For all you regular readers, I apologize for having a week between posts. Things were pretty crazy at work and then I had firewall problems so I couldn’t connect to wi-fi when I was in Florida checking out our boys.
I thought I’d give you a quick run down on three players that really impressed this spring during my 5-game experience. These guys look ready to go:
Jose Reyes is definitely in game form, but this award goes to Melky Cabrera. Reyes was having good at-bats and getting on base, but Cabrera was having great at-bats and even his outs were hard. He was hitting the ball on a line to all fields and the only time he was out was when he hit it right at someone. His timing is definitely there. Jose Baustista’s timing is still a bit off. Adam Lind looked good vs. righties and not so good vs. lefties (no surprise). Emilio Bonifacio struggles when he gets to two strikes and starts chasing low in the zone. Mark DeRosa gets special mention because he looks like he’s in great shape and was ripping the ball to all fields. Actually, after Cabrera and Reyes, I would say DeRosa gets the bronze in this category. I know John Gibbons has said Maicer Izturis will start at 3B on opening day since Brett Lawrie is opening the year on the DL, but let’s hope DeRosa sees some action at 3B also. He looked really great. Nobody else from the major league roster really stood out. I mean, Rajai Davis had three homers in three games, but I worry that he’ll think he’s a power hitter now – which he absolutely is not.
BEST STARTING PITCHER
I saw starts from J.A. Happ, Brandon Morrow, Dave Bush, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Romero. The only guy who was absolutely awful was Bush – this is too bad because I think it was his only bad outing of the spring and he was sent to triple-A immediately following. He should provide depth and figures to be the 8th starter on the depth chart (I’d put Romero and Chad Jenkins in front of him). Happ and Morrow looked in control minus an inning each when their control got away from them a bit. I think Morrow just ran out of gas. Romero pitch so-so compared to the way he’s been pitching but not great. He struggled to throw strikes consistently. It was as if when he would fall behind 1-0, he would have a mental breakdown. When he pitched ahead, he was actually very good. Again, just not consistent. That leaves the best starter I saw – Josh Johnson. Johnson racked up eight strikeouts in 5.1 innings and only left the game due to pitch count. Of the 4 hits he surrendered, only one was a legit single. The others were weak grounders that were either chopped or found holes. Johnson’s spring line?
In 16.0 innings, 1 walk and 21 k’s.
Opponents batting avg.: .138
I’d say he’s ready.
It might not be a bad idea to grab tickets to the first Friday night game of the season when the Jays host the Red Sox in a 3-game set.
BEST RELIEF PITCHER
Two lefties really stood out as being ready to go – Darren Oliver and Aaron Loup. It became apparent why Loup will break camp with the big club (even though he has options and it means when Lawrie comes back either Brett Cecil or Jeremy Jeffress will have to clear waivers if sent down to triple-A). But this award goes to Casey Janssen. In his first two outings of the spring after offseason shoulder surgery, Janssen stuck out 5 of the 6 batters he faced – the last 3 on only 10 pitches – and surrendered a very weak groundout. He was classic Casey; he attacked the strike zone and was ahead of ever hitter he faced. And he was using all his pitches. He’s ready and he looked like a closer. Not the velocity, of course. But the mentality. Strike one. Strike two. Sit down.
MINOR LEAGUE STAND OUT – HITTER
You might think this would go to someone like Anthony Gose – someone we all know is a major league caliber player. Yet, the guy who really sticks in my mind is the big 30-year-old career minor leaguer, Luis Jimenez. I saw him hit two homers in one game and then have a very patient eye and draw a walk in another. He’s not much of a fielder – think Frank Thomas – but is a lefty bat that could potentially challenge Lind if Lind doesn’t produce. Last season in triple-A, Jimenez hit .310, had an obp of . 394, hit 32 doubles, 20 homers and drove in 81. He also had a respectable 66 walks vs. 97 strikeouts. And one of the homers I saw him hit….off a lefty. You won’t miss him if he’s called up at any point this year. He’s 6’3″ and 280 lbs.
