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
I upgraded my White Mocha from Starbucks to Venti size this morning to help rebound from what was a very entertaining evening out with some of the writers last night. Feeling tip top this a.m. and ready to get to work.
Walked into the work room this morning and was greeted with a nice little new “Spring Notes” handout courtesy of the PR staff — nice touch, guys. Besides noting that tomorrow’s workout doesn’t begin until noon, helping us scribes avoid the early-morning mistake we made yesterday, there are some other minor items of interest.
Among them, lefty prospect Brett Cecil is slated to start in Toronto’s first spring game against the Yankees on Wednesday. Ricky Romero, B.J. Ryan, Brian Burees and Rick Bauer are also skedded to appear. On Thursday in Clearwater, Scott Richmond will start against the Phightin’ Phils. Also penciled in: Ken Takahashi, Bryan Bullington, Luis Perez, Bill Murphy and Fabio Castro.
The Jays will also play 3 “B” games this spring, which will help get innings for the pile of pitchers in the running for a starting job. All 3 will be against the Phils, with games on March 2 at 10 a.m. and March 6 at 2 p.m. at the Philly’s park, and another on March 18 at 10 a.m. at the ol’ Mattick here.
Tomorrow is the Jays’ photo day as well. More later.
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…
Here is a slew of photos that I took while checking out the Blue Jays’ first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Monday. I don’t have the photo gallery option I had with the previous blog format from past seasons, so I’ll just drop ’em in the post here. Enjoy. ~JB
Here’s manager Cito Gaston holding court with members of the Toronto media
Scott Richmond and Jeremy Accardo during early-morning stretching
Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg
Vernon Wells, Alex Rios and Aaron Hill (From left) head in after BP
Outfielder Adam Lind playing catch
Shaun Marcum plays catch with a team trainer
Matt Clement throws during a bullpen session
Scott Richmond in his windup during a bullpen session
Jeremy Accardo throws a pitch during a bullpen session
Ace Roy Halladay throwing during a bullpen session
GM J.P. Ricciardi watching pitchers with manager Cito Gaston
Closer B.J. Ryan prepares a throw during a bullpen session
Brian Tallet winds up during a bullpen session
GM J.P. Ricciardi and hitting coach Gene Tenace watch the pitchers
Japan’s Ken Takahashi holds court with the Japanese press
Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg talking shop with pitcher Matt Clement
Back at the ol’ MLB.com condo here after spending the morning over at the Mattick for Toronto’s reporting day for pitchers and catchers. The reporting date is kind of overblown, if you ask me. All this day means is players have to be in Florida — not at camp.
The real action will start on Monday, when all of the invited pitchers and catchers are required to be in camp for the first official workout. There’s plenty of them around already, including Mr. Halladay (pictured right). That photo is from the AP wire — nice shot. I’ll probably begin toting my camera to camp beginning on Monday. So keep checking back here for photos from around camp.
It was a pretty chill day today. Only three reporters and a few new faces around for the Jays. Ken Takahashi made his first appearance, as did GM J.P. Ricciardi and team prez Paul Beeston. I also saw Rod Barajas briefly before heading out to watch some of the pitchers work through drills.
I talked to Shaun Marcum today after he was done playing a light round of catch with one of the Jays’ trainers. Marcum is throwing every other day right now and has been throwing since shortly after the Super Bowl. Seeing him and Dustin McGowan walking around is a constant reminder of what Toronto is missing, and the competition it’s created this spring.
From our short meeting with J.P. today, we learned that the team isn’t going to pencil Travis Snider into the Opening Day lineup just yet. Ricciardi said he could definitely envision a scenario in which the Jays feel Snider could benefit from more seasoning at Triple-A. That’s one reason for the Millar signing, to help build a contingency plan.
If Snider begins the year at Triple-A, Adam Lind would be the starting left fielder and both Kevin Millar and Jose Bautista would likely make the team as well. With Snider and Lind in the fold, it’s not clear whether the club would carry both Millar and Bautista, or if someone like Joe Inglett might be at risk.
As for any more spring additions:
“We’ll see if there’s anybody out there that we match up with in a trade,” Ricciardi said. “I don’t foresee it, because obviously the No. 1 thing we’d want to get is some kind of pitching and I just don’t see that being in excess out there.”
Discussing the rotation, Ricciardi said he’s looking forward to seeing how the battle for the two vacancies plays out, with a mix of prospects, reclamation projects and holdovers vying for jobs. He did say that, on paper, the top five right now are Halladay (no kidding), Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Casey Janssen and Scott Richmond.
As for Scott Downs being considered as a starter? No more. Said Ricciardi: “His heart’s not in it. He doesn’t want to do it, so we’re probably better off keeping him at a comfort level.” I say that’s a smart move, because Downs is a big reason why Toronto’s bullpen is as strong as it is right now.
FUNNY EXCHANGE OF THE DAY:
Bench coach Brian Butterfield: “Hi, Scotty.”
Scott Richmond, walking to the bullpen: “Hey.”
Butterfield: “Hey? I haven’t seen you all winter and all I get is ‘Hey’?”
Richmond (laughing): “How are you doing today Butter?”
(a few minutes later, Brandon League walks by)
Butterfield: “Hi, Leaguer.”
(Butter laughs and throws his arms in the air)