Notes from Game 11

Purcey2.jpgOne player that has kind of been lost in the shuffle this spring has been left-hander David Purcey.

The rotation battle appears to be led by Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Tallet and Brett Cecil. And Dustin McGowan has grabbed some of the spotlight with the positive strides he’s made in his comeback attempt.

As a result, Purcey has slipped down the depth chart and virtually out of the discussion for the rotation vacancies. As it turns out, the big lefty may very much be in the running for one of the open spots in the bullpen.

“I think that we’re probably leaning that way to see what he can do,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who watched Purcey throw two shutout innings in a “B” game against the Phillies on Monday morning.

“We’re just trying to find a slot for him that he’s comfortable at. Hopefully he continues to do that. I was very impressed. That’s the best I’ve seen him throw since I’ve been here.”

In separate stints as a starter for the Jays over the past two years, the 6-foot-5, 27-year-old southpaw has gone 4-9 with a 5.81 ERA in 21 outings. Purcey relied on a power fastball, with a slider, changeup and sweeping curve as offspeed options. Gaston said pitching coach Bruce Walton has Purcey only throwing fastballs and sliders right now.

In the “B” game against the Phillies at Dunedin Stadium, Gaston was impressed with the early results.

“I’ll tell you what, you guys saw him pitch a lot last year,” Gaston began, “you would’ve been amazed with what you would’ve seen this morning, because he threw strikes. His arm slot was great.”

In a perfect world, Gaston said his bullpen might include three lefties and four righties.

Right now, the only left-hander who is a lock for the ‘pen is Scott Downs. The Jays also have lefty Jesse Carlson, who is currently nursing a left knee issue. Even if Carlson is healthy by Opening Day, Purcey provides a lefty who can potentially eat up innings — important with such a young rotation.

So, there seem to be two scenarios right now. If Carlson is healthy, Purcey could still wind up in the ‘pen, meaning one of the righties could get bumped (Jeremy Accardo? Casey Janssen? Shawn Camp? Josh Roenicke?). If Carlson is sidelined, Purcey may emerge as a leading contender to replace him in the bullpen. Other lefties in camp include Dana Eveland, Zach Jackson, Willie Collazo and Rommie Lewis.

For all you Tallet-should-be-in-the-bullpen people out there, it’s not going to happen. At least not right now. Gaston was asked if they’d consider moving Tallet or Rzepczynski into the bullpen in an emergency situation (if Carlson isn’t healthy or if something else happens related to the left-handed options), and he said that both pitchers are secure in their roles as starters.

“Those guys are pretty much rotation,” Gaston said of Tallet and Rzepczynski.

As for Carlson, he’s been bother by a sore MCL in his left knee and he’s scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Wednesday. That will be a big test to see if the injury is more serious than the Jays believe. Carlson said this morning that Toronto’s trainers are being optimistic about his chances of being ready for Opening Day.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS: After his four-inning outing against the Tigers on Monday, Rzepczynski said he is getting better at recognizing when his mechanics get out of whack and then making the subsequent adjustments during the game.

Rzepczynski said the main issue he runs into is “flying open” during his delivery. He said he will sometimes lean back too much during his leg kick, which begins a chain reaction. His front side will open up and his left wrist will be turned to the side, instead of being on top of the ball.

“That’s when everything comes like I’m sling-shotting it,” he said.

When that happens, Rzepczynski said his pitches have a tendency to stay up and in to left-handed hitters, or to float back over the plate when he’s trying to go inside against right-handed hitters. In the first inning on Monday, Rzepczynski said the issue came up when he issues a walk to Johnny Damon.

“Everything was up and in to him, near his head — he probably didn’t like that too much,” Rzepczynski said. “When I fly open, that happens. Same thing with the breaking ball, it’ll be up on that side if I don’t get on top of it. If not that batter, at least the next one, if anything happens, me being able to realize that hopefully will get me through innings.”

CHANGING THINGS: Brett Cecil’s left thumb is completely healed and he had clearance to throw as many curves and sliders as he wanted on Monday. Still, the lefty decided to stick primarily with fastballs and changeups in his 2 1/3 innings against Detroit, and for a couple reasons.

First off, Cecil has worked with bullpen coach Rick Langford on developing a new two-seam sinking fastball with an altered grip. The tailing action on the pitch is similar to that of his changeup. Beyond that, Cecil said limiting the types of pitches he throws is also helping him realize his changeup can be a good out-pitch.

“A lot of hitters say the changeup is the toughest pitch to hit,” Cecil said. “If I throw it right, it’ll be tough to pick up.”

EDWIN WATCH: Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, sidelined with a sore left wrist, was not in the lineup in either the “A” or “B” game on Monday and he is not listed as making the trip to Sarasota for Toronto’s next game on Wednesday. As the season nears, the possibility of Encarnacion opening on the disabled list increases.

“He’s still just trying to get the strength back in his hand,” Gaston said. “We’ve still got almost two and a half weeks or something like that. Hopefully he’s going to have a chance to start the season. If not, we’ll start with him on the DL.”

If Encarnacion does open on the DL, Jose Bautista would likely shift from right field to third base to begin the season. That would create a number of scenarios for the outfield, depending on whether Travis Snider opens the year in left or begins at Triple-A.