MINOR LEAGUE STAND OUT – PITCHER
Nobody really stands out here for me as being that great. But the guy I remember is Marcus Stroman. Despite struggling with his nerves initially, the 21-year-old worked two hitless relief innings in his spring debut, striking out two and walking one. He definitely has a live arm and is a prospect to watch. He dominated as a closer in college and many scouts think he’s major league ready (although he’s not eligible after test positive for PED’s last year – he’s in the middle of a 50-game suspension). The Jays want to stretch him out and have a look at him as a starter in the minors. The thinking is it will be easy to move him back into a closer role if need be.
After holding 36 straight years of spring training in Dunedin, Florida, the Blue Jays are exploring other locales for when their current lease at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium expires in 2017. With the Astros’ lease on Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee up in 2016 and the Nationals’ Space Coast Stadium lease expiring in 2017, the Jays may try and seek a partner on a new location. The Mets have publicly voiced they would welcome a partner at their facility in Port St. Lucie, also.
If the Jays do decide to move, it’s estimated to be a two year process.
Amongst the speculation of where the Jays might build the next spring nest are Naples, Fort Myers and Pasco County on the Gulf Coast. Vero Beach, Daytona Beach, and Palm City are the most likely East Coast options. The Dodgers trained at Vero Beach for 60 years before moving to Arizona and the municipality has been seeking another spring training team.
Paul Beeston has said the team would prefer to stay in Dunedin “in a perfect world”. The Jays complaints of the aging facilities in Dunedin are the six kilometer distance between the stadium and offices to the Bobby Mattick minor-league complex which requires players be constantly bused back and forth (man, are players ever babies these days if they are complaining about a six kilometer bus ride).
Since Dunedin is heavily developed, some within the organization feel that there is no land of size available close enough to house the sought after modern facility. The organizing is tired of having fans stand in cramped souvenir shops, long washroom lines, at concession stands without views of the field, and fight for the few parking spaces available near the stadium.
One thing is for sure: Dunedin city official will fight to keep the Jays in town. Mayor Dave Eggers said his office will work diligently to find the 50 to 60 acres required for a new practice facility closer to the stadium. A departure of the Jays is estimated to have a major economic impact on the community which estimates the spring training games bring $30 to $50 million to the area each year.
I’m heading down to Dunedin one week from today – my brother and I are going to catch five games. I’ll be sure to let you know what the mood is locally and just how crowded the stadium facilities feel. I was there last year for my first spring training trip, and while it was certainly crowded, I took it as how spring training was meant to be – just a bunch of die hard fans in a small, personable stadium. It’s strange…I’ve only been once and I’m about to go for the second time, but something inside of me is already nostalgic regarding the town of Dunedin – it’s where our birds migrate in the winter. Can we really move?
Casey Janssen has gone on the record and said he thinks there is a realistic chance he’ll be ready for opening day and will head north with the club for the April 2nd match up vs. the Indians. However, when you read between the lines, you’ll pick up some of the other items constantly being talked about at Jays camp.
It’s no secret that Alex Anthopoulos envisioned Sergio Santos would be the team’s closer after acquiring him from the White Sox following the 2011 season. Santos, however, is dealing with his own arm issues and is trying to get back to his old form following shoulder surgery as well. With both Janssen and Santos entering the season as question marks, you wonder why we don’t hear more about Steve Delabar as an alternative after his breakout last year – .193 opponents batting average, 1.09 WHIP, and 92 K’s in 66 innings.
I still think Janssen has to be given the job to lose, but if he can’t start the year and someone like Delabar does the job perfectly, does Janssen get bumped when he returns?
Janssen remains optimistic about being ready for Opening Day, but his status for that game versus Cleveland on April 2 still remains very much in doubt. He’ll need to advance through live batting practice, a Minor League game and, presumably, at least a few outings in Spring Training. When you hear him say things like “April 2nd…is not an end date anymore.”, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of confidence that he, himself, feels like he’ll be ready.
