Notes from Game 18
While there is always the chance that Overbay may indeed wind up in a platoon at first at some point this year, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston told me on Thursday afternoon that Overbay will be in there every day to begin the coming season.
“Overbay will be out there full-time,” Gaston said.
What does that mean? Well, it could mean Randy Ruiz finds himself searching for at-bats in a hurry. Right now, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion appears to be on pace to be ready in time for Opening Day, which would create a domino effect for the starting lineup.
With Encarnacion on the DL: Jose Bautista moves from right field to third, Travis Snider likely moves from left to right field, Adam Lind likely moves from DH to left and Ruiz winds up as the everday DH to open the year. This is assuming Snider makes the team, of course, and it appears as though he will.
With Encarnacion in the mix: Bautista stays in right, Snider likely opens as the left fielder, Lind resumes his role as the everyday designated hitter and Ruiz winds up on the bench. The Jays have already said they don’t want Snider in a platoon, Lind definitely won’t be in a platoon and now Gaston said Overbay will also play against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers.
Gaston has said repeatedly that he believes Ruiz — a career Minor Leaguer who is finally getting a chance to open a year in the big leagues — has the potential to hit around .280 with 20-25 homers and around 75-80 RBIs with regular playing time. The way the roster is shaping up, though, there might not be an excess of at-bats for Ruiz.
Now, there is another element to this that could make it a tempory situation. Overbay is a free agent after this season and he is not a part of the Jays’ long-term plans (especially with prospect Brett Wallace now in the farm system). If the Jays can find a taker for Overbay, and the return is decent enough, the club would likely move him.
There is a good chance that Overbay is not with the Blue Jays for the entire 2010 season. Wallace might force the Jays’ hand at some point, or Overbay might be dealt. In the latter scenario, that could create an opportunity for Ruiz to man first base more often until Wallace is deemed ready.
But, for now…
“Lyle’s really swinging the bat good,” Gaston said. “I hope he takes it into the season and has one heck of a season and — whether he is back here or somwhere else — get a great contract for him and his family. Either way it goes, if he’s here, great. If he’s not back here, we’re going to miss him, because even if he doesn’t hit anything he plays great defense for you.”
OVERDRIVE: That’s what Marc Rzepczynski said his mind was running on during Thursday’s five-inning outing against the Tigers. The young lefty allowed three runs on four hits with four walks, one hit batsmen and two strikeouts in an 80-plus pitch performance. What was the problem?
“I was getting into my own head too much today,” Rzepczynski said. “I was getting into my own head about trying to fix my mechanics.”
In the first inning, Rzepczynski “flew open” in his delivery and sent a fastball bouncing off the right shoulder blade of Tigers leadoff man Clete Thomas. Then, Zep walked Ryan Raburn. Two batters later, Miguel Cabrera sent a pitch to the right-center field gap for a two-run double. Rzepczynski said the problem early was with his fastball command.
“I was struggling with the fastball early, as you could tell by the first inning,” Rzepczynski said. “We decided to go with the breaking ball, which I don’t like doing in the spring, but I was able to go to my breaking ball and throw that for strikes, which enabled us to establish the fastball later.
“I was able kind of find a little bit of a groove back to where I should be — except for walking Cabrera on four straight pitches with two outs [in the fifth]. The walks got to me today. It was just one of those games where I just fell too much out of mechanics and was thinking too much about it.
“Basically, to make a really long story short, I was thinking too much.”
Fortunately, it’s only Spring Training. Rzepczynski knows mechanical flaws will pop up during his starts. What is important is making the proper in-game adjustments and to not get caught up in what is going wrong. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston agreed.
“That goes through a lot of guys’ heads sometimes, even hitters,” Gaston said. “You start thinking about your mechanics and not thinking about what you’re doing out there. You can’t do both. As I say to hitters, if you’re thinking about mechanics, the next thing you know the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher. You can’t go out there an think about mechanics. Just think about pitching.”
USE YOUR GLOVE: The third hitter for Detroit in the first inning, Carlos Guillen, chopped a pitch back up the middle — right at Rzepczynski. As the ball bounced high above the pitcher’s head, he reached up with his left hand and was struck by the baseball. Rzepczynski was fine, escaping what could have been a regrettable play.
“Sometimes I just get reactionary,” Rzepczynski said. “I just stuck my bare hand in there. I’ve done it before. I try not to, but it’s the first ball I’ve had hit back at me this spring. I was trying to react and trying to get it. It’s fine. I’ve got a little rugburn, I want to say, just friction from the ball. It caught the tip [of my fingers]. I didn’t feel it the rest of the game.”
BIRD FEED: Gaston said the Blue Jays’ regular starting lineup will be used every game, beginning on Saturday and through the rest of the Florida portion of Spring Training. “It’s getting time to get them ready for the season,” Gaston said. “They might get somewhat of a break down in Houston, but before then they’ll probably run out there every day.” … Encarnacion went 1-for-2 with a walk, strikeout and stolen base in his first Grapefruit League game of the spring for the Jays. Gaston said Encarnacion will now be a regular part of the lineup, though he might not play full games until next week. Edwin missed the bulk of the spring slate while resting a weak left wrist. Encarnacion is feeling good and Cito believes he’ll be ready in time for Opening Day. “Right now, I think he’s got a chance to be in there,” Gaston said.” … UTIL Mike McCoy, who is a leading contender for a bench role, also played on Thursday, his first Grapefruit League game since March 13. McCoy (right shoulder) went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. “I’m happy to be back in there,” McCoy said. “It felt good to play again. I played a couple Minor League games and I felt pretty good. I felt like my timing was a little bit off, but I felt better today.” Cito indicated before the game that McCoy “certainly has a great chance” of making the team. … LHP Jesse Carlson (left knee) is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Friday. … RHP Brandon Morrow (right shoulder) is scheduled to throw off a mound on Friday and is slated to start on Monday, barring any setbacks. If Morrow needs to open on the DL, Cito has said he will decided between LHP Brett Cecil and LHP Dana Eveland for the vacated rotation spot. … Pitchers for Friday’s split squad games: In Fort Myers vs. Red Sox – Cecil, Marty McCleary, Zach Jackson, Dan DeLucia, Jonah Bayliss; In Dunedin vs. Rays – Shaun Marcum, Kevin Gregg, David Purcey, Merkin Valdez. … Thursday marked the first time this spring that closer candidates Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Gregg did not pitch on the same day. Downs allowed two runs on three hits in one inning, while Frasor logged one shutout frame against the Tigers. … Roenicke, who is on the bubble for a spot in the bullpen, worked one shutout inning in relief on Thursday.
O-FER: Talk about a rough day in the batter’s box for the Blue Jays. Vernon Wells, Jeremy Reed, Jose Molina, Snider, Lind and Ruiz combined to go 0-for-17 at the plate in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Detroit. After a first-inning sac fly from Wells, the Jays were blanked for the next eight innings.
2010 GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE SERIES
DETROIT (3-3) vs. TORONTO (3-3)
GAME ONE: Tigers 7, Blue Jays 6 (March 3)
GAME TWO: Blue Jays 9, Tigers 7 (March 4
GAME THREE: Blue Jays 4, Tigers 1 (March 7)
GAME FOUR: Tigers 10, Blue Jays 7 (March 15)
GAME FIVE: Blue Jays 9, Tigers 7 (March 22)
GAME SIX: Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1 (March 25)
GAME SEVEN: Monday at Dunedin Stadium
Keep the champagne on ice…
QUOTABLE: “I’m good at redirecting the ball off all of my body parts. I’ve gotten a few outs off my butt, off my hand, off my shin, a couple things.” – Rzepczynski
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