Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jays Prospect Watch: pitcher Fabio Castro

The Blue Jays could potentially have pulled off a heist in the deal that sent Matt Stairs to the Philadelphia Phillies last August. In that swap, Toronto acquired left handed pitcher Fabio Castro, and the results thus far have been very encouraging.

The clubs brass has decided to try the 24 year old prospect out as a starter with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Class-AA. In four starts, the former Phillie is 2-0, with an amazing ERA of just 0.83! The southpaw has allowed just 2 runs in 21.2 innings, while striking out 24 against 3 walks. Castro was named the Eastern League pitcher of the week on Sunday.

Despite his young age, Castro has some major league experience. In 2006, he appeared in 20 games between Texas and Philadelphia, and the following year, took part in 10 games, starting one with the Phillies.

At the time of the Jays acquired Castro, he was considered a mid-tier prospect. With his early success in 2009, Castro has served notice that he's a player worth keeping an eye on.

Tallet tagged for 10 runs in Royals rout

After putting together a pair of solid starts as a member of the Jays starting rotation, it all came crashing down like a ton of bricks on Brian Tallet Wednesday night against Kansas City.

The Royals teed off on the lanky left hander , sending him to the showers early after four awful innings. Tallet was lit up for 10 earned runs by a previously anemic Kansas City attack. He did not look pretty, serving up three home runs, giving up 11 hits in all. With the pathetic performance, his season ERA spiked from 2.95 to 6.45. All this from a guy who turned heads after surrendering just 1 run in his first two starts since 2006.

Funny how one disgusting outing can change the perception of a player. Before Wednesday, he was the toast of the team, particularly because of his amazing mustache. After this evening, the naysayers will point to this outing by Tallet in saying the Jays starting rotation is too shaky to compete in the American League East.

He'll bounce back. After all, could it get much worse?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jeremy Accardo update


Jeremy Accardo came over from the San Francisco Giants in the deal that shipped Shea Hillenbrand out of town in 2006. After filling in as the closer admirably for an injured B.J. Ryan in '07, where he saved 30 games, the deal hasn't looked as lopsided as it initially did.

After going down in May with forearm soreness, Accardo missed the remainder of the 2008 campaign . He didn't break it into the bullpen to start this season, instead being groomed as the closer in AAA Las Vegas.

Accardo has responded well to the demotion of sorts. In 8 innings, spanning 6 appearances, the former Giant has closed the door in 3 games, and has a respectable ERA of 2.25. Had the injury to Ryan occurred later in the season, Accardo might have received the call to Toronto. For now, the Jays are content to keep him with Las Vegas to see if he can find his form as a stopper on his road back from his own injury.

This season, the 27 year old Accardo has been passed over in promotions north of the border by the likes of Bill Murphy, Bryan Bullington and Brian Burres.

Casey Janssen's first rehab start


Rookie Casey Janssen busted onto the major league scene in 2006, starting 17 games for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2007, he was a dominant force at the back end of the Jays bullpen, posting 24 holds. Optimistic about a job in the starting rotation in 2008, he tore his labrum in spring training and missed the entire season. Destined to break it with the big club this season, he suffered yet another setback, yanking himself in his final tuneup in spring training with soreness in his shoulder and has been shelved since.

On Monday, Janssen had his first rehab start with class-A Dunedin. The early results are encouraging. There are conflicting reports of his stat line, some saying he pitched 3 innings, others 4. However, he did not allow a single run, while whiffing 3 batters.

Janssen will make at least a couple more minor league starts before he's given a clean bill of health, but if all goes well, he might be back in Toronto's rotation rotation sometime in May.

Richmond earns 3rd win of season


Scott Richmond has 3 wins already this season. The Canadian has not lost a start. And his ERA is a full one run better then ace Roy Halladay. Have you woken up yet?

Just one month into the 2009 season, and it's hard to find anyone who predicted Scott Richmond would be even a decent major league pitcher, let alone a guy who would post the 12th best ERA in the American League (2.70) to this point. In Tuesday night's 8-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals, Richmond had his longest outing of his career, putting together 7 solid innings to go along with 5 strikeouts.

Richmond certainly has been aided by a potent Blue Jays attack, averaging 9.5 runs of support in his four starts. Some of those games, however, the game was close and then Toronto busted out with an offensive onslaught.

A hurler will always have an upper hand facing hitters the first and even second time around. The challenge for Richmond as the season progresses is to keep up his brilliant start when ball clubs have the book on his tendencies. If he can continue to pitch well in August & September, then the Jays might have found themselves a gem.

