March 2010

Notes from Game 6

arnsberg.jpgBrad Arnsberg is as passionate a pitching coach as you’ll find. His pitchers are his boys and he tries to create an environment that he can only describe as a family. That aspect made it hard for Arnsberg to say goodbye after five years as the Blue Jays pitching coach.

On Monday, Arnsberg chatted with a few of us Blue Jays reporters and talked about his time with Toronto and his new opportunity as the pitching coach for the Astros. Arnsberg was told by Toronto that he could pursue other jobs and he accepted. Soon, new Astros manager Brad Mills called with a job offer. Arnsberg took it.

“Basically, I was given the right to go out and search for a new job,” Arnsberg said. “They told us that we weren’t 100 percent
coming back and we weren’t 100 percent not coming back. They gave all of us coaching staff members the
opportunity to go look if we chose to.

“So I made a couple phone calls and lo and behold a week or so later
Brad Mills got the job and gave me a call and one thing led to another and a day and a half later I was
signing an Astros contract.”

True to his style and passion for the game and his pitchers, Arnsberg tried to organize a conference call with all of his Blue Jays pitchers to discuss the situation. That was his chance to explain the reasoning behind his decision to leave.

“It was tough leaving,” he said. “We all got on the
phone and talked about old times and I told them kind of the reasoning that I was heading in a different
direction. As I explained, it was turning a page on one chapter and going on to a new chapter.

“Hopefully I
can attain the success that we had [in Toronto]. The guys over there made me look like a hero. Hopefully I can come
over here and help a few guys get a little bit better at their craft.”

One good thing that came out of the offseason situation was that Bruce Walton, the bullpen coach under Arnsberg, was named Toronto’s new pitching coach. That was something that Arnsberg was thrilled to hear. “Pappy” and “Arnie” became good friends in their time together in Toronto.

“That was probably my biggest thrill. I was so excited,” Arnsberg said. “I didn’t know they were going to
ask him to take the job. I knew that he was probably next in line and was probably next in line when I got
the job. So I was elated.


He’s got
his hands full. It’s a tough camp for a first camp, but we’re still great friends and I couldn’t be happier and
more excited for this new opportunity for him.
That was the toughest part of leaving, the family that Pappy and I had built there.

“I’m trying to establish that
over here.”


Arencibia2.jpg
THE P STANDS FOR POWER:
Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia has three hits this spring, and they are all towering home runs. On Monday, Arencibia started behind the plate and hit third for Toronto and he launched a solo homer with two outs in the first. Manager Cito Gaston has been impressed.

“He’s amazing, man,” Gaston said. “He’s having some spring for us. I didn’t get a chance to see him play that much last year. I saw him play in the Florida State League a couple years ago when he was here and I liked him the times I’ve seen him play here.

“It’s good to have him out there and see him play, seeing the future in him that we have coming — whether it’s this year or next year. But, we want him to play, too.”

Even with a strong spring, Arencibia is likely ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas to open this season. The Jays signed veteran John Buck to a one-year deal to be the starter and the club brought veterans Jose Molina and Raul Chavez into camp to compete for the backup job.

Molina’s contract is non-guaranteed, so he is not a lock to make the team. Chavez has a MInor League deal, so he can be sent down. So, in theory, they could both be excluded from the Opening Day roster, clearing room for Arencibia.

The Jays will not bring Arencibia north as the backup, though. They want him to play regularly and are grooming him to hopefully be the starting catcher someday. It seems most realistic that he will either join the Jays midway through this season or as the starter in 2011.

As for that powerful swing? Here’s Gaston’s take: “He’s short and quick [to the ball]. He’s got a real quick bat and he’s got some bat speed there. If you’re standing behind the cage when he’s hitting, you can tell. You can hear the sound of the bat. He hits the ball, he centers the ball up pretty good.”

THE BENCH BATTLE: As I’ve noted on here before, there are three openings on the Blue Jays’ bench: backup catcher, backup outfielder, backup first baseman. In the running are Joey Gathright, Jeremy Reed, Mike McCoy, Randy Ruiz, Brian Dopirak, Molina and Chavez, among others.

On Monday, Gathright got the start as the leadoff man for the first time this spring for the Jays. He went 0-for-2, dropping his average through five games to .167, and he was caught stealing after drawing a walk in the first inning. Gaston was asked what Gathright is up against in his quest to make the roster this spring.

