Notes from Game 13

Chapman.jpgWe tried asking Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos about the expected signing of Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, but he still won’t budge.

“So, will he start at Double-A?” asked one reporter.

“You trying to trick me?” Anthopoulos replied with a smile.

Nothing is official yet with Hechavarria, so Anthopoulos is not biting for now. It is expected that the shortstop will sign a four-year, $10 million contract with Toronto and I’m sure the holdup is simply behind-the-scenes, logistical stuff.

We did take the opportunity to ask Anthopoulos what happened in the case with Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman. The Jays were in on the bidding, but did not pony up enough cash in the end. The Reds signed Chapman to a six-year pact worth $30.25 million.

Anthopoulos said Toronto simply did not scout Chapman enough to warrant offering that lofty of a contract. In hindsight, Chapman is looking like he might be worth every penny Cincinnati tossed his way.

“You look at the way he’s throwing, he’s been great,” Anthopoulos said. “It looks like the Reds made a great signing. I think for us, it was one of those things where we … probably didn’t have enough background on the player. We probably hadn’t seen the player enough to really extend ourselves to where it probably needed to go.

“It’s something that you try to take as much information as you can, but you do have to make a determination. We probably just didn’t know enough about the player didn’t have enough looks at the player to be completely comfortable to make that type of commitment. Certainly with the way he’s throwing, it looks like the Reds made a great move.”

Beyond Chapman and Hechavarria, the Blue Jays have also been linked to Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz in the past. Asked if Toronto might try to reel in more than just Hechavarria, Anthopoulos responded by saying the club plans on scouting and evaluating every major name that comes up.

“We’re going to evaluate all of them,” Anthopoulos said. “I want to at least know about all the prominent guys. Let’s make sure we have scouting reports. Let’s make sure that we’ve seen them. If we make a determination that we just don’t have interest in the player, or the price point on the player is too high, that’s fine. But, I don’t want there to be a signing for large dollars that we didn’t know about the player.

“Let’s at least make sure that we’ve seen the player, we found out what it would cost and let’s be able to make the determination, ‘You know what? It’s too expensive for us’ or ‘It didn’t work out’ or ‘We just didn’t believe in the ability and want to turn the page.’ But let’s make sure we evaluated the player.”

RICKY ROLLS: Lefty Ricky Romero did give up a pair of runs in his start on Thursday, but overall is was another strong outing for the Jays’ projected No. 2 starter. Romero logged five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with five strikeouts and a pair of walks. More than anything, Romero worked on curves and sliders.

“Everything feels really, really sharp coming off my hand,” said Romero, who is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA this spring. “Everything felt sharp. I felt like my curveball, I got a chance to work on it. We talked before the game, we were more focused on working on some pitches.”

One pitch that manager Cito Gaston said he was especially impressed with was Romero’s two-seam sinker: “probably the best sinker I’ve seen him have.” That bodes well for the young lefty, because I asked him what pitch he felt needed more work than the others, and Romero said his sinker needs a little refining.

“It’s more the sinker sometimes,” Romero said. “It tends to sink on me a little too much or it tends to cut on me. I think just establishing that throughout the whole game and not for the first couple innings. I felt like I lost it the last inning or two, but I had the other pitches going, which is good.”

SHAPING UP: The Blue Jays Opening Day roster is beginning to take shape more and more by the day. On Thursday, Toronto optioned Brian Dopirak to Triple-A Las Vegas, meaning Randy Ruiz has essentially made the team. Travis Snider launched two homers — three in three at-bats, dating back to yesterday — and is looking like a good bet to head north as well. Asked if there was any way Snider would not make the team, Cito said, “I wouldn’t think so, but it’s still early.

BENCH PICTURE: The bench currently consists of Ruiz, shortstop John McDonald and a backup catcher (Jose Molina or Raul Chavez). That leaves one vacancy for Mike McCoy/Jeremy Reed/Joey Gathright. Asked which of the three has jumped out this spring, here’s what Anthopoulos said:

“[McCoy] has definitely opened some eyes. We were excited about him when we claimed him, but I don’t think anyone expected him to swing the bat the way he’s done. … He [can] play all over the place. That’s a valuable guy to have, that he can play both the infield and the outfield. I would say McCoy probably more than anybody else has stood out because of his ability to play both spots and his ability to swing the bat.”