Or he could be the next Josh Towers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Litsch receives good news from Dr. Andrews


For once, there is some good news for a member of the Blue Jays starting staff. After Jesse Litsch went to the disabled list with forearm tightness April 14th, he was expected to miss about a month. However, a precautionary visit Monday with Dr. James Andrews raised eyebrows that this could be a more serious injury. Usually, a visit to Andrews is the last thing a pitcher wants to have, but in this case, Litsch was told he had no structural damage and that he could resume tossing sessions.

The Jays hurler will likely throw off flat ground for a few weeks and then pitch on the mound before getting into simulated contests. The team is optimistic for a mid-May return for the former 13 game winner.

In two starts this season, Litsch has posted a record of 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00

John McDonald: The Forgotten Man in '09


John McDonald is quite possibly the most popular Toronto Blue Jay amongst fans. On opening night when he was introduced, he received a raucous cheer, rivaled only by Roy Halladay. The slick infielder has been a defensive wizard, patrolling the infield for 5 seasons with the Jays, but has become a forgotten man in Toronto's early success in 2009.

This year, McDonald has not cracked the starting lineup even once, mainly being used as a defensive replacement in blowouts and occasionally as a pinch runner. The team would like to get him into games, but with the incumbent shortstop Marco Scutaro having such a great start, McDonald has ridden the pine.

The issue behind Johnny Mac's lack of playing time is his career .236 batting average, including a paltry .210 in 08. With the club swinging the bats so well, offense is not a concern, so McDonald should be getting starts despite his weak bat. The foremost reason why he's not starting is the fact Toronto would have no lead off hitter in the absence of Scutaro. It's already a stretch to have Marco at the top of the order, so if McDonald started in place of the incumbent, who would be the guy? McDonald has a career .275 on base percentage, so he's not a good fit there.

In the absence of a prototypical lead off guy, the Blue Jays human highlight reel has become a forgotten man.

What a shame.

Purcey lit up as Jays lose series opener to KC


At some point David Purcey will harness his considerable talent and start dominating ball games. Unfortunately for a depleted Jays pitching staff, he continues to scuffle in April after a brilliant spring.

Purcey's struggles continued Monday night in Kansas City, matching a career high with 3 long balls surrendered. In 5 innings, the American League's worst offense teed off on Purcey to the tune of 8 hits and 6 earned runs, in a game the Jays wound up losing 7-1.

In five starts this season, Purcey has allowed 20 runs in just over 25 innings, issuing 18 free passes. Oddly to the contrary, his strikeout ratio is top 5 in the American League, averaging a strikeout per inning, so it's obvious he does have the ability to be a power pitcher. It remains to be seen when he'll "find it."

If he continues to go in a downward spiral, the Jays should move him down in the rotation, and perhaps have him switch spots with the suddenly surging Brian Tallet.

Purcey has major league stuff. We just have to be patient. It's not like Toronto didn't expect road bumps from the starting rotation.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jays to face former Manager Gibbons in KC


The opener of a four game set between the A.L. East leading Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals will feature a familiar face to the Blue Birds.

Former Jays manager John Gibbons will be in the opposing dugout against the club he led to a 305-305 record in 5 seasons at the helm as Manager. Gibbons is now the bench coach for an up and coming Royals ball club.

The Jays fired Gibbons 74 games into the 2008 campaign after the club slumped to a 35-39 record, eventually replacing him with current bench boss Cito Gaston.

Gibbons tumultuous tenure in Toronto included run-ins with players, most notably Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly.

The Jays will attempt to set a club record with its 7th straight series victory to open a season.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blue Jays should sign Pedro Martinez


He may be a little long in the tooth, and Pedro Martinez certainly has a lot of tread on the tires, but Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi should consider signing the 3-time CY Young award winner to be a member of the depleted starting staff.

The starting rotation, as it stands now, is Roy Halladay, David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Brian Tallet and Brian Burres. The team is expected to have Litsch, Ricky Romero and Casey Janssen back in the rotation mid-May. But what if Purcey continues to struggle? Richmond falls back down to earth? Romero also has a history of injuries, Janssen hasn't pitched in the bigs since 2007, Tallet has only 8 career starts to his name, and Burres' career ERA is 5.99. Is it really that big of a risk to sign the former New York Met?

Pedro's asking price is expected to be in the $5 million dollar range, even though his last full and effective campaign came back in 2005, where he won 15 games. Toronto has some money to spend after the departure of A.J. Burnett in the off-season. They club should draw up an incentive laden contract for the former 23 game winner and see if he sticks.

Really, could he be any worse then Brian Burres?

Halladay recovers for 4th win of season


After looking rather un-Doc like in the first three innings against the White Sox, Roy Halladay shut the door on Chicago's South Side to clinch the Jays 6th straight series to open the season.

Halladay picks up his 4th win of the campaign, tying Royals hurler Zack Greinke and Dodgers ace Chad Billingsley for most W's in Major League Baseball. Surprisingly, Halladay's win at U.S. Cellular Field marks the last American League ball park that the Jays ace needed to post a win at.