“Everybody’s got a chance,” Gaston said. “He’s certainly got Reed out there against him. Reed’s got a chance to play. Mike McCoy has a chance to play the outfield, too, and play the infield. So, just go out and play well. Everybody’s going to get a chance at it.”

Gaston’s mention of McCoy was unsolicited. After following up, the manager said he plans on giving McCoy some playing time in the outfield this spring to see if he can be an option as a utility man off the bench. Like Gathright, McCoy also brings some speed to the table (40 stolen bases with a .400+ OBP at Triple-A last year).

BIRD FEED: Lefty Ricky Romero was sharp in his second start of the spring. His line: 3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 40 pitches (28 strikes). Romero also created seven outs via grounders. He said his sinker is the strongest it has ever been right now. … Toronto brought a “B” squad to Kissimmee to take on Houston. From the “A” group, Lyle Overbay went 2-for-2 with a double, John McDonald went 2-for-3 with some nice plays at shortstop and Travis Snider went 0-for-2 with a walk. Prospect Brett Wallace started as the DH and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Dopirak went 2-for-2. … LHP Dana Eveland logged three shutout innings after Romero. … Chad Jenkins, the Jays’ top pick in the 2009 Draft, allowed one run on one hit with two strikeouts and one walk in two innings. … Prospect Zach Stewart logged one shutout inning of relief. … RHP Dustin McGowan is scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday. … Tuesday is an off-day for the Blue Jays.

QUOTABLE: “It felt good to get through three innings and I’m a groundball machine all of a sudden.” — Romero

QUOTABLE II: “I’d say life after the Blue Jays is all that I was expecting it to be and more.” — Arnsberg 

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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Game 6 lineups: Jays at Astros

TORONTO AT HOUSTON
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Kissimmee

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (4-1)
1. Joey Gathright, LF
2. Jarrett Hoffpauir, 3B
3. J.P. Arencibia, C
4. Lyle Overbay, 1B
5. Brad Emaus, 2B
6. Brett Wallace, DH
7. Jorge Padilla, CF
8. Travis Snider, RF
9. John McDonald, SS

Pitching: Ricky Romero


Astros.jpgASTROS
(2-2)
1. Michael Bourn
2. J.R. Towles, DH
3. Lance Berkman, 1B
4. Carlos Lee, LF
5. Hunter Pence, RF
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. Jason Castro, C
8. Tommy Manzella, SS
9. Jeff Keppinger, 2B

Pitching: Bud Norris

~JB

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Notes from Game 5

Ruiz3.jpgAll Randy Ruiz has done since he joined the Blue Jays organization is flat out hit.

At Triple-A Las Vegas last year, the big man from the Bronx hit .320 with 25 homers, 43 doubles and 106 RBIs en route to the Pacific Coast League Player of the Year Award. In 33 games after being promoted to Toronto, Ruiz hit .313 with 10 homers and 17 RBIs. In Puerto Rico this winter? Try .347 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 32 games.

So, why should anyone be surpised at what he’s doing this spring?

In the first inning on Sunday, Ruiz stepped into the batter’s box at Dunedin Stadium with the bases full of Blue Jays. What’d he do? Only rip a pitch from Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman, sending it well over the left-field wall for a grand slam. Through five spring games, Ruiz is only hitting .615.

“He certainly has a chance to make this club if he keeps swinging like that,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said.

Helping Ruiz’s cause is the condition he arrived in this spring. Before the offseason, Gaston and the Jays sat down with Ruiz and told him he should show up to Spring Training lighter if he was serious about earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. All Ruiz did was shed 22 pounds while balancing winter ball and an offseason move to Las Vegas.

“In the past, I used to always eat heavy foods and just go to sleep,” Ruiz said. “That was one of the major no-no’s now that my trainer said not to do. And it’s working. I feel different, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve lost so much weight. I feel better, but I feel different. I’m not used to being this light.

“I’ve always been heavy my whole life. But, this is what I had to do. These guys wanted me to come into camp and be ready and get lighter and I have to do what they want.”

Ruiz is essentially competing against fellow first baseman/designated hitter Brian Dopirak for a spot on the Blue Jays’ bench. Toronto has three bench jobs open: a backup catcher, a backup outfielder and a backup first baseman. Gaston likes Ruiz a lot, but is not ready to say he’s a lock to make the cut.