There could still be room for Reed or Gathright, if third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) opens on the disabled list or Snider winds up at Triple-A to begin the year. Anthopoulos was asked if Gathright’s speed might give him an edge, and here’s what the GM had to say in response:

“It’s definitely part of it, but it’s not only speed. There’s a lot of guys that you could get out there that have the ability to run. It’s like the saying goes, you need to get on base to really be able to use your speed. It certainly helps things. It’s an element that he brings that some of the other guys don’t bring. But again, we have to weigh all the factors in the decision.”

McCoy brings speed as well (40 SB last year at AAA) and he is more versatile than Gathright. Reed has shown more with his bat than Gathright, so the former Met may have an edge if a spot is up for grabs. Anthopoulos noted that neither Reed nor Gathright — both in camp on Minor League deals — have release clauses in the event they don’t make the team.

“We’re pretty fair,” Anthopoulos said. “If we feel there’s no opportunity for them long-term, if we feel they’re well down on the chart for call-ups and they have better opportunities somewhere else, we told them and their agents we’ll do the right thing and we’ll get them to the right spot. But as a policy, we don’t give release clauses.”

MORE MOVES: Dopirak and infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir were optioned to Las Vegas, while pitchers Lance Broadway and Zach Jackson, along with catcher Kyle Phillips, were sent back to Minor League camp. Been a rough spring for righty Casey Fien, who was released by the Jays on Thursday, too. Toronto claimed him earlier this spring from the Red Sox, who lost him after claiming him from the Tigers. The Jays also returned Rule 5 pick Zech Zinicola to the Washington Nationals.

BIRD FEED: One bullpen candidate who is out of options is righty Merkin Valdez, who the Jays obtained from the Giants over the winter. Gaston has raved about Valdez and Anthopoulos had good things to say on Thursday as well. “He’s done very well,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s throwing strikes. … He’s a guy who could be an asset for us. We have to continue to evaluate him.” Anthopoulos said pitching coach Bruce Walton has worked with Valdez on altering his landing leg during his delivery, which has helped Valdez keep pitches down in the strike zone. … Beyond Valdez, Shawn Camp and Dana Eveland are out of options. Anthopoulos said that definitely plays a role in roster decisions. “Guys without options usually will get the benefit of the doubt,” Anthopoulos said. … Relievers with player options: Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke, Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, David Purcey. … Anthopoulos added that he does not think it is necessary to carry more than one lefty (Scott Downs) in the bullpen. “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. … Encarnacion is feeling better and has not been ruled out for Opening Day, according to Anthopoulos. … RHP Dustin McGowan is scheduled to throw two innings in a Minor League game on Friday. … RHP Brandon Morrow is scheduled to throw four innings in a start on the road against the Astros on Friday. … Not to be out-done by Snider’s two-homer day, C John Buck also belted two homers in Thursday’s win. Gaston noted that Buck has two additional homers in “B” games this spring. … 2B Aaron Hill added a homer on Thursday as well, his first blast of the spring. Hill also drew another walk, nine this spring. … Leadoff man Jose Bautista went 0-for-4, dropping his spring average to .524.  … In his first game back with the Jays after heading home to visit with his ill father, John McDonald went 2-for-2 with a double that bounced off the left-field wall. Welcome back, Mac.

QUOTABLE: “Oh, man. That was great, huh? I like the fact that he’s getting around on that fastball now. Last year he struggled with it. He struggled sometimes with an 89 mph fastballs. Today? I don’t think that was a struggle.” –Gaston, on Snider’s two homers

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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7 Comments

I get the feeling the delay in announcing the Hechavarria signing might have something to do with obtaining a US work visa or some documentation allowing him to work in the US.

Interesting though, that the common thought is he starts off in AA; I assumed it would be Dunedin Advanced A for the Latin support commonly available there. If he does start in AA, I hope the Jays have someone there who can make his transition a bit easier, I don’t expect he can speak English and he’s about to face a brand new world totally foreign to him. The easier it is for him to adjust the faster we see him in Toronto.

Good to see Ruiz has essentially made the team and Snider is adjusting to the changes and starting to settle in. It also is starting to look like McCoy is the favorite for the 25th spot, which is also a very good decision.

