April 2010

Game 16 lineups: Royals at Jays

KANSAS CITY AT TORONTO
at 12:37 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre

Royals.gifROYALS (5-9, 5.0 GB)
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Scott Podsednik, LF
3. Billy Butler, 1B
4. Jose Guillen, DH
5. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Jason Kendall, C
8. Alex Gordon, 3B
9. Yunieski Betancourt, SS

Pitching: Zack Greinke (0-2, 3.57)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (9-6, 2.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Jose Bautista, 3B
7. Travis Snider, RF
8. Jose Molina, C
9. John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (0-1, 4.05)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 15

Wells420.jpgFIRST: That Vernon Wells fellow is on a nice little hot streak.

In the Jays’ 4-3 win over the Royals, Mr. Dub went 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, two runs scored and one RBI. The homer went off the facing of the third deck in left (!) and his first double jump-started a late rally in the seventh inning.

As of this writing, Wells was tied for the Major League lead with seven homers and ranked numero uno in the bigs with 47 total bases. We can still stick with the “it’s only April 20″ mindset here, but the Jays continue to be extremely encouraged by the production of their cleanup man.

It’s been written before, but Wells and manager Cito Gaston are quick to point out that the roots of the center fielder’s current streak rest in the final days of Spring Training. That’s when hitting coach Dwayne Murphy talked with Wells about making a slight change with his hands. He’s generating more load, leading to more power. It’s helped with timing and pitch recognition up to this point.

“Murph and I have worked hard,” Wells said. “We worked hard in Spring Training and I continue to do it. If he sees something, he tells me and I try to make an adjustment. It’s been a good working relationship so far and we’ll continue to keep working at it.”

SECOND: Shawn Camp has already established himself as a valuable member of the Blue Jays’ bullpen. And so far, this season has been no exception. Gaston is quick to say that Camp is very underrated, and I have to say that I agree. He can eat up innings if needed, and has been especially effective this year and last.

In Tuesday’s win, Camp entered with a runner on second base and one out in the sixth inning. He created two quick flyouts to escape the jam. Camp then slipped into a two-out, two-on situation in the seventh and got out of it with a groundout. So far this year, Camp’s thrown 10 innings, posted a 0.90 and has eight strikeouts against two walks.

His work on Tuesday was quietly a big part of the win.

“He just comes to pitch,” Gaston said. “It was big for him to do that. He got us through 1 2/3 innings and that was big.”

THIRD: Eveland did not have his best stuff on Tuesday night, but he still lasted into the sixth inning for the Jays. Again, considering he’s the fifth starter, the Jays have to be thrilled with his work up to this point. Through three outings, Eveland has done exactly what the Jays need, provide innings and keep the team in the contest.

Eveland did that against the Royals and the Jays did what they’ve been doing often this year — they rallied late. Toronto has five comeback wins through 15 games. Last year, they had 32 comeback wins all year.

“We’ve got plenty of power in this lineup,” Eveland said. “I feel like as a starter, going six innings and giving up a couple runs — three or four runs — you’ve still got a good chance of winning a ballgame.”

HOME: Overbay has now shown improvement in two straight games. On Monday, he went 2-for-2 with two walks and reched base five times. On Tuesday, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and a crucial double to deep center field (though Rick Ankiel said he should have been able to make the catch). Baby steps…

“He’s been battling through the struggles and he’s kept working,” Wells said. “It’ll pay off for him.”

~JB

Game 15 lineups: Royals at Jays

KANSAS CITY AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre

Royals.gifROYALS (5-8, 4.0 GB)
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Willie Bloomquist, 3B
3. Billy Butler, 1B
4. Jose Guillen, DH
5. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Jason Kendall, C
8. Mitch Maier, LF
9. Yunieski Betancourt, SS

Pitching: Kyle Davies (1-0, 4.26)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (8-6, 2.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Jose Bautista, 3B
7. John Buck, C
8. Travis Snider, RF
9. Mike McCoy, 2B

Pitching: Dana Eveland (2-0, 1.35)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 14

WBILO.jpgFIRST: Who believes in Lyle O? Well apparently some fans who put up this big banner out in center field. If I’m to believe the twittersphere, then apparently the people who put it up did not have the seats behind the sign, so they weren’t allowed to sit there…

Obviously, I don’t know that for a fact. And as the game went on, a few fans did wander over behind the sign to root on Overbay and the Jays. There were plenty of seats available for this one — roughly 39,000 or so. Toronto set another dubious record with a Rogers Centre-low 10,314 in attendance for the 8-1 romp of the Royals.

But I digress….

About that Overbay fellow. It’s just one game and sample size and all that, but Overbay went 2-for-2 with two walks and he reached on catcher’s interference to round out his five plate appearances. That’s what we call progress, and at this point that’s all the Jays are hoping to see from their starting first baseman.