“There’s not much room here,” Gaston said. “I’m not saying he’s on the club, but he certainly has a good chance of making it.”

Gaston paused and smiled.

“Keep hitting grand slams.”

BIRD FEED: RHP Dustin McGowan is scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. … LHP Brett Cecil (cut left thumb) will throw in a bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled to log two innings in a “B” game on Wednesday. … Also scheduled to pitch in the “B” game: Brandon Morrow (3 innings), Josh Roenicke (1-2 innings), Marc Rzepczynski (3 innings). … Scheduled to pitch on Wednesday: Lance Broadway, Kyle Drabek, David Purcey, two innings each; Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, Zach Jackson, one inning each. … The Jays have reassigned RHP Daniel Farquhar, C Travis d’Arnaud and C Matt Liuzza to Minor League camp. … Gaston noted that LF Travis Snider’s focus at the plate right now is on getting into fastball counts and working on hitting that particular pitch. … 2B Aaron Hill went 2-for-2 with a walk on Sunday. He has reached base 10 times in 11 plate appearances this spring (6 walks, 4 hits). … OF Jose Bautista (playing third while 3B Edwin Encarnacion sits with a tender left wrist) belted another leadoff homer for the Jays on Sunday. He’s hitting .636 this spring. … CF Vernon Wells hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run shot that went into the trees above the left-field wall in the second inning on Sunday. … Frasor, Gregg, Downs, Shawn Camp, Farquhar and Rommie Lewsis each logged one inning on Sunday. Only Gregg allowed a run, surrendering a homer to Detroit’s Gerald Laird in the fourth. … LHP Brian Tallet made his spring debut and allowed four runs on four hits, including two homers, in two innings. Tallet is being given every chance at making the club as a starter. The lefty said he’s focusing on his curve this spring in an effort to improve his showing against left-handed hitters. … Due to pitch on Monday in Kissimmee against Houston: Ricky Romero (3 innings), Dana Eveland (3 innings), Chad Jenkins (1-2 innings), plus Zach Stewart, Merkin Valdez, Zech Zinicola and Willie Collazo. … Zinicola and first base prospect Brett Wallace were college teammates at Arizona State.

QUOTABLE: “The locker room here has a really good vibe. It’s really good mojo in here. It’s fairly young and the older guys are really open to talking. They’re not going to bust your chops or make you be quiet for two years before they talk to you or something. They’re really cool. I dig it here.” – Zinicola, who joined the Jays as a Rule 5 pick in December

———————————————————————————-

Opening Day Predictions: Part 2

Every Saturday from now until the end of camp, I plan on including my current predictions for the Opening Day roster. Fave games into the Grapefruit League schedule, here is who I believe will be among the 25 players headed north:

PITCHERS – Starters: Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet, Marc Rzepczynski. Relievers: Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo

POS. PLAYERS: John Buck, Jose Molina, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Jeremy Reed, Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista, John McDonald, Joey Gathright, Randy Ruiz.

CHANGES: Travis Snider removed. Jeremy Reed added.

REASONING: It’s very early and I expect Travis Snider to bounce back from a subpar week and ultimately work his way back onto this list. That said, Snider needs to show improved plate discipline, cut down down his strikeouts and show he can handle lefties in order to convince the Jays to hand him a full-time job in left field. Gaston won’t put Snider in a platoon situation, so it’s Triple-A Las Vegas to open the year unless Snider can impress Toronto this spring. If Snider needs more time to develop, Reed might head north to open the year.

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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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Game 5 lineups: Tigers at Jays

DETROIT AT TORONTO
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Dunedin

Tigers.gifTIGERS (3-1)
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Johnny Damon, DH
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Ryan Strieby, 1B
5. Carlos Guillen, LF
6. Ryan Raburn, 3B
7. Gerald Laird, C
8. Scott Sizemore, 2B
9. Adam Everett, SS

Pitching: Jeremy Bonderman

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (3-1)
1. Jose Bautista, 3B
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Randy Ruiz, 1B
6. Jeremy Reed, RF
7. John Buck, C
8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
9. Travis Snider, LF

Pitching: Brian Tallet

~JB

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Notes from Game 4

Cervellibeaning.jpgZech Zinicola genuinely felt awful about what happened. The Blue Jays reliever — a Rule 5 pick fighting for a spot in the bullpen — let a fastball fly in the third inning, and it sailed high and inside to New York’s Francisco Cervelli, striking him square in the helmet.