After a rough start in this one, in which he gave up 3 runs in the first 3 frames, Halladay proved why he is considered one of the best, if not the best pitcher in the game.

Halladay doesn't have his best stuff in Chicago


U.S. Cellular field in Chicago is the only American League stadium Roy Halladay has never won at in his phenomenal career.

In Sunday's contest against the White Sox, Doc was staked to an early 2 run lead in the first inning. However, Halladay has since coughed up 3 runs on 6 hits in the first three innings allowing the White Sox to grab the lead. It's very unusual to see Doc pitch this poorly, as he is clearly struggling in this one.

What makes Halladay such a seasoned veteran, however, is that he kept his team in the game, allowing 3 runs when most average major leaguers would have melted down by now. Knowing the Jays ace, he'll bounce back and dominate the Sox the remainder of the game, even if his history in Chicago would suggest otherwise.

Cause for concern? Litsch to visit Dr. Andrews


If you are a baseball player, you never want to book a visit with Dr. James Andrews, the renowned surgeon that potentially seriously injured athletes visit in Alabama.

Jays starter Jesse Litsch will be visiting Andrews Monday as a precautionary measure after feeling tightness in his forearm and elbow during a normal game of catch Friday. The club is optimistic they'll hear good news from Andrews, and that Litsch will return to the rotation sometime in mid May.

Considering that its very rare for a ball player to be given a clean bill of health after visiting Andrews, Litsch's ailment might be far worse than originally thought.

Burres tagged in Jays debut

As expected, lefty Brian Burres had a less than spectacular debut as a member of the Blue Jays rotation, taking the loss after surrendering 6 runs on 7 hits in 4.1 innings against the White Sox Saturday.

The stat line is a little bit misleading. Burres allowed just a pair of runs in the first 4 innings, but ran into trouble in the 5th. He allowed one run and then proceeded to load the bags. Reliever Shawn Camp came into the contest and promptly was tagged for an RBI single, followed by an Alexei Ramirez grand slam which busted the game open. 3 of the runs surrendered by Camp were Burres resposibility.

After destroying the White Sox 14-0 in the series opener (a game that could have been a whole lot closer had Brian Tallet not gotten out of the 3rd inning unscathed), the 10-2 loss in game two felt the same way. A pair of fantastic defensive plays by Brent Lillibridge and Jerry Owens in the 4th & 5th innings when the game was knotted up boosted the Sox. Chicago then responded with the big six run 5th inning that chased Burres from the game.

With a victory in the rubber match, the Jays will have been secured 6 straight series' to open up the 2009 campaign.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Burres & Bullington called up to the big club

With starter Ricky Romero and closer B.J. Ryan shelved with injures, the Blue Jays made two corresponding roster moves Friday before the series opener against the White Sox.

Starter Brian Burres and reliever Bryan Bullington have been recalled from AAA Las Vegas to fill the two spots left by the latest pitchers to hit the disabled list.

Burres won't have much time to get acclimated with the team, as he'll get the nod against the White Sox Saturday. He hasn't looked particularly great with the farm club, posting an 0-2 record with a 6.97 ERA in 3 outings, two of which were starts.

Burres briefly displayed spurts of effectiveness with the Orioles the past 3 years, so he could provide a decent couple of starts for Toronto.

Bullington, the 1st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2002 draft, has an impressive 1.86 ERA, and 10 strikeouts in 4 relief appearances over 9.2 innings with Las Vegas. Bullington pitched in the 14-0 blowout against Chicago, surrendering a pair of hits, striking out two in a scoreless ninth.

Though Bullington is no longer considered a prospect at age 28, he has to be considered intriguing, because he clearly has talent. Having been the first overall pick, he impressed scouts coming out of Ball State college, though he hasn't been able to be consistent at the major league level. If he can harness his talent and finally realize his potential, the Jays might have found a diamond in the rough.

Blue Jays bash White Sox 14-0

The Blue Jays improved to a Major League Baseball best 13-5 after destroying the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field 14-0. Toronto set new season highs in runs (14) and hits (21) Seven Blue Birds finished with multi-hit games, with Vernon Wells falling a triple short of the cyle, Adam Lind securing a career high 3 doubles, Rod Barajas driving in a pair to go along with 3 hits, and rookie Travis Snider had 3 base raps and an RBI.

Toronto now leads the American League in batting average, runs scored, hits, RBI, and is 2nd in home runs, behind the Texas Rangers.

The hitting is becoming contagious, and the offense is getting better now that the much maligned (by me) Alex Rios on a 6 game hitting streak and Vernon Wells waking up from a slow start to the season. Both Rios and Wells homered in the series finale against the Rangers, and they accounted for 4 hits and 3 RBI in this one.

Just keep riding the wave.

