Covering the Bases: Game 26

Well, that took long enough. Shaun Marcum is back in the win column. The righty helped lead the Jays to a 9-3 victory over the A’s on Sunday afternoon, earning his first ‘W” in…

 …598 days.

Marcum’s last win came against the White Sox on Sept. 11, 2008 — shortly before he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery that cost him all of last season.

This year, Marcum had been solid through his first five outings for Toronto, but whether it was due to a lack of run support or a shaky bullpen, he simply was not able to pick up any wins. Not until Ben Sheets absolutely imploded for the A’s on Sunday, allowing the Jays to run out to a 9-1 lead after four innings.

Marcum worked 6 1/3 innings, scattered six hits, struck out six and walked four. He allowed just the one run in the 105-pitch effort. True to his character, Marcum downplayed finally getting a win and instead said it was just great that the team found the win colum. Good on him.

Also, good on the crowd for its stading ovation as Marcum headed off the hill in the seventh. Those used to be reserved for a certain ace, but Marcum — now in Doc’s old slot in the rotation — was the recipient this time around. Much like the good doctor did for years, too, Marcum gave a quick tip of the hat in response.

SECOND: The Blue Jays scored nine runs combined over Marcum’s past three starts. So nine runs on 13 hits was much appreciated by Marcum this time (even though he wouldn’t admit it). But, this was more about the ineffectiveness of Sheets than the awesomeness of the Blue Jays’ offense.

Sheets faced 22 batters and this is what happened: 10 outs, 10 hits at a cost of $10 million for the A’s. The Jays drew two walks, pounded out two singles, four doubles, one triple and three home runs against the righty. Over his past two starts, Sheets has allowed 17 runs across a grand total of 7 1/3 innings.

Every Blue Jay in the lineup had at least one hit with the exception of Adam Lind and Jose Bautista. Fred Lewis launched a two run homer in the fourth that actually bounced up when it hit the seats in the second deck. He and Aaron Hill went back-to-back, and Hill finished a triple shy of the cycle. Alez Gonzalez hit his eighth homer (two-run shot in the first) and John McDonald (!) went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.

Sheets? Boom! Roasted.

THIRD: Beyond all the guys mentioned above, how about that John Buck? A few days after launching a trio of home runs, Bucky put a few dents (see what I did there?) in the wall in left with three doubles against the A’s. Since manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy held a sťance to revive Buck’s bat, the catcher has gone 8-for-12 at the plate with three homers, three doubles and seven RBIs.

HOME: In the first edition of “You Know It’s Getaway Day When…” let’s take a look at one telling stat from Sunday’s tilt in Toronto. After running out to a 9-1 lead through four innings, exactly ZERO Jays hitters looked at a called strike. The final 15 Toronto batters gripped it and ripped it, bringing a speedy end to the contest. The last player to take a strike was Gonzalez during the final at-bat of the fourth inning. Consider that seven of the first 13 Jays hitters and 10 of the first 24 took at least one called strike. In the first inning, six of seven hitters took a called strike on the first pitch.

NOTE: I will not be in Cleveland for the upcoming series between the Blue Jays and Indians. I will be tweeting and blogging again about your Jays from U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, beginning on Thursday.



Sheets was throwing meatballs over the middle-of-the-plate all day. I have seen instances where the Jays have let pitchers get away with that. Not this team.

As one can tell from this post by Ben Badler of the Daily Dish on Baseball America, our kids in the minors are getting noticed.

Thursday Dish: Do You Know D?Arnaud?

Travis d?Arnaud hasn?t been able to find the spotlight. Not yet, anyway. After the 2009 season, d?Arnaud ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the Phillies system, behind the high-ceiling troika of Domonic Brown, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor. When the Phillies traded the 21-year-old d?Arnaud to the Blue Jays this offseason, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were the big league aces getting most of the ink, while the focus on the prospect side of the deal was on Drabek and Taylor.

Even among catching prospects, d?Arnaud has had trouble distinguishing himself in a time when Carlos Santana, Buster Posey and Jesus Montero are among the top 10 prospects in the game. Heck, even in his own family, Travis has had to share the spotlight with older brother Chase, a quality middle infield prospect with the Pirates.

