Notes from Game 16
Brian Tallet’s overall numbers this spring have not been pretty. The Blue Jays lefty knows that as well as anyone, but he is quick to point out what any veteran pitcher should keep in mind.
Spring Training results don’t always show how well a player is performing. For pitchers, the goal during spring is to build up stamina and work on pitches. Sometimes that leads to distorted numbers on the scoreboard.
“We’re here to work on stuff and to get stuff ready for April 5,” Tallet said. “That’s what I’m working toward.”
Take Monday’s outing, for example. Tallet allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings, finishing with 76 pitches, one walk and one strikeouts. For the spring? He now has a 7.36 ERA (9 ER, 13 H, 11 IP).
Monday’s pitching line was crooked mainly due to a three-run homer that Tallet yielded to Detroit’s Brandon Inge in the first inning. It was a changeup that Tallet left up in the strike zone a bit too much. Inge did what any good hitter should, launching it out of the ballpark.
“You take that one away, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Tallet said. “It was one of those things. Through the first part of camp I’ve been bouncing so many changeups. I just told myself, ‘I’m not going to bounce them anymore. It’s not going to get any better by bouncing it.’ I’ve got to be able to get that pitch in the zone. So, I was working on getting it up a little bit and I just got that one up a little too much.”
What would Tallet have done during the regular season?
“I’d probably throw something else in that situation,” he said. “Or, bounce the changeup.”
As for that one walk? Tallet said, “When you’ve got to throw five strikes to a guy, that’s tough.” The ground balls that bounced into the outfield for hits? “A couple of them found holes, snuck by the third baseman.” That homer in the fourth by Ryan Rayburn? “He just kind of went out there and ambushed an early-count fastball. But it was just one pitch.”
One start ago, Tallet worked through four clean innings against the Orioles, focusing on his two-seam sinker and allowing no runs on one hit. The lefty said his fastball was fine on Monday against the Tigers, but he wanted to spend some time trying to correct the issues he’s had with the changeup.
What will he be working on in his final two spring starts?
“More than anything,” Tallet said, “it’s going to be getting with John [Buck] and getting with whoever the backup catcher is and starting to go over game plans. When we’re out there [right now], we’re not game-planning. I’m not watching any film. I’m just kind of out there working on pitching and working on throwing strikes.”
As things currently stand, Tallet is the favorite to land the fifth starter’s job to open the season. If you’re going by on-field results alone, there is an argument to be made that left Dana Eveland has out-performed Tallet this spring and deserves the job. There is also youngster Brett Cecil, who considered to be a bigger part of the Jays’ future.
Right now, though, there is no indication from the Jays that Tallet is at risk of losing his spot on the starting staff.
“If I don’t break as a starter,” Tallet said, “then that’s my fault, because I didn’t pitch as well.”
HE’S NUMBER ONE: Before Monday’s game, the Blue Jays officially announced that Shaun Marcum will be their new Opening Day starter. CLICK HERE for the full story on bluejays.com. We met with Marcum for a 12-minute Q&A and there was some good stuff left on the cutting-room floor.
Marcum found out on Monday morning, around 8:55 a.m. ET, shortly before the Blue Jays took the field for their pregame stretching. Marcum was approached at his locker by pitching coach Bruce Walton, who told the pitcher that manager Cito Gaston and general manager Alex Anthopoulos wanted to see him in Gaston’s office.
“Pappy came and told me to put my shower shoes on, we’re having a meeting,” Marcum said with a smile. “I was like, ‘Getting sent down already? I haven’t done anything wrong.’ No, it was a good meeting. Like I told them, I’m excited about it and I’m going to do whatever I can to help — I always say young guys, but I consider myself young, too — I’ll do whatever I can to help the staff and move forward in the right direction.”
This came one day after Marcum was forced to work through an 81-pitch simulated game in Toronto’s indoor batting cage at Dunedin Stadium, which was hammered by rain all morning and afternoon on Sunday. Marcum laughed and quipped: “I guess that no-hitter I threw in the cage yesterday got me a spot on the team.”