The way it looks to me, we will have 6 guys-Hill, Lind, Snider, Ruiz, EE and Wells all capable of hitting 20-30 home runs each. When Wallace and Arencibia join this lineup it’s going to be absolutely scary.
In addition, with Marcum looking great, McGowan on his way to return, the addition of Morrow, maturing of Romero & Scrabble, the rotation looks better than last year and will only get stronger throughout the year.
If we stay healthy, we could surprise some people this year and next year will likely be feared.

If it’s the same Mike McCoy that plays with the Blue Jays, he was never a Met. He was drafted in 2002 by the Cardinals and spent most of his career in the Card’s farm system. After a cup of coffee in Baltimore, he moved on to spend a year or so with the Rockies, where he had a total of 5 big league at bats (BA = 0.00).
Even if his hitting doesn’t carry through into the regular season, he will still be a better option than the David Delucci, Russ Adams, Mench, or Wilkerson ornaments that graced our bench last year.

Looks like Hill is thinking it’s getting to the Dog days of spring training. ( Picture from Bastian). http://twitpic.com/19iuqc

yer-I agree. Also Jenkins, Alvarez, Stewart and D’Arnaud will fit into the mix sometime in the next couple of years so the depth is already impressive to say the least and I expect it to jump again from kids we draft this year and next.

I think TB either have to do it this year or fall back, they have some hefty contracts (Crawford, Pena, Burrell & Soriano) running out this year, and I don’t see them renewing them. On the other hand, they could very well do it this year.

Sooner or later, there’s going to be a lot of hurt in Yanks land. Jeiter (36), A-Rod (35), Riviera(41), Posada(39),Petite(38), Burnett(33), Sabathia( 30) and Tiexera( 30) aren’t getting any younger and the Yanks have $158 mill. per year committed to these aging players this year. I just don’t see them hanging in there for much longer without serious injury or performance problems with some or the majority of them.

Boston will always be a strong competitor but, they simply aren’t the same team without Manny and Ortiz in their prime like they were when they won.

I think, given the talent we’re starting to see emerge in Jays land, we could surprise some people this year, be in the mid to high 80’s wins next year and someplace in the 90’s in 2012. In addition, once we reach that level, we should be able to maintain it for a few years given the focus on drafting and developing young talent. So Christmas hasn’t come yet, but all the letters have been sent to Santa. lol

“If we stay healthy, we could surprise some people this year and next year will likely be feared.”

I agree. Wells and Overbay seem to be healthy, and we have yet to see Encarnation at the top of his game. Snider should only improve. Our infield is very solid defensively. And if our pitchers keep throwing ground ball outs like they have been, we could likely give our outfielders little stools to sit on out there. LOL!

Next year, you add Wallace, Drabek, Arencibia, and maybe Hechavarria to the lineup, and it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

When you add in the fact that New York will be saddled with a bunch of aging players with huge salaries in a few years, and Boston isn’t the team it used to be, there will be a window of opportunity in 2013-15 that is there for the taking. I think Baltimore suffers from poor management, and Tampa doesn’t have the budget to keep up.

I think your underestimating what Boston and New York are capable of. If New York has aging players on big salaries, they will just spend more to replace them. You may find a 1 year window where they have a down year here and there, but they will always be competitive. Boston has one of the best farm systems in the Majors, to go along with a large enough payroll to keep their best around. I dont see those two fading too far from where they are in the near future. Not to mention Baltimore is on the rise, they have some really good young players coming up as well. I only see this division getting tougher, so the Jays will need to really hit a few home runs with their scouting, and get lucky with Boston and New York having a down year at the same time. Hopefully MLB will add some more playoff teams because it really is a shame that some really good teams miss out on the playoffs because of structuring.

dt005: I agree that this division has always been tough, and teams like New York and Boston will not be pushovers. It always has been a tough place to win, and that won’t change soon. The good news is that there is reason to believe that we won’t have to rely entirely on homegrown talent in the future. AA has plans for the Jay’s salary to be somewhere in the neighborhood of Boston’s when the time is right. Boston is slightly over $122 million this year and has been as high as $140 mil. This means that they will have some bucks to keep our better players around longer, and once the farm system is restocked and they have a good core of home grown talent at the major league level, the money will be there to recruit some high priced help on the free agent market, a la David Cone and Rickey Henderson. There is no reason at all to believe they can’t compete, and go deep into the playoffs.

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