First time through the rotation and the Blue Jays, the Las Vegas favourite to win the World Series, are 2-3. It’s early and the record doesn’t mean anything today, but it would’ve been nice to come out a bit stronger offensively.
I thought I’d give a sentence or two on what I’ve seen from each starter so far….
R.A. Dickey – he struggled to throw strikes consistently in his first start as a Blue Jay, but three passed balls certainly didn’t help his line. Hopefully he comes out and dominates tomorrow with Henry Blanco behind the dish and gives the Jays their first series win of the young season.
Brandon Morrow – he was obviously a bit excited for his first start of the year – he hit 99 on the gun a couple times. The 8 k’s were nice to see. Look for him to settle in and pitch ahead a bit more the next couple outings.
Mark Buehrle – he looked really good early against the Indians but the long ball was his undoing. Pitching at hitter friendly Rogers Centre could become a challenge for the soft-tossing lefty, but I expect Buehrle to have a consistent year for us and be the horse the league knows him to be.
Josh Johnson – He looked good and definitely showed ace stuff – like his finally pitch of the game: a 3-2 curveball that froze Mike Napoli. He showed he can escape a jam when needed but needs to pitch ahead more often and not issue free passes. Probably just nerves for his first start of the year, so we’ll take it easy on him.
J.A. Happ – The only thing you might of asked of Happ was to keep the pitch count down and eat a couple more innings. But 5.1 innings allowed 1 hit, 3 walks with 6 k’s and zero runs isn’t too shabby from a 5th starter. Happ looked liked he’s pitching with a chip on his shoulder and if he continues this, he could have a huge year for us.
I’ll try to find a few minutes to update everyone on the bullpen over the next day or so…
Last night the Blue Jays held the annual ‘state of the franchise’ event at Rogers Centre. Season tickets holders had the option to send in questions in advance and have either manager, John Gibbons, general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, or President, Paul Beeston provide an answer. Television play-by-play announcer, Buck Martinez, acted as the master of ceremonies for the event.
The mood was certainly different this year – the questions much more positive. I guess that’s what happens when an organization makes offseason moves that vault the club into the Las Vegas favourite to win the World Series.
Here is a list of some key highlights in no particular order:
- Jack Morris, the first 20-game winner in Jays’ history, will join Jerry Howarth in the radio broadcast booth as the new colour commentator/analyst after the departure of Alan Ashby. Ashby was with the club for six years but accepted a position in television for the Houston Astros (he lives in Houston and his family is there). Morris has spent the past few years broadcasting for the Twins and Tigers, so he is no strange to the booth. And yes, he is still sporting a killer moustache.
- Anthopoulos commented that he isn’t concerned with the recent performance enhancing drugs allegations linked to the Jays newer signed LF, Melky Cabrera. Cabrera is freshly coming off a 50-game suspension for test positives for PED’s and now finds his name listed in a report out of a clinic in Florida along with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, among others. Anthopoulos doesn’t seem concerned, but I don’t share his optimism. I wonder that if the players mentioned in the report are found guilty, if Cabrera serves another suspension since he’s already done time and admitting to PED use in the past. When where these alleged users using?
- Gibbons unveiled the order of the starting rotation. Last season’s NL Cy Young award winner will take the ball in the opener on April 2nd vs. Cleveland. Following Dickey is Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Rickey Romero. Dickey getting the ball opening day was expected. It was also expected that Gibbons would break up his softer tossing lefties with his hard throwing righties. I’m a bit surprised that Johnson didn’t get the second spot in the rotation, although it really doesn’t matter with this line up. Morrow is definitely coming into his prime and if he can stay healthy, has a chance to be one of the top pitchers in the league. So no knock at him as the number 2. But Johnson has been a legitimate ace since arriving in the majors for the Marlins and is in a contract year. I think he’s going to be lights out if healthy.