Regardless of how many people are noticing, what d?Arnaud is doing in the high Class A Florida State League with Dunedin is hard to ignore. D?Arnaud?s plus bat speed helps him hit for power, while his low-maintenance swing allows him to stay short to the ball, so the power doesn?t come at the expense of making contact. That skill set has shown up in d?Arnaud?s early numbers. After going 2-for-4 with a walk yesterday, d?Arnaud is hitting .396/.431/.660 in 63 plate appearances with just five strikeouts.

?There?s not a whole lot going on (with his swing),? Dunedin manager Clayton McCullough said. ?It?s pretty simple and compact. When he walks up to the plate, he’s got a plan in mind, how he thinks the pitchers are going to attack him. He trusts it and he sticks to it.? What stands out to McCullough about d?Arnaud is his confidence in his ability to hit, an attitude that?s certainly merited. ?He just has a real calmness about him when he’s in the batter’s box, a real easiness to his approach,? McCullough said. ?When he gets a good pitch to hit, he?s got the ability to do some damage to all fields.?

D?Arnaud isn?t just a one-dimensional prospect. He has an above-average arm and he?s done a solid job blocking balls this year thanks in part to his athleticism. ?I think the big thing is that he really likes to catch,? McCullough said. ?Some guys that have that kind of offensive potential, the defense goes on the backburner. But Travis likes to catch, he likes working with pitchers and he?s been good thus far.?

Velocity Spike

Blue Jays righthander Henderson Alvarez threw his fastball anywhere from 86-92 mph last year in the Midwest League, finishing the season with a 3.47 ERA in 23 starts for low Class A Lansing thanks largely to his advanced control and an above-average changeup.

This year Alvarez, who turned 20 on Sunday, is throwing in the low-90s and has touched 96 mph, according to McCullough. Through two starts with Dunedin, Alvarez has allowed one run in 14 innings for a 0.64 ERA, with two walks and seven hits allowed. The extra velocity hasn?t led to more strikeouts (six), but he?s pounded the strike zone and kept the ball down, leading to three groundouts for every fly out early in the season.

?His work on his days when he’s not pitching are getting better,? McCullough said. ?He?s understanding the importance of conditioning between starts to help him build arm strength and to maintain it. It?s just a young kid whose body is maturing.? McCullough said Alvarez, who is 6 feet, 190 pounds, has made strides with his offspeed stuff as well. He?s added a greater speed differential between his changeup and his fastball by tweaking the grip on his changeup, and shown more confidence in his breaking ball.

?Last year his breaking ball was just a work in progress,? McCullough said. ?He sees the value of it, the importance of getting that third pitch to be a starter up the ladder. Having a viable breaking ball is something he?s going to need, and it?s nice to see him trusting it in his outings much more this year. This year?s he?s throwing his breaking ball in situations he never would have last year.”

Buck has been ok for a couple games but when will we see Arencibia up in the majors?

If Arencibia keeps up the good work in Lost Wages, we might see him as a September callup. I think the Jays would like to see him break camp with the team next year. They won’t bring him North in a bacup role. Either he is ready to take over as the full time catcher, or he will be sent to AAA where he can get regular work.

Catchers, catchers and more and more catchers is an understatement. We all are aware of JP Arencibia in AAA and Travis D’Arnaud in A+

But there must be something in the water the player development groups is feeding our catching prospects because there are tremendous performances happening from numerous kids throughout the minors…AAA-JP Arencibia-.265/.333/.441….AA-Brian Jeroloman-.350/.458/.600 + Johnathon Jaspe (3 games only)-.556/.583/1.000…..A+-Travis D’Arnaud-..328/.362/.525 + Yan Gomes-.326/.392/.457….A-Sean Ochinko-.299/.344/.448+ AJ Jiminez-..311/.353/.489+ Karim Turkamani-.313/.412/.313.

And this fine list does not include highly touted prospects Santiago Nessy and Carlos Perez, arguably our highest ceiling potential prospects, who start in the GCLl Jays and Auburn in June.