Tallet outstanding in 2nd start of season

What is going on with the Blue Jays starting pitching? Whenever a pitcher goes down to injury, another hurler steps in to pitch effectively. After a 14-0 pounding of the White Sox, lefty Brian Tallet is stating his claim to hold on to a starting job for the foreseeable future.

Tallet had a strong performance against the White Sox, event though he admittedly didn't have his best stuff. He worked 5.2 shutout innings, striking out 5. The most impressive part was his ability to get out of a jam in the 3rd frame. With a 4 run lead, Tallet worked himself into a bases loaded jam with just 1 out. Instead of allowing Chicago to jump right back in it the lanky southpaw vwhiffed Jim Thome and induced an inning ending ground out from Jermaine Dye. In two starts since being inserted in the starting rotation, the former 2nd round pick of the Cleveland Indians has surrendered just 1 earned run in 11 innings.

With the victory, Tallet secured his first W as a starter since 2002. If Tallet has a couple more starts like this, he might force Toronto's hand in keeping him a part of the rotation for good portion of the campaign.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ryan to DL; Downs perfect for closer role

After a wildly inconsistent start to the 2009 season, closer B.J. Ryan was finally put out of his misery and sent to the disabled list with soreness in his back and shoulder. Ryan chalked up a pair of saves, but also blew 2 chances to secure a victory for the Jays this year.

Enter dependable veteran Scott Downs to fill the void. The crafty lefty worked a perfect 9th inning against the Rangers Thursday for his 1st save of the season. For the foreseeable future, Downs will be in control of shutting down opponents in the 9th inning. Over the course of his 8 year career, Downs has just 8 career saves, (5 of which came last season) so it will be pretty new territory for the former 3rd round draft pick.

Inserting Downs into the closers role makes the most sense, especially with his sensational start to '09, but it will create a void that he used to fill in the 8th inning. Thursday evening, Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp combined to work a scoreless 8th frame against Texas. Those two, along with Brandon League and Jason Frasor figure to be in the mix for late inning duties.

Jays win 5th series in a row; 21 games over .500 under Cito

After disposing of the Texas Rangers (6-9) by a count of 5-2, the high flying Toronto Blue Jays (12-5) are the first team in the major leagues to 12 victories.

The win marked the fifth straight series the Blue Jays have won, although its curious to note they still have yet to sweep any opponents thus far. What's even more remarkable is the fact the team hasn't lost back to back contests all year.

Taking into consideration last years record under Manager Cito Gaston (51-37), and the hot start this year, Toronto is an astounding 21 games above .500 under the man who led them to back to back World Series titles in the early nineties.! There should be no doubt about whether this team is for real and capable of putting a legitimate scare in the beasts from the A.L. East.

Is Scott Richmond good?

The more and more Scott Richmond pitches, and does a very respectable job, the more it seems the Canadian might actually be a decent major league pitcher. What's more remarkable is the fact he'd probably be the 8th string member of the rotation if everybody was healthy (Instead, because McGowan, Marcum, Litsch, Janssen, and Romero are all hurt, he's now the 3rd more experience member of the starting five!)

Richmond went 6 innings against Texas, allowing a pair of runs to pick up his 2nd win of the campaign. Most impressive was his 8 strike outs, 3 more than his previous career high. A lot of his K's came on dirty breaking balls that fooled a potent Rangers attack. Once the book comes out on the rookie hurler, will be as effective the next time he faces teams from around the American League?

In 8 career starts, he has amassed a record of 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA. Perhaps I, like many others, have been wrong in pegging Richmond as a rather poor pitcher. He's still not a long term solution for the rotation, but with several key members of the starting staff dropping like flies, Richmond's solid performances are like gold.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another blow to Jays rotation: Romero to DL

The Blue Jays already thin rotation was dealt another blow after Ricky Romero was placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique strain.

The injury comes out of no where, as Romero has been dynamite to start his major league career. Over 3 starts, the 2005 1st round pick has posted a 2-0 record with an ERA of 1.71. For an already depleted staff, this marks another blow and will test the Blue Jays depth even further. Having already put Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch, and now Romero on the shelf, Toronto will likely dip to the minors for another starter.

As posted a few days ago in the Jays prospect watch, the obvious choices would be prospects Brad Mills or Brett Cecil, although they have both struggled thus far in AAA. At this point though, with yet another starter injured, Toronto's hand might be forced in seeing what one of the young kids can do.

David Purcey struggling with focus

Blue Jays number two starter David Purcey has had an inconsistent start to the 2009 season. In four starts, his record is 0-1 with an ERA of 6.10. Purcey has had stints of being very solid, and some mental lapses that have cost him dearly.