Meanwhile, Santos has been out of action since experiencing discomfort following an appearance on March 3rd. The injury appears minor but considering how last season went for Santos, there was initial cause for concern. Santos has thrown a bullpen session after a couple days off and we’ll have to wait to see when he returns to an in-game appearance.
While the speculation surrounding both Janssen and Santos swirls, this is one fan who is happy Anthopoulos traded Eric Thames to Seattle last year for Delabar.
I thought I’d drop out a couple update bullets on how the Blue Jays are fairing in Florida:
- Josh Johnson pitched a perfect 3.2 innings yesterday, racking up 5 strikeouts before exiting the game due to his pitch count. A good sign.
- Anthony Gose looks much more discipline at the plate – he went 3 for 4 yesterday and also had his 4th and 5th stolen bases of the spring.
- Jose Bautista continued to show power and that his wrist is not a issue – he hit his third homer of the spring today.
- Colby Rasmus returned to the line up today after being delayed twice with a sore right shoulder. He went 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout. Good to see him back on the field.
- Ricky Romero struggle with command, walking 3 and giving up 3 hits over 2 innings. Nothing to worry about at the point in the spring, but worth keeping an eye on since Romero handed out a lot of free passes last season.
The count down is on until my trip to see the boys in Florida. March 21st can’t come soon enough!
Although I didn’t catch the game, there are some highlights I can share from Blue Jays 5-4 victory over the Rays thanks to the box score and what I’ve read online.
- Brett Lawrie smacked his first homerun of the spring – although if the wind wasn’t blowing straight out, it probably would have been a routine, deep fly ball.
- Anthony Gose went 2 for 4 at the plate and had a stolen base – his second. Then, he was promptly caught stealing third – his first caught stealing.
- In a position battle for the second base job, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis aren’t helping themselves. Bonifacio committed two throwing errors (3 total this spring) and Izturis one (his second of the spring). Let’s hope it’s nothing more than rust.
- Mark Buehrle struggle with control for his second straight start – still absolutely nothing to worry about this early.
- Darren Oliver did his thing, pitching a 1-2-3 inning.
- Dave Bush picked up the win in another impressive outing – great depth pick up.
If you’re sitting around and relaxing tomorrow afternoon, check out the Jays vs. Phillies @ 1pm on Sportsnet. Also the World Baseball Classic official started today, although Canada won’t be until March 8th vs. Italy.
You can also follow me on twitter @IHRTBJs
For the second time this spring, the Blue Jays shutout the Yankees on route to a 1-0 win in Florida. I did not have the opportunity to watch or listen to the game but from what I’ve picked up, here are some highlights:
- Colby Rasmus was expected to start the game but didn’t make the trip as he’s now listed day-to-day with a sore non-throwing shoulder. It’s not clear exactly when or how Rasmus injured the shoulder, but it was pretty stiff today so the Jays decided to left him sit and not risk doing serious damage. As of today, it is not expected to be serious. Rajai Davis started in Rasmus’ place.
- Brandon Morrow had a solid start. He pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and recording a strikeout.
- J.A. Happ, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, and Aaron Loup among others were solid in a combined effort to record the shutout.
- Andy LaRoche, who could become a key depth pick up for the Jays now that David Cooper is out with a serious back injury, hit his second homerun of the season to push the only run across the plate for either side.
- Jose Reyes stole his first bag of the season.
I know it’s only the spring, but I love beating the Yankees anytime of year.
The Blue Jays were doubled up 4-2 by the Red Sox in Spring Training action today. I wasn’t able to catch the game, but here are a couple highlights from what I’ve read:
- Melky Cabrera had two doubles and his first RBI of the spring.
- Edwin Encarnacion had his first homer and RBI of the spring.
- Josh Johnson pitched two scoreless innings allowing one hit and striking out two.
Up next: The Jays take on the Twins at 1 pm EST in Dunedin.