Nice to see Brian Jeroloman making a statement. He has been left behind a bit, but a .350 BA will get you back on the radar very quickly. This is an evaluation year for the Jays, and by the end of the season, they should have figured out what the long term look of the team should be. They will want to keep as many players in the fold until then, but perhaps this off season, we will see some of the pitching and catching depth used to secure some of the other pieces they need.

What has really impressed me this year is how, so far, AA has filled the holes in the lineup with guys like Lewis, Eveland, Rommie Lewis, and Mike McCoy for what amounts to pocket change. Beats the daylights out of Mench, Wilkerson, Millar, et al. I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the draft.

I forgot David Delucci. He was a real winner.

No Bastian for three whole days.. D:

I agree. However, the real key to these fill-in players is not falling in love with them, but turning them into type A free agents that can be used to stock the farm system with above average potential. Imagine if a guy like John Buck could have a career year and hit close to 20 home runs? Or take a guy like Gonzalez, who could possibly put up 25 home runs. None of these type of guys are the future, but they can be used to buy the future if we can move them in a trade or on the free agent market in return for picks. Let’s hope that they all continue to be productive.

I hear you, burt. I hope what it really speaks to is the increased quality of the scouting department, because there are several high ceiling low risk players in our fold now that other teams have given up on. The Jays also have a couple of guys called Cito and Dwayne that are pretty good hitting coaches, so another high value free agent is definitely not out of the question.

Bob Elliot Of The Toronto Sun was in New Hampshire and watched Drabek pitch last night. Although I doubt if he was impressed with New Hampshire’s defense, particularly Jeroloman, Drabek clearly impressed him and showed his composure looks to be major league ready.

My thank you and compliments to Bob Elliot for taking the time to go to New Hampshire and get this story showing some in the Toronto Sports media are really working to help get the real Blue Jay’s stories to us. Here’s what Bob posted.

Drabek takes over EL strikeout lead

For the Blue Jays? top pitching prospect, right-hander Kyle Drabek, the first inning Wednesday night was the perfect storm for disaster.
The New Britain Rock Cats leadoff man, Ben Revere, struck out in the double-A Eastern League game at Stadium, but reached on a throwing error by Fisher Cats catcher Brian Jeroloman.
After a stolen base, the Rock Cats? No. 2 hitter, Estarlin de Los Santos, dribbled a ball in front of the plate, but Jeroloman?s throw to third was late. No. 3 hitter, Rene Tosoni, dribbled a ball off the glove of Brian Cooper and into right, allowing a run to score.
Time for Drabek to flip out? Well, he may have rolled his eyes, but the 22-year-old escaped the inning with two popups and a strikeout.
Drabek then sailed along until outfielder Darin Mastroianni dropped a ball in center for a two-base error, leading to four unearned runs in the sixth. Drabek, the former No. 1 pick, worked 5.2 innings allowing six runs ? but only one of them earned ? on eight hits, two walks and one hit batter. He struck out seven to take the lead in the Eastern League and lowered his earned run average to 3.18.

It’s not often a baseball game provides a phenomenal trivial question, but the game last night between Vegas and Reno did just that.

So the trivial question is “how does a team score 4 runs in an inning without getting a hit?”….The answer is 6 walks and 5 wild pitches-and these really were wild pitches, not the in the dirt type our Buckaroo misses. That was the inning for the Vegas 51’s in the 8th inning last night in a real cold (46 degree with a 20mph ne wind) evening..

The 51’s proved it wasn’t just a fluke and worked another walk and wild pitch to go along with a number of hits and put up another 4 runs in the top of the 9th, before Reno ran out of pitchers they wanted to burn in this calamity. So they brought in their center fielder to finish the inning and two more runs were scored totaling 10 for the 51’s in 2 innings.
Three 51 hitters walked 3 times in the game, one of which was JP Arencibia. I never checked his record, but I’d bet that was his first game as a Jays prospect with 3 walks. JP is in a bit of a slump, but his obp is now quite good with his hitting line of .253/.341/.427..

Blue Jay fans have got to love this statement:….All four of Toronto’s full-season farm clubs are over .500. The system entered Wednesday with a combined .569 winning percentage, tied for second best in baseball.

I’d bet its been 15 or more years since The Jays could make such a statement and it offers prove that the plan Alex has put into place to improve player development is reaping results. Well done AA, keep it going.

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