Cervelli dropped to his knees and remained in the ground for several moments before exiting the game. Later inside the visitors’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Zinicola was working through some stretching drills, but was obviously distracted and worried.

“Is he all right?” Zinicola asked reporters, who were discussion Cervelli nearby.

Cervelli said the pitch simply got away from him and he was eager to find out the protocol for this type of situation. Was he supposed to contact the Yankees? Did he need to send Cervelli a text message? Zinicola wanted to make sure the catcher knew there was absolutely no intent.

A more veteran Blue Jays player told Zinicola not to worry too much about it. It’s Spring Training. The catcher was not set up inside. Cervelli would understand that Zinicola was not throwing at him on purpose.

Cervelli suffered a concussion and was taken to a local hospital to undergo a CT scan, which came back negative. Cervelli will see a team doctor next, followed by a trip to a neurologist on Monday. Aaron Hill knows how fun that all can be.

With two outs in the ninth inning, Yankees reliever Jason Hirsh hit Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Jesus Merchan with the first pitch he threw. After the game, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said he didn’t think anyone was throwing at batters intentionally.

“We don’t have anything with those guys,” Gaston said. “Spring Training, I can’t see it. I know that we certainly weren’t throwing at anybody.”

Molina3.jpgTHE BROTHERS MOLINA: Before signing with the Blue Jays, backup catcher candidate Jose Molina phoned his brother Bengie, who suited up for Toronto in 2006. Jose Molina said Bengie had nothing but good things to say about his one year with the club.

“Bengie loved it here. He had a good time,” Jose Molina said. “He told me about it, about a lot of people here. That made it a lot easier coming in, because he was already here. He told me a lot of good stuff about it.”

Jose Molina, who signed a one-year non-guaranteed contract with the Jays shortly after camp opened this spring, is competing against Raul Chavez for the backup job. Molina said he has been very impressed with Toronto’s young arms, and has enjoyed working with them this spring.

“There’s a lot of talent here, a lot of good arms,” Molina said. “I can’t wait to catch all of them. I hope I can do that. The guys I’ve already caught, they’ve been awesome. They have good arms and they want to learn. They come up to me a lot and ask different questions and I’m really happy to answer them.”

Last season, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett preferred to throwing to Molina, creating somewhat of a controversy with catcher Jorge Posada being New York’s No. 1 backstop. After pitching to Molina on Saturday, Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum said he could understand why Burnett liked Molina so much.

“It’s a treat, I’ll tell you that,” Marcum said. “I can see why A.J. wanted to throw to him a lot last year. Hes great behind the plate and easy to talk to. He knows how to call a game and he’s just a great receiver and a great guy to have behind the plate. He’s somebody that I think is going to help the young staff as well.”

———————————————————————————-

STAT OF THE DAY

1.13

Combined ERA of the first four starters to pitch this spring for the Jays
 (Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Brandon Morrow and Shaun Marcum)
 

———————————————————————————-

BIRD FEED: In his first big league game since Sept. 16, 2008, Marcum logged two solid innings against the Yankees. He struck out two, walked one and gave up no hits, throwing 28 pitches (16 strikes). … Marcum focused on his fastball command on Saturday, mixing in a few changeups and one curve. He said he is also working on lengthening his stride during his delivery. “I felt like I was using too much upper body when I was pitching in the past,” Marcum said. … DH Adam Lind finally got his first hits of the spring, going 2-for-3 on Saturday with a two-run homer and an RBI single. … The Jays had 14 different players with at least one hit, nine with one run and six with at least one RBI in a nine-run, 18-hit victory over New York. … The Jays are now 3-1 with spring. First place! … Jose Bautista went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and one RBI, improving his spring average to .750. … 2B Aaron Hill drew one walk, giving him a team-high five free passes through four games. Hill has only made one out this spring. … Catching prospect J.P. Arencibia hit his second home run of the spring. … CF Vernon Wells went 3-for-3, giving him five hits (all singles) this spring. … OF Travis Snider went 1-for-3 with a double off the right-field wall. But, he did strikeout once, giving him a team-high six strikeouts this spring.