The number one issue with Purcey is his focus. Consider his past two starts against the Athletics and the Rangers. In both instances, Purcey has been given a lead, only to surrender it the following inning. Against Oakland, Purcey was given a 4 run lead after the 3rd inning, but in the following frame, the wheels fell off and the Jays lead disintegrated. Giving up runs right after taking a lead is detrimental to the team, and the Jays ended up losing that constest. In Wednesday's tilt against Texas, Rod Barajas hit a 2 run blast to put Toronto up 2. Before you know it, Purcey has coughed up the lead again.

This demonstrates that Purcey has a lack of focus, as he relaxes when given a lead. He is very good when the ball game is tied, but when he has been given leads, his game goes south, causing him to have stretches where he's pitching poorly.

For a young pitcher the challenge will be to learn from this to become a quality Major League starter.

Rios responds with strong outing

Finally Alex Rios decided to show up. It took him 16 games, but he might have busted out of a brutal season long slump that had yet to produce a single home run. After I strongly ripped into the enigmatic Rios throughout his poor month of April, I must give the man his due when he performs well.

In Wednesday's tilt against the Rangers, Rios went 4 for 6, raising his average from .206 to .246. All four of the hits were singles, two of which resulted in RBI. Putting into perspective his slow start, the four base raps represented 1 hit less then 25% of the hits he's had to date in 2009.

Let's see him do this over the course of a couple more games before we start to jump to conclusions. It might have been a complete aberration. Hopefully, this will kick start Rios' year and he'll be able to produce big numbers for an already potent Jays lineup.

Blow Jay Ryan resurfaces...

After an awful start to the season, followed by three successful outings (including two saves), it appeared that B.J. Ryan had righted the ship and could be counted upon in the 9th inning of a tight ball game. Until he coughed up a 3 run lead in the 9th inning to the Rangers Wednesday.

Leading 7-4 heading into the final frame of the contest, Manager Cito Gaston entrusted Blow Jay Ryan to shut down the Rangers to even the series. Ryan promptly put the first two on, hitting a batter then issuing a free pass. A run scored following an error charged to Aaron Hill, trimming the Jays lead to 2. A couple batters later, after a Michael Young solo bomb, the game was tied. Blow Jay Ryan had fizzled away his second save opportunity of the campaign.

Fortunately, the Jays were able to win in the 11th inning on a walk off single by Kevin Millar, so Ryan will be spared by even further criticism.

Despite my affectionate nickname for him, I've always stated the Jays need to keep rolling him out in the 9th inning of close games, and I'll stand by that, despite the anguish and pain he causes even when he's able to get the job done.

What should the Jays do? Continue to play him in tense situations? Give the closing role to someone else? Perhaps he'll land on the disabled list? Either way, it's a hot topic of discussion in Toronto.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Rios/Lincecum trade-What could have been?

Two years ago, the San Francisco Giants & Toronto Blue Jays held intense trade talks in a deal that would have seen 2-time all-star Alex Rios on his way to the Bay Area and stud pitcher Tim Lincecum head north of the border. Had the two teams decided on the much talked about swap, just what could have been for the Jays?

At the time, several people argued Rios should stay in Canada. Others fawned over the idea of inserting the whiz kid Lincecum into the Jays rotation. The idea of trading these two straight up didn't see as one sided as it does now, with Rios coming off two solid campaign's for the Blue Birds, and Lincecum just getting his major league career underway. However, had Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi executed the deal, he would've pulled off one of the greatest heists of this decade.

Lincecum, the 10th pick in the 2006 draft, went on to win the National League CY Young award last season, posting a scintillating 18-5 record to go along with a 2.62 E.R.A. and 265 strikeouts! Rios, meanwhile, had a decent '08, but nothing that stands out as being all-star worthy, which is what every bit of Lincecum will be in the next decade.

Knowing A.J. Burnett was likely to opt out of his contract after the '08 campaign, Toronto could have slid Lincecum comfortably installed Lincecum as the #2 starter, figuring Burnett would flee for greener pastures. With the Jays unsure if they'll be able to retain Roy Halladay after next year, Lincecum would have become the heir apparent as the ace of the staff.

Fortunately for the Giants, they saved themselves the massive embarrassment of this one sided deal. Unfortunately for Canada's team, Ricciardi wasn't able to land one of the greatest young pitching talents to come around in a while. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to unload the disappointing Rios.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Umpire struck in head by bat; response crew slow to respond

In the 6th inning of the Rangers/Jays game on Tuesday, Hank Blalock's bat shattered, striking home plate umpire Kerwin Danley in the mask. He immediately fell in a heap to the ground, and remained there for 10 minutes. The scary situation led to both clubs exorcising caution immediately, calling for the response crew to help out the veteran umpire.