What does being a leader mean to Marcum? “The main thing is I’m not a big rah-rah, cheerleading-type guy. But, you’ve got to have fun. You’ve got to keep loose. That’s one thing I learned coming up. Even from when I was nine to in college, it seemed like the guys that were a little uptight and pressed too much were the guys that struggled a little bit. I think that’s one thing I’m going to do, is try to keep everybody loose, have fun and go out there and take care of business.”
On communication among starters this year: “It’s going to be very important. Whether it’s talking on the bus or talking on the plane or even in the dugout, that’s one thing that I think we’re starting to do. Even in Spring Training games, I’ve seen a lot of Ricky [Romero] and Zep [Marc Rzepczynski] and Tallet just talking about certain pitch locations and pitch selections and hitters’ swings. I think that’s something that’s going to benefit all of us.”
Asked if being a No. 1 starter felt natural: “I wouldn’t call it natural. I’ve always just been, go out there and do what I can. I’ve never been an overpowering guy where eveybbody just looks at you and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a No. 1 starter,’ or anything. To me, it’s just the guy that’s taking the ball on Day 1 and pitching every fifth game. Other than that, I’m just going to do what I can, keep our team in the ballgame, grind it out and try to be a bulldog.”
STAT OF THE DAY
CAREER MAJOR LEAGUE STARTS
1. Shaun Marcum: 64
2. Brian Tallet: 31
3. Ricky Romero: 29
4. Brandon Morrow: 15
5. Marc Rzepczynski: 11
MAJOR LEAGUE STARTS IN 2009
1. Ricky Romero: 29
2. Brian Tallet: 25
3. Marc Rzepczynski: 11
4. Brandon Morrow: 10
5. Shaun Marcum: 0
BIRD FEED: LHP Jesse Carlson (left knee) threw off a mound in the bullpen for around 10 minutes on Monday and came away feeling good. Carlson will take a day off on Tuesday and get back on the hill Wednesday. With two weeks left in spring, the Jays are not ruling him out for Opening Day. … 3B Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) and UTIL Mike McCoy (right shoulder) took part in a Triple-A game on Monday. “Reports back were all good,” said Gaston, who then chuckled. “I actually asked [head trainer George] Poulis if they got any hits, but he couldn’t tell me. He didn’t care about that. He just wanted to know if they were healthy. He said they were healthy.” For what it’s worth, Encarnacion went 1-for-5 and McCoy went 1-for-4. Gaston said both will play in another Minors game on Wednesday. Neither have been ruled out for Opening Day. … Relievers Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and David Purcey each logged one shutout inning in the Triple-A game on Monday. RHP Shawn Camp also appeared in the game and allowed one run on two hits with one walk over one inning. … Eveland will start and is scheduled to log five innings on Wednesday against the Rays in Port Charlotte. The start was originally reserved for RHP Brandon Morrow (right shoulder). … Morrow will resume throwing on Wednesday, throw a bullpen Friday and then start on Monday, if there are no setbacks. Even though he is only scheduled for three innings in Monday’s outing, the Jays believe there is enough time for him to be ready for Opening Day. “If he feels good, he’s got a chance,” Gaston said. “He’s got a chance, yeah. But if doesn’t feel good, he probably won’t make it. He won’t make Opening Day.” … 1B/DH Randy Ruiz launched a mammoth two-run homer in the second inning of Monday’s game. He did what looked like a Sammy Sosa-style hop out of the batter’s box, before dropping the bat and trotting around the bases. “Nah,” Ruiz said with a smile. “I just didn’t know if it was going to hook foul or not.” Well, in that case, it was more of a Carlton Fisk-type hop.
UNDER THE RADAR: Anyone notice the spring RHP Casey Janssen is having? He logged another shutout inning for the Jays on Monday. That’s four games, four innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, three strikeouts. He has quietly become almost an assumed part of the Opening Day bullpen: Gregg, Frasor, Downs, Camp, Janssen and Carlson (if healthy) project to make the team right now. It’s that seventh spot (Jeremy Accardo? David Purcey? Merkin Valdez? Josh Roenicke? Eveland?) that is the bigger question mark right now. So much attention has been placed on the starting rotation, but the bullpen has really been the more interesting battle this spring.