QUOTABLE: “It’s nice to see those guys in the box, but then again it’s Spring Training for them, too. I think when April and May roll around, things will be a little different. Right now, they’re probably just trying to get their timing, just like we’re trying to work on locating our pitches. You take it for what it’s worth. It’s great to locate your pitches, but then again you’ve got to realize that it is Spring Training and it’s still early for all of us.” – Marcum, on facing the Yankees in his first outing

HOT START: The Blue Jays have score nine or more runs in three of their last four games. What Gaston has liked seeing is that a good chunk of the runs have been coming early in the games, when the club’s regulars are still in the lineup.

“The guys are swinging the bats really good, all of them,” Gaston said. “They’re doing an outstanding job and I hope we just keep doing it. Just keep at it, even the regulars. Last year we won a lot of games with the younger kids, but this year the starting lineup is putting up some runs early, which is good.”

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

Game 4 lineups: Jays at Yankees

TORONTO AT NEW YORK
at 1:15 p.m. ET in Tampa

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (2-1)
1. Jose Bautista, 3B
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Jeremy Reed, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. Jose Molina, C

Pitching: Shaun Marcum


Thumbnail image for Yankees.jpgYANKEES (1-2)
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Curtis Granderson, CF
3. Jorge Posada, C
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Randy Winn, RF
6. Brett Gardner, LF
7. Francisco Cervelli, DH
8. Juan Miranda, 1B
9. Ramiro Pena, 2B

Pitching: A.J. Burnett

~JB

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Notes from Game 3

Edwin3.jpgSo where’s Edwin Encarnacion?

Earlier this week, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said that the third baseman would likely be in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Phillies. But then Minor Leaguer Bras Emaus got the start.

It turns out that the left wrist that Encarnacion had surgically repaired over the offseason is still a little tender. Gaston said that it is not considered serious, adding that the third baseman will likely be slotted in some time next week.

“We’re just going to give him a few more days,” Gaston said. “There’s nothing going on. He’s not hurt. I think he’ll probably play on Thursday of next week. There’s nothing going on, He just feels a little weak in that hand, so we don’t want to rush him. If he comes to me and tells me he’s good before then, he’ll go before then.”

Until then, you’ll probably see Jose Bautista and Emaus continue to get some playing time at third. This is one reason why outfielders Joey Gathright and Jeremy Reed are getting a good look this spring. Bautista will likely play right, but he’s also a backup at third, creating a need for more outfield depth on the bench.

LEADOFF EXTRAORDINAIRE: We’re only two games in here, but Bautista really seems to be digging this whole leading off thing. On Friday, he smashed  an 0-1 pitch from Cole Hamels over the wall in center for a leadoff homer in the first. He finished 3-for-3 with two doubles and three runs scored.

“I think I’ll leave him right where he’s at,” Gaston said with a chuckle. “He’s been swinging the bat, man, ever since he got a chance to play at the end of last season. … He’s one of the guys I thought about all winter for a leadoff guy. We didn’t really pick up anybody else to do that job, so he fits it pretty good.”

THE “B” TEAM: The Jays played the Phillies in a B game on Friday as well. Lefty Brad Mills, who was a front-runner for a rotation job last spring, worked two innings and struck out four with two hits allowed. This year, given the long list of arms in the hunt for jobs, Mills is a long shot to make the cut come Opening Day.

“Mills looked like a different kid all together,” Gaston said. “He looked even better than he did all last year, even in Spring Training when everybody was so excited about him. I don’t know. It’s tough. It’s tough, because if you look at what we have, I don’t know. [The rotation race] is open. We’ll just hope he keeps going and see what happens.”

Chad Jenkins, the top pick in the June Draft, also logged two innings, striking out one and walking one with one hit allowed. Said Gaston, “I told him if he stays healthy he should move [up] pretty quick.” Highlighting the offense was first baseman David Cooper, who homered in the 3-2 win.

HEADING TO TAMPA? Here’s some Blue Jays you might see against the Yankees on Saturday: Shaun Marcum, Willie Collazo, Zach Jackson, Rommie Lewis, Robert Ray, Steven Register, Merkin Valdez, Zech Zinicola, Travis d’Arnaud, J.P. Arencibia, Matt Liuzza, Jose Molina, Brian Dopirak, Brad Emaus, Alex Gonzalez, Aaron Hill, Mike McCoy, Jesus Merchan, Lyle Overbay, Randy Ruiz, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Adam Loewen, Jorge Padilla, Jeremy Reed, Travis Snider, Vernon Wells. Encarnacion’s name was also circled, but he might not be on the trip.