- Gibbons stated that Casey Janssen is the team’s closer. This isn’t a huge surprise either considering that Janssen recorded 22 of 24 saves opportunities last year after taking over the closer role. He also put up some sparkling numbers: 2.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 67 strikeouts in 63.2innings. There had been some talk in the media that Sergio Santos would compete for the closer position in Spring Training; he was acquired in a trade from the White Sox last offseason and was thought to be the prize addition to the team after recording 30 saves for the White Sox in 2011. However, Santos only pitched in six games and then missed the rest of the season with shoulder issues that led to surgery. It makes sense to see where he’s at before having him compete for the closer job after missing so much time. Especially since Janssen was about as lights out as a closer gets last season. I’m happy to see Gibbons squashing the media speculation about a closer position battle. Janssen deserves the job and it’s his to lose.
- Now onto someone that might not deserve the job but looks to be the front runner anyway: Maicer Izturis. It appears that when the Jays signed Izturis to a three-year deal this past offseason, Anthopoulos made a pitch that he wanted him to be the Jays starting 2B. That, however, was before he knew he would be able to pull off the blockbuster trade with the Marlins that brought another player with the ability to start at 2B: Emilio Bonifacio. This is a position battle to watch during Spring Training, but it’s likely that Izturis will start the year in the line up and avoid the bench. Bonifacio will find time in a super substitute role at 2B, 3B, LF,and CF. I prefer Bonifacio over Izturis in the starting line up. His speed and ability to get on base should have him in the line up regularly. Izturis is clearly the better defender, but I think he would serve the club better coming off the bench as a sub for 2B, SS, and 3B – a similar role to the one he served last season for the Angels. We’ll see how this plays out. My guess is Izturis starts the year at 2B and Bonifacio takes over by the allstar break.
- Another position battle is for the back up catcher role. It appears the aging veteran, Henry Blanco is the front runner for the job. He, like the man he’s competing against in Spring Training, Josh Thole, have both caught Dickey’s knuckle ball in the past. Thole has options remaining, which means he can be sent to triple-A without being exposed to waivers. Therefore, look for Blanco to take the job unless he drops off dramatically in Spring Training due to age or injury (he is 41 years young). I imagine J.P. Arencibia will get a huge dose of playing time if he can stay healthy this year – think Pat Borders in 1992 when Borders led the AL in inning played by a catcher.
- Beeston indicated that natural grass at Rogers Centre will eventually replace the Astro Turf currently on the field. He said this could happen sooner than most think. The big deal here is that the Jays need the Argonauts to move out of the stadium to make it an easier transition. The difference in field and seating arrangements from baseball to football make it difficult to have grass currently. It’s no secret that players don’t like playing on turf and only Toronto and Tampa are the only stadiums still using it. I’d love to see grass in the dome. We’ll have to see where this goes…
Just so everyone is aware, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week. It’s been a long and exciting offseason, but we’re almost there.
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Last Friday, Mike McDade was picked up by the Cleveland Indians off waivers, ending the youngsters time within the Jays organization.
McDade, a 6th round draft pick in 2007, hit .275 with 15 homers and 49 rbi in double-A last season before a late season call up to triple-A. While the Jays would have like to keep McDade, there are only 40 spots on the roster and Toronto elected to go with David Cooper for their 1st base depth.
You’ll remember that both Mike McCoy and Joel Carreno were also removed from the 40-man roster. Both have accepted a triple-A assignment and will be playing for Buffalo to begin 2013.
Also, the Jays catching situation may have become a bit clearer in recent days. Toronto has non-tendered Bobby Wilson, making him a free agent. With this moves, it looks less likely that the Jays will trade a catcher. Wilson had been brought in for depth and would’ve made approximately $600,000 in 2013. After the trade with the Marlins, it looks like the Jays will go with JP Arencibia as their starter and use John Buck to backup. Travis d’Arnaud will begin the season in triple-A and try to regain his top prospect form (1st prospect in Jays system and ranked 11th in all of baseball – #1 catcher) after he had season ending knee surgery last year. All reports show that d’Arnaud is fully recovered and ready to go. While the Jays could still move either Arencibia or Buck, it seems less likely to see a move before the beginning of the season now that Wilson is gone.
To me it makes sense to keep both Arencibia and Buck to start the year. Arencibia knows the Jays pitching staff, Buck is familiar and has been praised by the two newest members of the rotation, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Also, while d’Arnaud’s value is certain high as the #1 catching prospect in the game, he is coming off a knee injury and should have even more value if he comes out strong in the first couple months in triple-A. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a catcher be moved before the July trade deadline but after a couple months of the season.