However, the lack of hussle on the part of the medics was particularly dissapointing. They took their sweet time gingerly walking to home plate to assist Danley. This could have been way more serious then it ended up being (Danley never lost consciousness and fortunately just suffered a mild concussion.) In some write ups after the game, it was reported the response crew hustled onto the field to help him out. That is simply not true, which was clearly evident to anyone who was at the ball park. What an absolute disgrace. Here's hoping the next time a potential life altering situation arises, the emergency team will act with a lot more urgency.

Rios & Wells fail to come through yet again

The most shocking thing about the Blue Jays torrid start to the 2009 campaign is that they're doing it with their top two hitters in Alex Rios and Vernon Wells playing garbage baseball.

In what is becoming a brutal trend 15 games into the season, Rios and Wells failed yet again Tuesday against Texas. Rios grounded out in the 9th with a runner in scoring position, displaying again why he's been terrible. At what point do the Jays send him a message and move him down in the order? The guy is barely keeping his average above .200! He is just killing the team. Perhaps it's time to elevate the red hot Lyle Overbay to the 3 hole and send Rios toppling down to the bottom of the order.

Vernon Wells is not immune from this discussion either. With a runner on 3rd and 2 outs in the 9th, he induced the final out with an easy fly out. Has there been a guy making as much money as Wells does ($126 million over 7 years) that inspires the least amount of confidence in MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY? Consider this about V-Dub; With runners in scoring position this season, he's a pathetic 2 for 18. That equates to a ridiculously awful batting average of .111. He has just 5 RBI to show for it. That is totally horrendous. If only there was a way to trade him, but no one would be stupid enough to take him off the Jays hands at that salary.

For the record, Marco Scutaro this season has 6 RBI with runners in scoring position and a respectable .333 average. This from a guy who in his career has hit just .261. Lyle Overbay, slotted 7th in the order, has a gaudy .444 average, and 5 RBI with ducks on the pond.

Rios and Wells has combined for just 2 home runs and 13 RBI this year. That simply can't continue to happen from the heart of the order if the team is to secure its first postseason berth in 16 seasons.

Jays fall short to Rangers; Halladay loses first game

With their ace Roy Halladay on the hill, the Blue Jays had a chance to improve their record to 11-4. But their big guns were not able to pick up their undisputed leader, falling 5-4 to the Texas Rangers. Toronto squandered 4 chances with runners in scoring position in the final 2 innings to square the game up, losing the thrilling first game of a 3 game set against the Rangers.

Texas has had Halladay's number in his career, the loss dropping his overall record to 7-7 against the Rangers. Doc didn't have this best stuff, serving up 2 dingers (though he did strike out 9 batters), but the offense failed to lift their ace at the critical stages of the ball game. In the 8th, with the bases loaded, Rod Barajas sharply lined out to 3rd base, followed by a Travis Snider fly out. Aaron Hill doubled in the 9th, but the slumping Alex Rios grounded out, and Vernon Wells flied out to end the comeback bid.

The Jays will send David Purcey to the bump looking to even the series up on Wednesday.

Jays prospect watch: pitcher Brett Cecil


Another one of the young pitching prospects in the Blue Jays system is lefty Brett Cecil. Selected 38th overall of the 2007 draft, Cecil is expected to make the jump to the big leagues at some point later in this season, or as late as 2010, if all goes well.

The Jays have stretched out Cecil projecting him to be a starter at the major league level. The talented southpaw held closer duties for the University of Maryland when the Blue Jays nabbed him in the draft.

Cecil was in the running for a spot in Toronto's rotation to start the '09 campaign but was sent back to AAA to get some more innings under his belt. He hasn't thrown many innings as a starter in the minor leagues, as it was just two years ago he was closing games, not starting them.

In two starts with the Las Vegas 51's, Cecil has been lit up once, and had a so-so outing in the other. In his first start, he lasted 4 innings, allowing a pair of earned runs. However, in his most recent trip to the mound, Cecil struggled mightily, surrendering 6 runs on 7 hits in just 2.2 innings of work. Subsequently, his record is 0-1 with a nasty E.R.A. of 10.80.

Cecil should be given a look by the Blue Birds, particularly if more injuries strike to the starting rotation. At the very least, a September call-up is likely for Cecil.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jays prospect watch: catcher J.P. Arencibia


Much has been hyped upon the next Blue Jays "catcher of the future" in J.P. Arencibia after he was selected with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2007 draft. After failed experiments in both Robinzon Diaz and Curtis Thigpen as the "next big thing" at catcher, the Jays hope that Arencibia can fulfill the expectations heaped upon him after his collegiate career at Tennessee.