“It’s good for him,” manager Cito Gaston said. “It’s certainly not going to hurt his confidence at all. First time up, he hit that ball down the line. It’s just got to help. We always talk about what comes first, confidence or success? It’s always success and success breeds confidence, right? So hopefully he’s off and rolling. We could really use him.”

SECOND: Let’s take a closer look at Overbay, Travis Snider, Jose Bautista and Mighty Mike McCoy in this one, shall we?

Coming into Monday’s action, that quartet was hitting a robust .142 (22-for-155) with two homers and 13 RBIs. In Monday’s win, OverSniBauCoy finished 9-for-15 with three homers (two from Bautista) and six RBIs (five from Bautista).

A big issue so far this season has been production beyond just Vernon Wells, Adam Lind and Alex Gonzalez. The Jays can only hope that the effort from the other guys is a sign of better things to come.

THIRD: So that’s the Brandon Morrow the Blue Jays traded for, huh? For a few seasons, I remember covering Bad A.J. and Good A.J. when Mr. Burnett was with Toronto. Here’s hoping we’re not going to see a similar pattern with Mr. Morrow.

One positive from Monday’s seven-inning gem — and it was indeed a gem — was that the outing was the result of a slight mechanical tweak by Morrow. At the urging of pitching coach Bruce Walton, Morrow lowered his arm slot ever so slightly.

“To me, it feels like I’m throwing sidearm,” Morrow said. “But it’s really not much at all.”

Morrow had more movement on his pitches and better command. His curveball was strong, his sinker was heavy, and his fastball and slider were there as usual. The Royals? They looked baffled. So much so that they didn’t record their first hit until one out in the sixth.

it was much better than the Morrow who allowed 12 runs over nine innings in his first two starts of the season…

“That goes without saying,” he said.

HOME: Aaron Hill is due back from the disabled list on Friday. This begs the question: who gets bumped off the roster? The two main choices seem to be McCoy and Randy Ruiz, who each have plenty of options left, so there’s no worrying about exposing them to waivers and all that.

In Monday’s win, all McCoy did was go 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored. One of those runs came when McCoy sprinted from second based and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning. He’s fast. He’s versatile. He’s going to be a hard guy to send to the Minors if he has more games like this one.

With Overbay struggling, there’s an argument to be made for keeping Ruiz around. If Overbay starts showing more signs of snapping out of his slump, well… we’ll see. McCoy could wind up being expendible, especially with an extra outfielder (Fred Lewis) and extra infielder (John McDonald) already in the fold.

Then again, it’s Randy Ruiz bobblehead night for Triple-A Vegas on Saturday…

~JB 

Game 14 lineups: Royals at Jays

KANSAS CITY AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre



Royals.gifROYALS
(5-7, 3.5 GB)
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
3. Billy Butler, 1B
4. Jose Guillen, DH
5. Rick Ankiel, CF
6. Brayan Pena, C
7. Alex Gordon, 3B
8. Mitch Maier, LF
9. Yunieski Betancourt, SS

Pitching: Brian Bannister (0-0, 2.19)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (7-6, 2.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Jose Bautista, 3B
7. Travis Snider, RF
8. Jose Molina, C
9. Mike McCoy, 2B

Pitching: Brandon Morrow (0-1, 12.00)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 11

Overbay.jpgFIRST: I don’t mean to continually point out the slump of Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay, but…

… well, it’s hard not to do right now.

Overbay has been mired in an ugly stretch at the plate and Friday’s 7-5 loss was no exception. For Overbay, things reached a nasty peak in the eighth inning.

Two outs. One on. Toronto trailing by two runs. Overbay works into a 3-2 count. Then… a weak swing for a strikeout. He looked completely fooled.

I have to give Overbay credit, though. I hung around to talk with him after the game and Overbay did not offer up any sort of excuse for his recent performance.

“Nothing’s going right. “I feel good in the cage. I feel good in [batting practice]. Then I get in the game and I’m swinging at bad pitches. I’m not seeing them. I’m taking the ones I’m supposed to be hitting. I’m just not getting the job done.

“I’m just not getting the job done,” he repeated. “That’s all there is. And that’s 100 percent my fault.”

As things currently stand, Overbay is in an 0-for-15 skid in the batter’s box and he is 3-for-42 on the season. Six strikeouts in his last nine at-bats. With a lefty (Joe Saunders) on the hill tomorrow, it might be deemed an opportune time for Overbay to take a seat and “clear his head,” as some managers like to phrase it.

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston does not buy into that.

