Notes from Game 17
A main reason that the Blue Jays inked Alex Gonzalez to a one year deal over the offseason was due to his abilities with the glove. He is one of the game’s top shortstops, which can only help a young and developing pitching staff.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston has had some solid shortstops in his time with the club. He is quick to mention Tony Fernandez and John McDonald. Already this spring, Gaston has been very impressed with what Gonzalez has done on defense.
“The one thing I see in Alex, and I saw it in Tony, too,” Gaston said. “I look at his face when he’s catching tough balls. It’s like, ‘No big deal. I’m supposed to catch that ball.’ That’s what I see. He’s caught a couple this spring that it’s just absolutely some kind of play.”
One visiting writer asked if Cito could offer up a comparison to the departed Marco Scutaro, who signed with the Red Sox over the winter. Gaston tiptoed around the question, noting that he had not seen enough of Gonzalez yet to give a proper answer.
“Well, man, I’ll tell you, Scutaro was steady,” Gaston said. “I haven’t had Alex long enough to know him that well. Scutaro was a very intelligent player — a smart player. We finally got him where he was hitting the ball. Come back in a couple months, I might be able to say more about it. Right now? They both have good hands, that’s for sure.”
One area Scutaro is more highly-regarded is on offense. He excelled in a full-time role as Toronto’s leadoff man and shortstop last season — a main reason Boston went after him. On Friday, Gonzalez did launch his first home run of the spring for the Jays. He’ll likely hit in the lower part of Toronto’s lineup this season. If he performs well, it will be a bonus for a club that added him primarily for his glove.
CASEY ON THE MOUND: Another game, another quick appearance, more zeroes to add to his Spring Training pitching line. Reliever Casey Janssen worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning on Wednesday, striking out two and inducing one broken-bat groundout. In five games this spring, Janssen has allowed no runs, one hit with five strikeouts in five innings.
I chatted some with Casey today and you can read more about his thoughts on his spring later on bluejays.com. Asked if he was limiting his pitch arsenal this spring as a reliever, Janssen said that he was actually sticking with all five of his pitches (fastball, cutter, curve, slider and changeup).
“I think that’s maybe a benefit for me,” Janssen said. “I can throw five pitches to a hitter and not throw the same one twice. Some hitters say it’s easier to face a bullpen guy, because you know it’s only two pitches. If I can mix it up a little bit, hopefully I can use it to my advantage, as long as I’m not sacrificing command.”
THE BULLPEN SITUATION: Ask me, and I’d say Janssen is in the bullpen right now to open the season. The only locks are Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs. Shawn Camp is a safe bet to make the team and so is Jesse Carlson, as long as his left knee issue does not slow him down anymore.
That leaves one spot for Jeremy Accardo, David Purcey, Merkin Valdez, Josh Roenicke or Dana Eveland. In that group, Valdez and Eveland are out of options. Gaston said that Eveland (Wednesday’s starter) would be considered for the bullpen if starter Brandon Morrow (right shoulder) was ready for Opening Day.
Gaston values having a long reliever and Camp appears to be the only candidate for that job right now. If Gaston wanted a left-hander to handle that job, Eveland and Purcey fit the mold. If it came down to Eveland vs. Purcey for the last spot, Gaston said the fact that Eveland is out of options will definitely be taken into account.
“That’s always considered,” Gaston said.
Gaston added that Purcey would continue to work as a reliever if he is sent to Triple-A Las Vegas to open the season, barring an injury to one of the Triple-A starters. As for Morrow, he resumed throwing on Wednesday and is scheduled to start on Monday. Carlson threw off a mound on Wednesday and came away fine, according to Gaston. Carlson is down to throw in a Minor League game on Friday.
BIRD FEED: Utility man, and bench candidate, Mike McCoy (right shoulder) took part in a Minor League game on Wednesday and went 2-for-5 with a stolen base and a run scored. Gaston said McCoy might be ready to play in a Grapefruit League game on Friday. “We want to see a little more of McCoy,” Gaston said. “We want to see him play a little more. He’s pretty valuable.” The Jays like McCoy’s on-base ability and speed, and the fact that he can play multiple infield and outfield spots. He appears to be a front-runner for a spot on the bench, ahead of outfielders Jeremy Reed and Joey Gathright. … Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) also took part in a Minor League game on Wednesday and went 0-for-5. Gaston did not offer a timetable for Encarnacion’s return to Grapefruit League action. … First baseman Lyle Overbay went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Rays. … Reed (.410 this spring) went 2-for-3 and Gathright (.206) went 0-for-3. … Accardo allowed one run on two hits over one inning, upping his spring ERA to 6.75. … Valdez and Purcey each logged one shutout inning apiece. … Eveland logged four innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on seven hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
THE SHORT END… Gaston wanted a few of his “A” players to make the road trips this week to Port Charlotte (Rays) and Fort Myers (Red Sox), giving the regular outfielders one of the trips and the infielders the other. To decide, Aaron Hill said he and Vernon Wells drew straws. Hill offered to let Wells pick, since he has seniority. Wells decided to stick with drawing straws… and he got the short one. “I said, ‘Port Charlotte!’” Hill said with a laugh. Fort Myers is a 2 hours, 45 minute trip, while Port Charlotte is about 2 hours. “Not my fault,” Hill said. “I gave him the choice!” Hill, Overbay, Gonzalez and third baseman Jose Bautista made the trip to face the Rays. It will likely be Wells, Travis Snider and Adam Lind making the venture to play the Red Sox on Friday.
ALSO: Stay tuned for results of today’s Dotcom Dash.