Back in the pressbox after what seemed like forever off. When you’re in Florida flying solo, days off don’t do you much good, especially when you’re not really a beach person. Spent some time reading, watching Flight of the Conchords and picking up the running again.
But, I’m glad to be back at work. The Jays host the Phightins tonight here at Dunedin Stadium, which is hardly known for its quality light towers. Got here early and had a nice chat with John McDonald, who isn’t taking the field worrying about if he has a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Sounds like Johnny Mac doesn’t have much to worry about anyway. Both manager Cito Gaston and general manager J.P. Ricciardi said he has a spot on the team as things stack up right now. Said Cito: “We’d be breaking camp with one shortstop, so I’d almost think he’s on the team.”
Jays had a “B” game this afternoon against the Phils as well, over at Bright House Field. Scott Rolen homered twice, Kevin Millar once, and B.J. Ryan made his first appearance since opting out of the World Baseball Classic. Ryan’s line: 1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K.
Ryan said he’s currently working on shortening up his stride, one issue he’s had this spring. Earlier this spring, he said he felt he was holding back due to the surgery he had on his elbow. Ryan said he isn’t holding anything back this spring, and his health is fine. It’s still just mechanical problems that need sorting out.
Doc Halladay on the hill tonight against Philadelphia.
Eric Bruntlett, SS
Marcus Giles, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Greg Dobbs, 1B
John Mayberry Jr., CF
Geoff Jenkins, RF
Mike Carvenak, DH
Pablo Ozuna, 2B
Ronny Paulino, C
Chan Ho Park, P
Joe Inglett, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Jason Lane, CF
Brad Emaus, 3B
Travis Snider, RF
Michael Barrett, C
John McDonald, SS
Roy Halladay, P
Some items from the Mattick today:
–Vernon Wells spoke with us scribes and said he’s hoping to be back in a couple weeks. He doesn’t feel the injury is as bad as last year and feels that his experience a year ago can help him rebound quicker. He and Gaston make it sound like this hammy is always going to be a risk from now on.
–Mike Maroth threw off the mound in a bullpen session and felt good before and after. So that surgery he needs? A no go for now.
–Ryan talked with me today some about last season and how great it’s been to not have to worry about getting healthy right now. He called his performance at times last year “ugly” and said he was pretty much pitching without a slider all season long. Early reports from pitching coach Brad Arnsberg are that Bo’s slider is “tight”, his command is good and he’s stronger than he was last year. Great news for Toronto.
–Cito’s tentative lineup for Wednesday’s opener: Joe Inglett, 3B, Aaron Hill, 2B, Alex Rios, RF, Kevin Millar, 1B, Adam Lind, DH, Rod Barajas, C, Travis Snider, LF, Buck Coats, CF, John McDonald, SS. Pitching: Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero, B.J. Ryan, Brian Burres, Rick Bauer. … Coming for the Yankees: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and [drumroll] Alex Rodriguez. On the mound for the Bombers: Brett Tomko, Kei Igawa and some other dudes.
–Cito said today that he plans on getting Adam Loewen plenty of playing time this spring: “I want him to play quite a bit. He’s a kid that looks good swinging. I spoke to him this year and told him that I was going to try to play him as much as i can. I’ve got him down mostly outfield. He needs some at-bats to get back to seeing the ball and swinging the bat.”
–Gaston doesn’t have a specific number of ABs in mind, but said Jose Bautista is very much in the plans this season. Said he wants to get him action in the outfield, at third and first base, as the DH and even at short. Gaston also doesn’t mind that Bautista is playing in the WBC with the D.R., even though he figured to get more ABs and innings with Wells out.
–Scott Richmond is skedded to start Thursday and Matt Clement on Friday. Brad Mills is slated to follow Clement, while Ken Takahashi is down to follow Richmond.