The book about the 6 foot Arencibia is that he has a good bat, but below average skills behind the plate. The early word in the 2009 campaign, however, is that his defense is improving, but his bat has been lagging behind. In 28 at bats over 8 contests, he has an average of only .214, with 3 doubles and 3 RBI (just 1 in his past 7 games.) Arencibia has struck out 5 times, so there is not a huge concern over his ability to make contact, as it will take some time to get adjusted in his first tour of AAA. After catcher Michael Barrett went down with a shoulder injury, the Jays opted to call up veteran Raul Chavez instead of Arencibia. Don't be surprised, with more seasoning, to see the prized prospect called up as the season wears on.

Jays prospect watch: pitcher Brad Mills


Toward the end of spring training, the 5th and final spot in the rotation came down to Canadian Scott Richmond and lefty prospect Brad Mills, a 4th round selection in 2007. The Blue Jays decided to go with Richmond to ensure Mills had some more experience at the minor league level, considering he had never pitched in a level above AA. After two years in the Jays system, Mills has sported a gaudy 15-5 record, which shows he has potential to be a starter with the big club.

In his two starts in Las Vegas, the southpaw has gone 0-1 with an E.R.A. of 4.82. He improved upon his debut performance in his 2nd outing, lasting 5.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits to go along with 4 strikeouts. In the first start, Mills was yanked after 3.2 innings and 3 runs surrendered. Not horrific numbers by any means, but nothing spectacular either. The clubs brass decided against promoting him when Jesse Litsch was shelved with forearm tightness, opting to elevate Brian Tallet to the rotation because they felt Mills needed more time. After his first two starts in AAA, that appears to be the case.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Blow Jay Ryan" nickname lifted (at least temporarily)

After B.J. Ryan blew a save against Detroit in the 2nd game of the season, followed by an outing in which he nearly coughed up a 3 run against Cleveland, I affectionately dubbed him "Blow Jay Ryan" Was it deserved? Perhaps not. I did, however, still post my belief that the ball club needed to continue rolling him out for the 9th inning in close games. After three consecutive solid outings, 2 of which resulted in saves, I have dissolved the Blow Jay Ryan moniker, at least for now.

The main reason B.J. has been effective is because he is getting ahead in counts. In the first two poor outings, he was facing too many 3-1 counts which left him in danger of serving up a meatball. He solidified his first save of the season against Minnesota on April 13th, then continued his strong play in back to back games against Oakland this weekend. He worked a scoreless 10th frame on Saturday, and preserved the series win against Oakland for his 2nd save in as many chances.

For now, he is back to being B.J. Ryan. Let's hope it stays that way.

Blue Jays bullpen carving up opponents

The American League's best bullpen in 2008 seems to be hitting their stride after a shaky start to the 2009 campaign.

In the last two contests, the 'pen has combined for a scintillating performance, both Toronto victories. In 8.2 innings of work, the Athletics managed a meagre 2 hits against Blue Jay relievers. With the exception of Brandon League, who was teed off of for the tune of 3 runs in 2 innings in game 1, three other relievers in Blue Birds bullpen stymied Oakland, giving up zero hits in 3.1 innings of action.

Manager Cito Gaston has three hurlers at his disposal that have been perfect 14 games into the year; Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, who have combined to give up zero runs in 19.1 innings. Of the three, Frasor has already secured 2 victories, and notched his first save in over a year.

Look out Major League Baseball. The best bullpen in 2008 is picking up right where they left off.

Ricky Romero shines again; Jays win 4th straight series

The Blue Jays concluded their three game set against Oakland with yet another series victory, their fourth of the campaign. With the 1-0 nail biting win, Toronto pushed their overall record to an American League best 10-4...

The Jays received another stellar outing by rookie Ricky Romero. In just his 3rd career start, the rookie went 7 innings, without surrendering a run, while striking out five. Romero (2-0) has lowered his E.R.A. on the season to a minuscule 1.71. Toronto figures to be leaning heavily on the young hurler if they are looking to stay atop a stacked American League East...

On Lyle Overbay bobble head day at the Rogers Centre, the Jays 1st baseman provided all the offense Romero & Company needed with an RBI single in the 2nd inning. Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan worked the final two frames to put the finishing touches on the Athletics (5-7). Instead of relying on their red hot offense, Toronto leaned heavily on their deep pitching staff which allowed just 2 runs in the final two games...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Overbay's walk off home run lifts Toronto to victory

Did Lyle Overbay ever pick the right time to crank a game winning 2 run home run! With two out and a man on base, the 1st baseman lifted an Dan Giese offering over the wall in right centre to cap off a thrilling 4-2 Jays victory in 12 innings...

Having seen his playing time reduced (to starting exclusively against only right handed pitching) Overbay has responded brilliantly. He went 2 for 4 in this one with the winning 2 run bomb, a double, scoring the tying run, and drew a pair of walks. Since the reduction in his at-bats, Overbay has gone 6 for 16, increasing his batting average from .200 to .290, to go along with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in his last 3 games...

