Notes from Game 21
That’s a photo of Jays lefty Brian Tallet from last season, when he first slid into the rotation for Toronto. He started rockin’ a similar ‘stache this week.
Tallet is also rockin’ a spot among the Jays’ starting five heading into this season. Which spot?
The lanky lefty’s schedule makes it seem as though he is the fifth, but no one is saying so just yet.
“I’m not really worried about where I fit in the rotation,” Tallet said on Saturday. “As long as I get a chance to go take the ball, that’s what I enjoy, just getting out there and pitching. It doesn’t matter who I pitch against. It’s just an opponent.”
I asked if Tallet was studying the Rangers’ or Orioles’ hitters. He didn’t bite.
“Actually, I havent started yet,” he said with a smile. “They haven’t told me what I’m doing.”
The only rotation spot locked up is the No. 1. The Jays handed that honor to Shaun Marcum, who will start on Opening Day against the Rangers on April 5 in Texas. The next two games in Texas look like they are lined up for Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, respectively, before Toronto heads to Baltimore for the season’s second series.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said there’s a chance Tallet might wind up starting in Texas, though.
“He might. He might,” Gaston said.
“Or, he might start in Baltimore…” I quickly added.
We’ll likely know how the rotation will shape up on Tuesday, according to Gaston. That gives the Jays a chance to see how Morrow fares in a Minors game on Monday before maybe making a decision. One way or another, Gaston has said he wants to be able to announce the Opening Day roster before Toronto flies to Houston for tune-up games on April 2-3.
As for Tallet, he looked good enough on Saturday against the Pirates, logging five shutout innings during which he surrendered just two hits and finished with five strikeouts, one walk and about 80 pitches. Gaston was impressed and Tallet was happy with the performance.
“I had a good downward plane today with my fastball and the rest of my pitches,” Tallet said. “I had good comand. I was able to throw the ball to the corners today and just hit the mitt. Any time you can go out there and do that you, have a chance to succeed.”
ZEP V. BRETT: One battle that is not drawing much attention right now is the quiet competition between young lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil for a rotation spot. It has ben assumed all spring that Rzepczynski — a favorite of Gaston’s — was a virtual lock. It’s worth noting that general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the near three-hour drive to Fort Myers on Friday to watch Cecil spin a strong five-inning outing.
“Spring Training is so funny,” Gaston said. “Zep has had a tough first few innings. Cecil’s had two good turns out his last two times out. Automatic, he’s going to move to the top. He’s going to move to the top of the list, but it’s still not over. We go back and forth all the time on that. One guy one day and another guy the next day. Both of them still have a chance. We’ll sit down with Alex and [assistant GM Tony Lacava] and work it out.
“It could change in a week still. If guys don’t make the team and they go down to [Triple-A] Vegas, who knows what mappen happen a week from now? We do have those guys down there and if somebody gets off to a bad start and we feel like we need to make a swtich, we’re fortunate to have the guys to make that switch.”
ADJUSTING WELL: Tallet said making the switch from relieving to starting has been an easy transition for him. Why? Before he joined the Jays in 2006, Tallet spent his career as a starter. He said adjusting to the bullpen when he first joined the Jays was more difficult for him. Now, Tallet is going back to what he knows.
“It was actually harder for me to adjust coming from that starting role into the bullpen,” Tallet said. “It took so long to figure out what it took to get ready to get into the game. As a reliever, you just basically get your arm ready. Your pitches, you have to trust that your pitches are there. As a starter, you’re getting ready for a ballgame, you’re throwing your pitches and you’ve got to have them. You’ve got to have at least two. If you don’t have at least two, you’re in trouble. As a reliver, you can have just one pitch and if it’s good that day, they’re not going to hit you.”
STAT OF THE DAY
TALLET AS A STARTER IN 2009
Overall in 25 starts: 7-8 record, 5.41 ERA, 139.2 IP, 84 ER
The 3 worst starts: 0-2 record, 22.65 ERA, 10.1 IP, 26 ER
The other 23 starts: 7-6 record, 4.04 ERA, 129.1 IP, 58 ER
ANOTHER VIEW: This is a leftover quote from Friday’s game against the Rays, but here is what Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had to say about the potential that the Blue Jays’ pitching staff has:
“I’ll say it again, I’ve been saying it for several years, I think they have among the best young pitching in the American League. A couple years ago, I had arguments with different people that they had the best pitching in the American League. They’ve had injuries — that has really hurt them. [Dustin] McGowan. [Shaun] Marcum is coming back. Particularly, [BJ] Ryan goes down and then eventually gets released. They’ve been able to match up in the past, Brian Tallet and [Scott] Downs on the left side and then they’ve had a bunch of power dudes on the right side. I love [Casey] Janssen. They’ve got so many guys here that I like. [Ricky] Romero. I mean, you could talk about him. I think they’ve done a great job pitching wise. They’ve had some injuries, I get that, but physical potential among their pitchers I think is among the best.”