OPINION TIME: With the recent news about Wells, and after watching Rios man center field for two prolonged stretches last season, I’m thinking a change in the outfield alignment might be in order soon. If Wells’ injury is indeed going to be a constant risk, he might benefit from moving to left, or at least seeing more time as the DH. I absolutely loved Rios in center and Snider has been billed more as a right fielder than a left fielder. So, for the long run, would it not make sense to put Wells in left, Rios in center and Snider in right? The Jays have invested a lot of money in Wells and Rios and, along with Snider, these three outfielders are a major part of the organizations future. Just saying
Continued to break down the looming roster decisions with manager Cito Gaston today and he provided a little more insight into what he’s thinking at this point. Of course, with five weeks left, anything and everything is subject to change. That injury bug doesn’t care about the plans.
As for the bullpen, which I find a more interesting race this spring than the rotation, Gaston said that his four lefties — B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet and Jesse Carlson — are all considered “locks” at this point. He added that some pitchers will have to beat out Jeremy Accardo for a job, so he’s the front-runner among the righties. Everyone else? Time to show something.
Last week, GM J.P. Ricciardi said he could see a scenario in which Travis Snider started the season at Triple-A. Today, Cito said Snider would have to play “real bad” not to be on the Jays’ Opening Day roster. As for the bench, which probably won’t have room for all of Kevin Millar, Jose Bautista, John McDonald and Joe Inglett, Cito said he has a tough decision ahead.
Someone made a comment on one of my stories recently about the fact that I always say there are only two openings in the rotation, when it’s been reported elsewhere that there are three jobs up for grabs. My reason for continuing to say that there are only a pair of vacancies?
“I would think there’s two spots. That’s what I think. Two spots open. I think Purcey pitched well enough to be one of the three guys that we have right now — unless he absolutely pitches himself off the club.”
So that’s Doc Halladay, Jesse Litsch, Purcey, and a pair of front-runners in Casey Janssen and Scott Richmond. Behind them, Toronto will take a good, hard look at prospects Brett Cecil, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero. Other candidates include Matt Clement, Brian Burress, Ken Takahashi, Mike Maroth and … I think I got ’em all.
One team insider told me the prospects might be ahead of Clement and the others on the depth chart at the moment. It’s also more likely that Janssen and Richmond make the club, barring injury or poor showings, and the Jays ease the youngsters into the rotation as the season moves along. Moving Janssen to the ‘pen during the year to clear a spot for another starter is also a possibility.
Got some stories to write. Later…
Some more pics from the Jays’ workout today.
Roy Halladay preparing a throw during a bullpen session
Lyle Overbay getting ready to take some cuts in batting practice
Adam Lind watching batting practice
Manager Cito Gaston talks hitting with coach Gene Tenace
Manager Cito Gaston takes in batting practice
Adam Loewen watches batting practice
Travis Snider steps out of the batting cage
Infielder Joe Inglett prepares to field a grounder
Second baseman Aaron Hill fielding a ground ball
Shortstops Marco Scutaro (left) and John McDonald during fielding drills
Pitching prospect Brett Cecil fires a pitch during a bullpen session
Ace Roy Halladay throws while pitching coach Brad Arnsberg admires
Left-hander David Purcey in his windup during a bullpen session
Catcher Michael Barrett and Brett Cecil after their bullpen session
Reliever Jesse Carlson throws during a bullpen session
Casey Janssen throws during a bullpen session
Jesse Litsch prepares to throw during a bullpen session
Reliever Jason Frasor follows through on a pitch during a bullpen session
Reliever Brandon League prepares a pitch during his bullpen session
That’s from one of the schedule sheets hanging inside the entrance to the Jays’ clubhouse here. The pitchers all have a meeting at 9 a.m. this morning and they need to report to the “Classroom room.”
A couple sheets over was the schedule for today’s first official workout, and plenty of pitchers were heading over to check out what stations they needed to go to first and which groups they’ve been place in. There are four groups for bullpen sessions, and some of the names are in bold and some aren’t, leading to some confusion.
“Those are the guys who already made the team,” quipped T.J. Beam.
Dirk Hayhurst — who enjoys chatting with us scribes and is a soon-to-be published writer himself — walked over and tossed in a self-deprecating jab: “Am I even on the list? Or did I get cut already?” This from the guy who was released last week and then subsquently re-signed.