No Snider and no Encarnacion could lead to Adam Lind in left, Randy Ruiz as the DH and Joey Gathright or Jeremy Reed in right, opening the door for two of Mike McCoy/Brian Dopirak/Gathright/Reed to be on the bench. With Snider in left, Gathright or Reed could be in right and two of Ruiz/Dopirak/McCoy/Gathright/Reed could be on the bench.

Got all that? I’m not even sure I do. Debate away…

BIRD FEED: Still nothing to report on the Adeiny Hechavarria front. Multiple reports have the Jays signing the Cuban shortstop to a four-year contract worth $10 million, pending a physical. Jays still have nothing to announce. … In his start against the Tigers, Rzepczynski allowed three runs (all on two homers in the first) on six hits with four strikeouts and one walk in three innings. The wind was howling out to right, playing a major part in Miguel Cabrera’s first-inning blast. … Cecil allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits (one homer) with three strikeouts and one walk over 2 1/3 innings. The defense behind him did not help. … Brian Dopirak homered in the game against the Tigers, ending a streak of five straight at-bats ending in a strikeout. … Randy Ruiz went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs. … Travis Snider went 1-for-3. … In the “B” game, Gathright homered (!) and had two RBIs in an 8-1 win over the Phillies. Gathright has one homer in 1,175 MLB at-bats and one in 1,840 Minor League at-bats. I may have missed out on his only homer as a member of the Jays. … Also in the “B” game, Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells, Chris Lubanski and John Buck each had doubles. Bautista, Hill, Lind, Wells and Gathright each had two hits. RBIs for Lubanski, Gathright, Wells, Lind, Buck and Hill. Zach Jackson turned in two shutout innings, Lance Broadway worked three innings and allowed one run en route to a win, Steve Register had two shutout innings and Purcey logged two blank frames as well. … Tuesday is an off-day for the Jays. RHP Shaun Marcum is scheduled to start in a Minor League game at The Mattick at 1 pm. … Pitchers going to Sarasota on Wednesday to play the Orioles include Brian Tallet, Shawn Camp, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, Rommie Lewis, Zech Zinicola, Willie Collazo. Other notables making trip inclide JP Arencibia, Raul Chavez, Brian Dopirak, Randy Ruiz, John McDonald, Joey Gathright, Jeremy Reed, Travis Snider.

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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9 Comments

So, from what I can figure out, the only real news on Adeiny Hechavarria can be traced back to one newspaper article by George King in the New York Post on March 14. Now all the scribes are quoting “multiple sources”, or not bothering to attribute sources at all so it looks like original news. I would like to see a list of these “multiple sources”, but I think they are all just quoting each other.

I like what I heard about Purcy. Coming out of the bullpen with a mid to upper 90′s fastball and a good slider, he could be downright mean!

Nasty is the word. Maybe he’s like Joba, mid to upper 90′s and hard to hit as a reliever, and low 90′s and very hittable as a starter.
No, there were multiple sources, but all Spanish, however the Beest did and interesting interview on the fan 590 today which is posted on their web site.

Can you even find one person other then Gaston who wants Tallet in the rotation? Towards the end of the year when pitchers innings pile up or injuries happen it makes sense, but pitching in the minors is still going to go towards inning counts.

If McGowan is able to make it back and go into the rotation mid April, then Tallet is the guy to start the year, because his job is to be a guy who can make spot starts here and there and he might only get one or two starts before McGowan is ready to go.

As I previously posted on Blue Jays Junction Tallet’s status as a starter has less to do with his earning it or being the best fit than it does with Cito’s falling in love and continued loyalty to certain players.

I would not give a second thought to who the starting five are. Whoever they are, they will not last long. Before this year is over, Cito will probably have to pencil himself in for a start or two! This year will be full of surprises — both good and bad. For example, we may discover we have a closer in purcey and that Marcum’s arm is dead after 100 innings. So, don’t worry too much about Tallet and some of these other guys. The rotation is likely to be in flux all season.

Blue Jays lefty David Purcey is “drawing attention from clubs,” tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal also notes that the Cubs had a scout on hand Sunday for Jason Frasor’s ugly Sunday stint (four hits and four earned runs in a third of an inning). Rosenthal says Frasor was under the weather during the appearance.

Purcey, 28 in April, was J.P. Ricciardi’s first-round pick in 2004. He posted respectable strikeout rates at most minor league stops, but was plagued by control problems. He seemed to figure it out by his third Double A stint in ’07, trimming his walks per nine to 2.3. However, surgery to remove cysts in his forearm and triceps cut that season short. Purcey kept the walks down the next year at Triple A, and showed flashes of brilliance in his ’08 MLB debut season. The ’09 season was a step back, with Purcey losing his rotation spot by May due to his walk problem.

Now MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian says the Blue Jays have trimmed Purcey’s repertoire and are leaning toward making him a reliever. Once the Blue Jays’ #3 prospect, Purcey’s outlook has been downgraded over the years by Baseball America from a potential #2 starter to a mid-rotation guy to a reliever. He still brings the power stuff that made him a first-round pick in ’04, and there might be another club out there with ideas on fixing his command.

In the unlikely event that David Purcey makes the team this year, I see him as a lefty specialist on a very short rope. If they want another lefty in the pen, IMHO, Dana Eveland is the better bet.

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