“People say that,” Gaston said. “But I don’t find that does anybody any good. I’ve never believed in that. Some guys use that as an excuse to take a guy out of the lineup, but I don’t believe in that. I just think that you’ve got to keep battling.

“You go in a slump quick, you come out of one quick.”

SECOND: Also from the No Excuses Dept., Travis Snider was not about to make one for the line drive that sailed over his head in the eighth inning. Snider, playing right for the first time this season, took a few quick steps in, costing him a chance to catch the hard liner off the bat of Maicer Izturis.

Two runs scored. Jays lost by two runs. Live and learn.

“I misread it,” Snider said. “I broke in and the ball went over my head and I wasn’t able to make up for the couple steps that I took in and unfortunately it ends up being the one that cost us the game. It’s not something that shouldn’t have been caught.

“I just have to work harder.”

THIRD: One could also point to a turn of events in the seventh inning as a big contributor to the Jays’ latest loss. Adam Lind and Vernon Wells each singled, putting runners on first and second base with no outs. At this turn in the game, the Blue Jays were trailing the Angels, 4-1. It looked like a rally was in the making.

Then, a ball skipped away from Halos catcher Jeff Mathis and Lind broke for third base. Unfortunately for the Jays, the ball didn’t get far enough away from the catcher. Mathis retrieved it, fired to third and easily threw out Lind. Not sure I can fault Lind for making a break for it, though. It was a tough call.

As it turned out, though, Overbay flew out and John Buck grounded out to end the inning.

HOME: The Blue Jays struck out nine times on Friday night, giving them a Major League-leading 99 strikeouts on offense through 11 games. Asked about that early trend prior to the contest, Gaston said that is simply a product of the type of offense that Toronto has assembled this season — a power-based lineup.

“This is a team that probably has seven guys or so that can really hit home runs,” said Gaston, hammering home the message he’s given since early spring. “These are the kind of results you’re going to have. I’d rather see a guy take a good swing than take a half swing and pop it up or a check-swing strikeout.”

Fair enough…

Also, I will be away from the ballpark on Saturday and Sunday, so you’re just going to have to survive without Blue Jays blogging or tweeting until Monday. Somehow, I think the world will keep turning. Catch you from the ‘yard on Monday…

~JB 

Game 11 lineups: Angels at Jays

LOS ANGELES AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Angels.gifANGELS
(3-7, 3.5 GB)
1. Erick Aybar, SS
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Hideki Matsui, DH
5. Kendry Morales, 1B
6. Juan Rivera, LF
7. Maicer Iztruis, 3B
8. Howie Kendrick, 2B
9. Jeff Mathis, C

Pitching: Jered Weaver (1-0, 3.00)

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

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (0-0, 3.46)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 10

FIRST: How about that Dana Eveland?

Not many people had him in the Blue Jays rotation when Spring Training opened and here he is with a 2-0 record and a 1.35 ERA through two outings. Sure, it’s early. But Eveland looks similarly good all spring, so there has been plenty for the Blue Jays to be pleased with in terms of the results.

A strong season from Eveland would benefit the Blue Jays in two ways. One, it gives them a more than reliable option for the fifth spot on the staff. Two, a full season from him means Toronto did not need to rush one of its prospects to the bigs ahead of schedule. Eveland was acquired for cash and this deal has paid off so far.

It will be interesting to see how long Eveland can keep this strong run going, though. Up to this point, he has thrived on keeping the hitters guessing. It was changeups and fastballs against the O’s. It was first-pitch curves against the Sox. He mixes things up, changes speeds and tries to keep lineup’s confused.

“It helps,” Eveland said. “They can’t go back and really look at my last start and go, ‘Oh, he’s going to do this,’ because I’m going to be a little different every time you see me — I hope. That’s my goal.”

So far, so good…

SECOND: Now, for some bad.

Entering Thursday’s 7-3 win, the Blue Jays led the Majors with 75 strikeouts. This is the offense I’m talking about here. Against the Sox, Toronto hitters whiffed 15 times. From the fifth through ninth innings, the Jays had a stretch of nine outs in a row on strikeouts and 10 of 11. The posterboy in the latest fanning? First baseman Lyle Overbay, who finished with four strikeouts in an 0-for-5 showing. Overbay’s average has dropped to .077 and he slipped to 0-for-12 against left-handed pitching. Next lefty on the schedule is Joe Saunders for the Angels on Saturday. Let’s see if Lyle gets a day off…

THIRD: Back to the good…

Travis Snider snapped out of an 0-for-14 funk in a big way, slamming a 2-1 pitch from Sox starter Freddy Garcia for a second-inning home run. Snider didn’t look like he even got all of it, and the baseball crashed well into the second deck in right. Snider went 2-for-4, raising his average to .129. He also drew an important leadoff walk in the fourth inning. It’s a start. At least that’s what the Jays are praying.