Opening Day Predictions: Part 5
Every weekend leading up to the end of camp, I have included my current predictions for the Opening Day roster. After 21 games, this is my final educated guess about who I believe will be among the 25 players headed north for the Blue Jays:
PITCHERS — Starters: RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Marc Rzepczynski. Relievers: RHP Jason Frasor (closer), LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Shawn Camp, LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Casey Janssen, LHP Jesse Carlson.
POS. PLAYERS: C John Buck, C Jose Molina, 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Aaron Hill, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, DH Adam Lind, LF Travis Snider, CF Vernon Wells, RF Jose Bautista, INF John McDonald, UTIL Mike McCoy, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz.
CHANGES: LHP David Purcey removed. RHP Merkin Valdez removed. Eveland added. Carlson added.
REASONING: Carlson returns to my bullpen due to the strides he has made in the past week with his left knee issue. The lefty has worked in a Minor League game, is pitching every other day and is down to appear in a Grapefruit League Sunday. He wouldn’t be down to pitch in a big league game if Toronto didn’t think he was going to be ready in time for Opening Day. I added Eveland because he has pitched well this spring and is out of options. The Jays have been very impressed with Purcey, but it may come down to who has and does not have an option. If it’s Purcey vs. Eveland for a job, Eveland has the edge. It doesn’t hurt that he is stretched out, so he could fill in as a spot starter or slide easily into a long relief role. Valdez is removed, but like Eveland he is out of options. I think Janssen has pitched his way on the team, but it could be Valdez vs. Janssen like it could be Eveland vs. Purcey. In the former case, though, I think Janssen deserves the spot. It would be risky exposing Valdez to waivers, though. On offense, the only question mark I see if with Encarnacion. If the Jays feel he needs more time to get ready, and place him on the DL, then Jeremy Reed seems a good bet to break camp with Toronto. For the 25th spot, I just think McCoy is too versatile not to put on the bench. He has speed and the ability to get on base and man at least six positions. Rotation-wise, the only iffy spot might be Rzepczynski. He has struggled some of late, while Brett Cecil has performed well. Then again, there’s a chance Cecil and Rzepczynski both wind up in Triple-A and Eveland makes the starting staff. We’ll all know soon enough.
BIRD FEED: Infielder John McDonald will not be with the Blue Jays in Houston for the exhibition games against the Astros on April 2 and April 3 at Minute Maid Park. McDonald plans on heading home to Connecticut to be with his father, Jack, who battling advanced liver cancer. McDonald will rejoin Toronto in time for its Sunday workout before Opening Day. … 1B Lyle Overbay is only expected to miss a few games after suffering a left knee contusion on Friday. Overbay did not make the trip to Bradenton on Saturday, but Gaston said the first baseman was feeling much better. Team trainers advised Overbay to rest his knee for three days, while Overbay indicated to Gaston that he felt only one day was necessary. Gaston will follow up with Overbay prior to Sunday’s game in Dunedin. … Leadoff man Jose Bautista belted a mammoth solo homer for the Jays with two outs in the fourth. The ball towered high above left field and bounced off the roof of a building beyond the wall. Bautista also drew his first walk of Spring Training in the second inning. … Reed went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, raising his spring average to .420. He is competing against Mike McCoy for a spot on the bench. McCoy went 1-for-2 with a run scored and lifted his average to .476. … Joey Gathright (.167 average this spring) was a favorite to win a bench job entering camp, but Gaston was candid about Gathright’s situation on Saturday. “We’ll play him,” Gaston said. “But there’s guys ahead of him right now. I won’t sit here and lie to you. You know that as well as I do — there’s guys ahead of him. He just hasn’t played well.” If the Jays don’t have a job to offer in the big leagues, Gathright said he is willing to accept an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Janssen logged 1 2/3 shutout innings on Saturday, keeping his spring ERA at a tidy 0.00. … Jeremy Accardo worked 1 1/3 shutout innings after Janssen. … Encarnacion finished 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and five runners left on base. He is trying to get his timing down after missing most of the spring slate with a left wrist issue.
GLOVE SAVE: Tallet benefited from a pair of spectacular catches in the outfield on Saturday, one from Gathright in center and another from Reed in right. Tallet’s favorite? Reed’s grab in the third inning, which bailed the lefty out after he allowed a single to Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen one batter earlier.
“Jeremy’s was probably the best one, considering I had just given up a hit to the pitcher,” Tallet said with a laugh. “I’m probably going to get some crap in camp once they hear about it. It’s one of those things. I can probably strike him out on a changeup and all that, but what’re you gaining out of that, striking the pitcher out with a changeup? You know you can do it, so let’s see if you can get him out with something else.”
Told that the single gave Pirates’ pitchers a three-game hitting streak, Tallet rolled his eyes and smiles.
“Just keep it going then,” he said.
QUOTABLE: “I really wanted to have a good spring, because I really like the team. I don’t know, man. It’s just been one of those springs where nothing’s been working. But, I can’t get down on myself.” –Gathright