22 years old — it’s almost better for him to go out and play [in the Minors] instead of platooning [in the Majors].”


Bautista.jpgSMALL BALL:
With no outs in the first innings, Bautista and Aaron Hill successfully converted a double steal. It was an aggressive move (one that ultimately did not pay off) that provided a glimpse into the style of play Gaston hopes to be able to use during the upcoming season.

“We’re going to be aggressive in a smart way,” Gaston said. “If pitchers are going to give it to us, we’re going to take it. We’re going to do some things, some small things to try to win. We’re not going to run ourselves out of games. If we do that, then that’s just crazy.

“But, we’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to do some things that we haven’t done before, if I’ve got those kind of guys around to do it. You still have to have the right people around to do it.”

On Wednesday, Bautista led off and Hill hit second for the Blue Jays. That is unlikely to change this season and Gaston believes Bautista and Hill have the ability to do some creative things this year in order to help manufacture more runs.

“Jose knows how to get a good jump,” Gaston said. “He reads pitchers well and Aaron’s going to be aggressive. That’s two good combinations there.”

WALK THIS WAY: For all he did right last season — belting 36 homers, driving in 108 runs, starting in the All-Star Game, earning the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award and taking home a Silver Slugger — Hill has still faced some criticism for the .330 on-base percentage and 42 walks he drew in 2009. On Wednesday, Hill walked twice in his two plate appearances against Detroit. “On-base percentage, baby,” he said with a laugh.

BIRD FEED: In his spring debut, Ricky Romero logged two innings, ending with 29 pitches (17 strikes). He struck out one and gave up two hits, including a wind-aided (21 mph from left to right) solo homer in the second inning. … Lefty Dana Eveland, who is vying for a spot in the rotation or bullpen, allowed one run on two hits with two walks over two innings. … Bullpen candidate Josh Roenicke didn’t do himself any favors by giving up one run on two hits with three walks in 1 2/3 innings for the Jays. … Rule 5 pick, and bullpen candidate, Zech Zinicola pitched 1 1/3 solid innings, striking out one and giving up two hits. … Chris Lubanski, nicknamed “The Big Lubanski” by the Globe’s Rob MacLeod, belted a monster three-run homer for the Jays in the eighth inning. … Jarrett Hoffpauir made a fielding error after taking over for Hill at second base, one of three errors Toronto commited in the game. Raul Chavez and Brad Emaus were charged with the others. … The Jays’ first run of the year was scored by Vernon Wells and the first RBI came courtesy of a double from new catcher John Buck. Outfielder Jeremy Reed and shortstop Mike McCoy each had one RBI. 

COMING UP: Starting pitchers for the next four games, in order, will be Marc Rzepczynski, Brandon Morrow, Shaun Marcum and Brian Tallet. Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek will pitch behind Rzep on Thursday. David Purcey will appear on Friday after Morrow. Robert Ray will log two innings after Marcum on Saturday. Brad Mills will start in a “B” game on Friday. All pitchers mentioned here are down to log two innings.

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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