BIRD FEED: Right-hander Dustin McGowan is not currently penciled in for a Spring Training game. First, the Blue Jays are going to have him throw in a simulated game on either March 9 or 10, according to pitching coach Bruce Walton. Toronto will then build from there. … Second baseman Aaron Hill drew two more walks on Friday, giving him four free passes in his first five plate appearances of the spring. … In the first inning, Brandon Morroww threw 20 pitches (nine strikes). He looked much sharper in the second, when he threw 10 pitches (eight strikes). Morrow said he is working on slowing down his delivery, staying back in his mechanics and focusing on a changeup he began working hard on last season. … Pitchers Shawn Hill, Jesse Litsch, Scott Richmond and Dirk Hayhurst (all on the disabled list with arm injuries) have returned to Minor League camp to continue their rehab. … The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the fourth inning against the Phils on Friday. Lyle Overbay had a three-run double and Bautista had a two-run double in the inning. … LHP David Purcey, on the egde of the rotation race, allowed three runs on seven hits in two innings on Friday. LHP Jesse Carlson also allowed three runs in his lone inning of work. RHP Jeremy Accardo gave up two runs in one inning. … Chatted some with Brian Dopirak today. He put on 15-20 pounds of muscle over the winter and is aiming at making a strong impression with the Jays this spring. He’s in the running for a bench role, basically competing against Randy Ruiz. … Also had a good discussion with catching prospect J.P. Arencibia. Check bluejays.com for a feature on him later today.

BASE BURNER: Phillies outfield prospect Tyson Gillies — one of the Minor Leaguers acquired by Philadelphia from Seattle in exchange for Cliff Lee — turned in one of the fastest home-run “trots” I have ever seen on Friday. He homered off Purcey and then flat-out sprinted around the bases. That has Gaston laughing some after the game.

“Oh, man. Wow,” said Gaston, smiling. “He got a lean, too. That means he can really get around those bases. He’s leaning the right way. Inside lean. That’ll get you around there quick.”

QUOTABLE: “I was rushing through a little bit in the first inning. But that’s hard not to do when it’s your first outing and you’re facing the two-time defending NL champs with five All-Stars in a row starting it off.” — Morrow

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

Game 3 lineups: Phillies at Jays

PHILADELPHIA AT TORONTO
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Dunedin


Thumbnail image for phillies.gifPHILLIESS (1-0)
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Jayson Werth, CF
6. Raul Ibanez, LF
7.Domonic Brown, RF
8. Ross Gload, DH
9. Brian Schneider, C

Pitching: Cole Hamels

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (1-1)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Brad Emaus, 3B
9. Joey Gathright, LF

Pitching: Brandon Morrow

EDWIN WATCH: Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was held out of the lineup for the third straight game. Encarnacion underwent surgery on his left writst over the offseason and manager Cito Gaston has said that he won’t play the third baseman until it is clear that he is feeling 100 percent. Encarnacion will likely begin playing in games next week.

~JB

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Notes from Game 2

Rzep3.jpgIn the race for rotation spots, it has become increasingly clear that Marc Rzepczynski would have to pitch his was out of the competition this spring.

Cito Gaston has made it no secret that he was very impressed with the young lefty last season and the Blue Jays manager reiterated that again after Zep’s Grapefruit League debut on Thursday against the Tigers.

“I like the way he pitched for us last year,” Gaston said. “As I’ve said, his record surely didn’t show how well he pitched for us last year, but he did a good job. And, he did a great job today. Like I’ve said, when we leave, we leave with him.”

With that last statement, Cito means exactly what I said in the first paragraph. Zep would have to have a horrible spring not to make the Opening Day roster. And Gaston likes him so much, that if the Jays feel he isn’t one of the best starters, the manager said he would not mind having him in the bullpen.

Against the Tigers, Rzepczynski allowed no runs on one hit (an infield single that shortstop John McDonald nearly robbed with a diving grab and throw), and he finished with one strikeout and one walk, with 22 pitches (12 strikes).

Zep did issue a leadoff walk to Austin Jackson in the first — on four pitches, too — but he escaped the jam. The next hitter, Johnny Damon, hit a soft liner to short, where Johnny Mac gloved the ball for an out, and then quickly fired to first base to double up Jackson.