Some new position player arrivals today include Alex Rios (sans mohawk), Vernon Wells and Mighty Joe Inglett. We chatted with John McDonald and Rios a bit about life as new fathers, and neither got much sleep over the offseason. Rios, whose daughter is seven months old, was asked if he mastered the art of diaper changing.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I actually haven’t changed one yet.”
Rios also said he didn’t do much over the winter, even skipping out on Vernon Wells’ birthday party. Wells, sitting a few lockers over, chuckled when Rios brought that up. I suggested that the party should’ve been held in Puerto Rico. “I know!” Rios agreed.
After the meeting, pitchers and catchers will begin their workout today with good old-fashioned stretching on the team’s “agility field,” which is just a plot of grass between two practice diamonds with a grid of lines painted on it. Two years ago, it was just a field. Now, it’s got a super cool name!
Starbucks: Located and enjoyed. Grande White Mocha, because they don’t carry Irish Cream anymore. A Grande Irish Cream Mocha is my drink of choice at any other coffee joint.
In my CD player: The Killers — Hot Fuss, because as much as I love this Vegas band, that first album is still their best.
Last night: Watched a three-hour Baseball Tonight special, which they said at the start was aimed at previewing all 30 teams. Funny, I don’t recall them bringing up the Jays.
Tonight: Trying to find the Flight of the Conchords episode from last night somewhere online. No HBO at the ol’ condo. Not cool, especially when the Wife calls laughing to see if I watched the show. No, I did not. Thanks for asking.
That, in a sense, sums up Day 1 at Spring Training for us scribes. Unless you’re Robby MacLeod of the Globe and you’re feeling extra motivated to run around and do interviews, the first day at camp is basically chilling out, chatting with players and coaches and just enjoying the start of another season.
I’m sure Yankees camp is a little different. But, for the most part, the Bobby Mattick is a relaxed atmosphere with a handful of reporters hanging out between the clubhouse and the practice fields. For the beginning of camp, we’ve got myself, MacLeod, Griff from the Star, Sandler from the Post and Elliott from the Sun.
Today wasn’t mandatory for any players to be in camp and tomorrow isn’t either. Tomorrow is the “reporting” date, which means pitchers and catchers just have to be in the area. Physicals are on Sunday and the first official workout will be held on Monday. Today, there were some bullpens thrown, some hitters taking BP and some other light drills going on.
Most of the pitchers are in camp, and a handful of position players have arrived already as well. Off the top of my head, I spotted John McDonald, Aaron Hill, Russ Adams, Curtis Thigpen, J.P. Arencibia, Michael Barrett, Adam Lind and Travis Snider, as far as position players go.
Hill mentioned that I looked “a little beefed up” today, but I quickly corrected him and said, “No, you mean a little puffed up.” I guess taking three weeks off from running — dealing with a right leg issue since my last marathon in january — has helped me pack on a few pounds again. Good thing it’s Spring Training! I’ll be using the next six weeks to whip myself back into game shape, as long as there are so many Minor League deals being tossed around.
Speaking of which, the recently-departed Dirk Hayhurst is back in the fold once again. Hayhurst, if you’ve been following closely, was acquired off waivers from the Padres in October — only to be relased earlier this week to clear room on the 40-man roster for Matt Bush. Today, Hayhurst inked a Minors deal to stick with the Jays after all.
Chatted with Roy Halladay today about the state of the game and the whole A-Rod steroids admission and you’ll see that story up on bluejays.com today. We also discussed the state of the team and you’ll be reading something on that a little later. As far as the rotation, Halladay did say he wouldn’t mind seeing some of the younger arms stepping up and earning those spots.
He also said that, at the end of last season, he thought the Jays were going to be a lot more active over the winter. Halladay said he understands the situation, but he obviously would’ve loved to have seen the club go out and make some big pick-ups, including re-upping A.J. Burnett. As for his contract situation, Halladay doesn’t want to discuss it with the season being underway now.