HOME: I only have one category left here, so I’m not going to waste it on the “awesome double play” (Eveland’s words) that happened in the sixth inning. Let’s just say that you’re supposed to touch third base again if you run beyond it and need to head back to second base on a flyout to center field. Got it, Juan?

I’ll use this last section on Mr. Alex Gonzalez, who went something like 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs to raise his average to .349 in Thursday’s win. This begs the question… with Overbay struggling out of the fifth hole, and Aaron Hill due back next week from the DL, and Gonzalez doing so well out of Hill’s two spot, might there me some lineup rearranging upon Hill’s return? For example, now I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe Gonzalez second, Hill third and Lind in the five hole? I mean, it’s just a thought.

Cito was asked if Gonzalez might still have a home in the two hole when Hill comes back…

“He’s done a great job for us in that No. 2 spot,” Gaston said of Gonzalez. “But I guess when Hill shows up we’ll find somewhere else for him to hit.”

If you were lining things up, what’s your order when Hill returns?

~JB

Game 10 lineups: White Sox at Jays

CHICAGO AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (4-5, 2.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Carlos Quentin, DH
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Andruw Jones, RF
6. Alex Rios, CF
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Donny Lucy, C
9. Jayson Nix, 3B

Pitching: Freddy Garcia (0-1, 2.57)

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

Pitching: Dana Eveland (1-0, 0.00)

*3B Edwin Encarnacion is sidelined with a sore right arm. Manager Cito Gaston said he will likely miss a few games before being re-evaluated.

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 9

RClow.jpgFIRST: Thanks as usual to the fantastic photography stylings of John Lott of the National Post.

What you see there is an unfortunately sparse crowd that attended Wednesday’s 11-1 routing by the White Sox. Three days into the home schedule, though, it was record-breakingly sparse.

The announced attendance of 10,610 was the smallest in Rogers Centre history, breaking the 11,159 that attended a Sept. 9 games against the Twins last year. With expectations lowered, a drop in attendance is to be expected and, unfortunately, in this year of “building”, we may still see smaller crowds yet.

For those curious, it was not the lowest attended game in team history, though. That record was set on April 17, 1979 at the old Exhibition Stadium in an early-season contest against… the White Sox. I guess Chicago just doesn’t really bring them out — even if it gives fans a chance to boo Alex Rios some more.

SECOND: For the second outing in a row, Brandon Morrow wasn’t sharp. He looked decent enough through the first four innings, but things fell apart for the right-hander in the fifth. In that frame, Morrow went: walk, single, hit batter, and then the dagger, grand slam. He then allowed a double and was pulled from the game.

As for that grand slam from Quentin?

“He hit that pitch like he knew it was coming,” Morrow said.

So through two appearances, Morrow has allowed 12 runs on 12 hits with eight strikeouts, six walks and three homers surrendered in nine innings. Could Morrow be feeling the effects of missing nearly two weeks with a right shoulder issue in the middle of the spring?

“I don’t know,” Morrow said. “I couldn’t say.”

Cito?

“He didn’t pitch a lot. He’s still kind of having his Spring Training right now,” said the manager.

I say give it a little more time before calling for Brett Cecil. Morrow has shown flashes of that overpowering stuff that helped convince the Jays to trade for him over the winter. He’s also had a pair of really ugly innings that put loads of pressure on Toronto’s offense. One more rough performance, and I’d think the Jays might start weighing their alternatives…

THIRD: In the end, it was a play that meant little considering the final score. In the fourth inning, though, the “stolen base” by Alex Rios helped give the White Sox a 3-0 lead, which seemed like a much larger margin given the way Sox lefty John Danks was pitching. With two outs, Rios was ruled safe by ump Adrian Johnson, even though it seemed pretty clear that Rios was tagged on the arm by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Instead of the inning’s final out, Rios moved into scoring position, quickly scoring on a single from A.J. Pierzynski.

At least it was Pierzynski fooling the umps this time…

HOME: Gaston decided to sit the left-handed-hitting Snider against Danks on Wednesday, allowing veteran Lyle Overbay to remain in the lineup against the Sox southpaw. Overbay then went 0-for-3 against Danks, increasing the first baseman’s drought to 0-for-11 vs. left-handed pitching this season. Overbay hit .190 against lefties last year. Gaston handed Overbay a full-time job instead of platooning him this year, giving the first baseman a chance to cash in during a contract year. So far, Overbay has not taken advantage and one has to wonder how long Cito will let it go before considering trying Randy Ruiz in a platoon situation at first. For now, Overbay’s defense — far superior to that of Ruiz — might keep him in the lineup on a regular basis for a while longer. 

~JB

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