The way things currently stand, I think Rzepczynski is the leading candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. The pitchers with the edge for the front four jobs are Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet and Dustin McGowan. I mention those five because each have been named by Gaston when discussing potential Opening Day starters.

DEBUTS: On the same day Roy Halladay made his debut as the ace of the Phillies, the Blue Jays brought all three prospects acquired in the Doc deal to the game against Detroit. Kyle Drabek and Brett Wallace made their Toronto debuts. Wallace went 1-for-2 with an RBI single and a run scored. Drabek pitched the fifth and sixth innings, allowing two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud did not play.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Gaston said of Drabek’s performance. “He was just missing just a little bit. From talking to [Jose] Molina a little bit, [pitching coach Bruce Walton] was telling me, he said he’s got good stuff. He’s firm. He just missed a little bit on certain pitches — up a little bit in the strike zone, But otherwise, his ball jumped. He was a little fired up, too.”

MOUND MOVES: The Blue Jays claimed righty Casey Fien off waivers from the Red Sox on Thursday and placed injured right-hander Scott Richmond on the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Richmond has been bothered with a right shoulder impingement, the same injury that dogged him down the stretch last year. The club really isn’t sure when Richmond will be able to return, but the Jays are not currently looking into surgery. As for Fien, he adds depth to the bullpen, and helps because he has player options. Toronto has a few arms in the mix for jobs who are out of options, as well as a Rule 5 pick in camp, and there is the possibility that Toronto could lose those pitchers if they do not make the Opening Day roster. Fien protects the Jays in case they face that type of situation.

CECIL SLICED: Lefty Brett Cecil, who is in the mix for a rotation job this spring, was scratched from Thursday’s game after cutting the thumb on his throwing hand. Walton said Cecil sliced the digit while cooking. Chatting with GM Alex Anthopoulos, he said Cecil can still throw, but the cut does hinder his curveball. So early in the spring, the Jays just wanted to be cautious, holding the lefty out of his two-inning appearance on Thursday. Cecil should be worked into a game in the next couple days.

BIRD FEED: Catching prospect J.P. Arencibia belted a mammoth two-run home run to break a 7-7 tie in the ninth inning, sending the Jays to a 9-7 win over Detroit. The blast — off Zach Miner — flew to left-center field and landed well up the hill over the wall. “I think this kid is going to be a legit catcher,” Gaston said. … Ray (formerly Reidier) Gonzalez made his spring debut for the Jays, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits over two innings. … Jarrett Hoffpair made an error at third base for the Jays, one day after commiting one at second. In all, Toronto has made four errors through two spring games. … Wednesday’s home run hero, Chris “The Big” Lubanski, went 0-for-3 on Thursday. … The battle for the bench spots is on. Brian Dopirak went 2-for-3 with one RBI, Randy Ruiz went 1-for-3 with one RBI, Mike McCoy went 1-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and a two-out bunt single (small ball!), Jeremy Reed went 1-for-3 with one RBI and Joey Gathright finished 1-for-2 with one RBI. … Travis Snider went 1-for-2 with a walk one day after striking out twice. … And, remember, we’re only two games in, so don’t read too much into any of this! There’s a lot of baseball to be played.

PHOTO OF THE DAY


Cito4.jpgThrowback Thursday: Detroit manager Jim Leyland chats with Gaston

COMING UP: The Blue Jays take on the Phillies (no Doc, sorry) on Friday at Dunedin Stadium. Brandon Morrow starts for Toronto. Lance Broadway and David Purcey are also down to log two innings. Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo will pitch one inning each. In a “B” game, Brad Mills will start against the Phils. Pitching prospects Zach Stewart, Chad Jenkins and Luis Perez are also scheduled to appear.

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

Game 2 lineups: Blue Jays at Tigers

TORONTO AT DETROIT
at 1:05 p.m. ET in Lakeland

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (0-1)
1. Mike McCoy, 2B
2. Jeremy Reed, CF
3. Brian Dopirak, DH
4. Randy Ruiz, 1B
5. Chris Lubanski, RF
6. Jarrett Hoffpauir, 3B
7. Jose Molina, C
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. John McDonald, SS

Pitching: Marc Rzepczynski

Tigers.gifTIGERS (1-0)
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Carlos Guillen, DH
6. Gerald Laird, C
7. Scott Sizemore, 2B
8. Adam Everett, SS
9. Audy Ciriaco, 3B

Pitching: Rick Porcello

~JB

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