Notes from Game 7 and B game
There was initially some concern when right-hander Brandon Morrow exited his start in a “B” game against the Phillies in Clearwater. He had only thrown two innings and fired off 32 pitches. The schedule sheet inside the Jays clubhouse indicated he was down to throw three frames.
Then, Marc Rzepczynski went three innings with 49 pitches. After that? Brett Cecil made his spring debut and needed 46 pitches for two innings. After years of watching pitcher after pitcher go down with injury for the Jays, it seemed that the only explanation for Morrow’s short outing was that he was hurt.
Nope. He’s fine.
“We’re changing up the scheduling a little bit,” Morrow explained. “I’m going to throw three on Sunday. So, three days off and then throw.”
The Blue Jays are in the midst of setting their rotation for the regular season. That is why Morrow will be pitching on short rest next time out. Don’t look now, but if you count backwards from Opening Day, Shaun Marcum would get the nod for the first start of the regular season.
It says here that the planned rotation right now is Marcum, Ricky Romero, Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski and Brian Tallet. The only way I see that changing is if Dustin McGowan proves he’s healthy and ready. In that scenario, Tallet could wind up back in the bullpen. I still think it’s more realistic that McGowan opens the year on the disabled list.
I asked manager Cito Gaston if it was too soon to say if any pitchers were separating themselves from others in this competition. His reply?
“I think it’s too early,” Gaston said. “We’ve kind of got our mind on who’s going to be in that rotation right now. There’s so many guys you can stretch out and so many guys you can’t. We kind of have an idea, unless something changes, something happens, somebody gets hurt and you have to move somebody else in there. But, we’re kind of prepared for that, too.”
The reality is that lefty Brett Cecil, with his left thumb setback, is behind the other pitchers now and would likely have to really out-pitch them down the stretch to make the Opening Day staff. Lefty David Purcey has not been particularly sharp in his spring outings so far, with a 9.00 ERA in two short appearances. Lefty Dana Eveland has looked good, so there’s always the chance he remains quietly in the mix as a darkhorse candidate.
But, back to Morrow…
He logged two innings and allowed no runs on three hits. Really, it should’ve been two hits. One in the first inning clearly looked like an error on the second baseman, but it got the hometeam discount and was ruled an infield single. Morrow also struck out two and continued to work on his changeup.
“It’s something that I didn’t really throw much out of the bullpen,” Morrow said. “With guys really gearing up for my fastball, that’s always how it’s been, I think my ability to throw that for a strike is going to be probably the biggest key for me, definitely. If I’m throwing that in 2-0, 2-1 counts, that makes a world of difference. It’s really been night and day, those days that I’ve been able to go out there and throw changeups for strikes”
Morrow also saw seven left-handed hitters among the eight he faced. Considering the wealth of left-handed pop in the American League East, Morrow did not mind getting in some extra work with lefties at the plate.
“They’re always going to try to stack the lineup left-handed against a right-handed power pitcher,” he said. “Every team [in the East] has got the left-handed power hitters and that’s good practice to be throwing your changes. … In the past, I’ve had trouble kind of with that guy in the batter’s box, kind of leaking your body towards him.
“With a right-hander I’m able to stay closed a little bit. It’s always nice to see those guys in there to work on what you need to work on.”
THE REAL… As promised, Gaston gave Mike McCoy some playing time in the outfield, putting him in center field after Vernon Wells exited on Wednesday in the A game in Dunedin. McCoy can play second, short and third and can also man all three outfield spots. With his speed, too, the Jays are giving him a good look for a bench role.
“I had never seen him play,” Gaston said. “He played for Cuz, Nick Leyva, down in Mexico last year and Nick kind of recommended this kid and told me he could play out there. So, we want to see if he can play out there. He plays all three. We know he can play all three positions in the infield and plus here’s a kid that stole 40 bases. So he’s done a good job already in Spring Training.”
TRAVEL SQUAD: Making the trip to Port Charlotte on Thursday (and hoping it doesn’t rain) are: Shawn Camp, Willie Collazo, Ray Gonzalez, Rommie Lewis, Shaun Marcum, Brad Mills, Steven Register, Casey Fien, JP Arencibia, Jose Molina, Kyle Phillips, David Cooper, Brad Emaus, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Mike McCoy, John McDonald, Jesus Merchan, Randy Ruiz, Brett Wallace, Joey Gathright, Chris Lubanski, Jorge Padilla. Marcum and Mills are each down to throw three innings.
BIRD FEED: Lefty Brett Cecil made his spring debut in the “B” game, but was limited to throwing fastballs and changeups. The Jays did not want him throwing curves or sliders, hoping to prevent risking having him open the cut on his left thumb. In two innings, Cecil allowed three runs (all on a homer) on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. … In his three-inning showing in the “B” game, Rzepczynski allowed one run on two hits with five strikeouts and one hit batsmen. After throwing 30 pitches (18 strikes) in his first inning of work, Zep threw 19 (16) the rest of the way. … In the “A” game against the Phillies, leadoff man extraordinaire Jose Bautista went 2-for-3 with his third homer of the spring. … Kyle Drabek got the start against the Phillies and logged two shutout innings. See bluejays.com for more on his outing against his former team. … Closing candidates Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg each logged an inning. Only Gregg (1 run, three hits) have up a run.
GOING DEEP: In the ninth inning at Dunedin Stadium, Cody Ransom belted a long homer off Jays lefty David Purcey. It was announced as Ransom’s first homer of the spring. But, wait! It was Ransom who took Cecil yard for a three-run bomb earlier in the day in the “B” game. That blast? We didn’t see it land. Pretty sure it cleared Frenchy’s, which sits beyond the left-field bleachers at Bright House Field.
GOING HOME: The lone run that Rzepczynski allowed came during a bases-loaded jam in his first inning. With no outs, Zep induced a grounder to first base prospect Brett Wallace, who quickly fired to the shortstop to hopefully turn a double play. With Dwayne Wise running to first, though, turning two wasn’t going to happen. In hindsight, Wallace should have thrown home to halt the run, and he had plenty of time. As it happened, Zep struck out the next two batters to escape without any more damage.
“The play was probably home,” Gaston said. “There’s a kid over there playing. Wallace, he’s over there. He was told later, I think the play is at home. You don’t have a chance for a double play. That’s just not knowing. He doesn’t know Wise. He hasn’t played against Wise. Somebody like [Lyle] Overbay knows Wise and knows you’re not going to get a double play with Wise.”
Wallace was acquired in the Roy Halladay deal in December and was moved to first base after playing third as a pro. Gaston said that the play in question had more to do with Wallace’s knowledge of the runners than with his experience at the position, though.
QUOTABLE: “I wish I had a gun on him. He was probably throwing harder than I’ve ever seen him. When he does that, he’s in trouble. He got the ball down and he got back to the old Rzepczynski, as far as I’m concerned.” — Gaston, on Zep’s “B” Game outing
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