Zech Zinicola genuinely felt awful about what happened. The Blue Jays reliever — a Rule 5 pick fighting for a spot in the bullpen — let a fastball fly in the third inning, and it sailed high and inside to New York’s Francisco Cervelli, striking him square in the helmet.
Cervelli dropped to his knees and remained in the ground for several moments before exiting the game. Later inside the visitors’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Zinicola was working through some stretching drills, but was obviously distracted and worried.
“Is he all right?” Zinicola asked reporters, who were discussion Cervelli nearby.
Cervelli said the pitch simply got away from him and he was eager to find out the protocol for this type of situation. Was he supposed to contact the Yankees? Did he need to send Cervelli a text message? Zinicola wanted to make sure the catcher knew there was absolutely no intent.
A more veteran Blue Jays player told Zinicola not to worry too much about it. It’s Spring Training. The catcher was not set up inside. Cervelli would understand that Zinicola was not throwing at him on purpose.
Cervelli suffered a concussion and was taken to a local hospital to undergo a CT scan, which came back negative. Cervelli will see a team doctor next, followed by a trip to a neurologist on Monday. Aaron Hill knows how fun that all can be.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Yankees reliever Jason Hirsh hit Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Jesus Merchan with the first pitch he threw. After the game, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said he didn’t think anyone was throwing at batters intentionally.
“We don’t have anything with those guys,” Gaston said. “Spring Training, I can’t see it. I know that we certainly weren’t throwing at anybody.”
THE BROTHERS MOLINA: Before signing with the Blue Jays, backup catcher candidate Jose Molina phoned his brother Bengie, who suited up for Toronto in 2006. Jose Molina said Bengie had nothing but good things to say about his one year with the club.
“Bengie loved it here. He had a good time,” Jose Molina said. “He told me about it, about a lot of people here. That made it a lot easier coming in, because he was already here. He told me a lot of good stuff about it.”
Jose Molina, who signed a one-year non-guaranteed contract with the Jays shortly after camp opened this spring, is competing against Raul Chavez for the backup job. Molina said he has been very impressed with Toronto’s young arms, and has enjoyed working with them this spring.
“There’s a lot of talent here, a lot of good arms,” Molina said. “I can’t wait to catch all of them. I hope I can do that. The guys I’ve already caught, they’ve been awesome. They have good arms and they want to learn. They come up to me a lot and ask different questions and I’m really happy to answer them.”
Last season, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett preferred to throwing to Molina, creating somewhat of a controversy with catcher Jorge Posada being New York’s No. 1 backstop. After pitching to Molina on Saturday, Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum said he could understand why Burnett liked Molina so much.
“It’s a treat, I’ll tell you that,” Marcum said. “I can see why A.J. wanted to throw to him a lot last year. Hes great behind the plate and easy to talk to. He knows how to call a game and he’s just a great receiver and a great guy to have behind the plate. He’s somebody that I think is going to help the young staff as well.”
STAT OF THE DAY
Combined ERA of the first four starters to pitch this spring for the Jays
(Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Brandon Morrow and Shaun Marcum)
BIRD FEED: In his first big league game since Sept. 16, 2008, Marcum logged two solid innings against the Yankees. He struck out two, walked one and gave up no hits, throwing 28 pitches (16 strikes). … Marcum focused on his fastball command on Saturday, mixing in a few changeups and one curve. He said he is also working on lengthening his stride during his delivery. “I felt like I was using too much upper body when I was pitching in the past,” Marcum said. … DH Adam Lind finally got his first hits of the spring, going 2-for-3 on Saturday with a two-run homer and an RBI single. … The Jays had 14 different players with at least one hit, nine with one run and six with at least one RBI in a nine-run, 18-hit victory over New York. … The Jays are now 3-1 with spring. First place! … Jose Bautista went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and one RBI, improving his spring average to .750. … 2B Aaron Hill drew one walk, giving him a team-high five free passes through four games. Hill has only made one out this spring. … Catching prospect J.P. Arencibia hit his second home run of the spring. … CF Vernon Wells went 3-for-3, giving him five hits (all singles) this spring. … OF Travis Snider went 1-for-3 with a double off the right-field wall. But, he did strikeout once, giving him a team-high six strikeouts this spring.
QUOTABLE: “It’s nice to see those guys in the box, but then again it’s Spring Training for them, too. I think when April and May roll around, things will be a little different. Right now, they’re probably just trying to get their timing, just like we’re trying to work on locating our pitches. You take it for what it’s worth. It’s great to locate your pitches, but then again you’ve got to realize that it is Spring Training and it’s still early for all of us.” — Marcum, on facing the Yankees in his first outing
HOT START: The Blue Jays have score nine or more runs in three of their last four games. What Gaston has liked seeing is that a good chunk of the runs have been coming early in the games, when the club’s regulars are still in the lineup.
“The guys are swinging the bats really good, all of them,” Gaston said. “They’re doing an outstanding job and I hope we just keep doing it. Just keep at it, even the regulars. Last year we won a lot of games with the younger kids, but this year the starting lineup is putting up some runs early, which is good.”