Having squandered several opportunities to put this game away, the Blue Jays seemed destined to repeat what they did almost exactly one year ago. They suffered a crushing sweep at the hands of the Athletics at home in a series that left the team in a downward spiral for weeks. But with the aid of an improved Overbay, the Jays came out on top and with a win Sunday, they will improve their record to a sterling 10-4...

Heads up baserunning by Scutaro nearly leads to victory

Marco Scutaro is having a fantastic start to his 2009 campaign. He leads Major League Baseball with 15 runs and has a solid .306 average to go along with 4 home runs and 10 RBI. But what Scutaro did in the 9th inning of Saturday's ball game against the A's gives a deeper and more meaningful look into why he's a key cog for the Blue Jays...

Deadlocked in a 2-2 affair in the 9th inning, Scutaro walked (his 3rd time on base in the contest.) Aaron Hill followed with a long fly out to centre. Scutaro alertly tagged up from first base and managed to make it into 2nd safely on the play. The following pitch, he swiped third base rather easily, leaving him 90 feet away from scoring the winning run. His heads up base running nearly resulted in a Jays victory, had Alex Rios, Vernon Wells or Adam Lind been able to come up with the clutch game winning hit...

Though it will go largely unnoticed (mainly because he didn't wind up scoring the winning run), Scutaro's intelligent base running illustrates why he's such a valuable member to the ball club...

Tallet strong in first start since 2006

Brian Tallet performed admirably in his first start since 2006 Saturday against the Athletics. Get used to Tallet being on the bump every five days for the foreseeable future...

Having filled the role of long reliever in the first week and a half of the season, Tallet joined the Jays rotation after righty Jesse Litsch went to the disabled list with a forearm injury. Tallet didn't seem to be out of place at all, putting together a strong outing in the Blue Jays thrilling 4-2 victory...

The southpaw lasted 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), while giving up just 4 hits and tossing one strikeout. This marked his longest outing in almost 6 year...

Tallet will likely be a member of the rotation until May, assuming he doesn't completely falter with the absence of Litsch and Casey Janssen (who is also still on the D.L.) Toronto would like prospects Brett Cecil and Brad Mills to log more innings in AAA before they promote them to the big club. If Tallet continues to pitch the way he did against Oakland, it might be a little while longer for the young guns to get their call up to the show...

Alex Rios needs to wake up!

In the opening two weeks of the season, the Blue Jays are tearing the cover off of the ball. The team leads the American League in most statistical categories offensively, aided by the strong play of Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Marco Scutaro, among others. However, there is one batter that's lagging behind, and that's Alex Rios...

The 2-time All-Star looks completely lost at the dish. His swing is too long, he is out on his front foot a lot of the times, which is affecting his ability to drive through the ball. He is not seeing the ball at the release point well whatsoever. Rios is inching closer toward dropping below an average of .200! After another pitiful performance at the plate Saturday, in which he went 1 for 5, the concern is growing deeper in Toronto. Rios has just 6 RBI this year, 4 of which came in the same contest. His only saving grace is the hot start to the season by the rest of the team. If the club goes into a tail spin, he'll surely bear the brunt of the blame...

Come on Rios, wake up!

Michael Barrett injured; prospect Arencibia to get the call?

In the 4th inning debacle on Friday by starter David Purcey, the southpaw unleashed a wild pitch allowing the tying run to score. Catcher Michael Barrett tried to gun down Bobby Crosby at the plate, but in the process, injured his shoulder. It's an unfortunate situation for Barrett, because he had just worked his way back from a near career ending injury last season after he fouled a pitch off his face...

This injury, which will undoubtedly put Barrett on the disabled list, could have a ripple effect on the Blue Jays farm system. Upon first blush, it'd be great to see catching prospect J.P. Arencibia called up from AAA to take Barrett's spot. However, the more likely scenario is called up veteran Raul Chavez to take his spot. Chavez nearly beat out Barrett for the backup catcher's job in the spring. A somewhat surprising decision could be to bring up Brian Jeroloman from AA New Hampshire, because he is considered a very good defensive catcher, one that could very well back-up Arencibia in the not so distant future. Why not get his feet wet now?

What happened to Brandon League?

Even more than Blow Jay Ryan aka B.J. Ryan, Brandon League has been the biggest bust in the Jays 2009 season. What has gotten into him, is he hurt? A trip to the disabled list might be in his future. Or has he simply lost his confidence? Either way, after Friday's pathetic performance against the Athletics, the team likely has no faith in him going forward...

It truly is a shame too, because League seemed to be ready to bust out to be an integral part of the Jays already stout bullpen. However, the 2001 second round draft pick has flamed out thus far. He took the loss, coughing up 3 runs in the 7th & 8th innings against the Athletics. In just 6 innings of work, League has issued 6 earned runs. That is simply awful. A demotion to AAA, or, as previously mentioned, a visit to the disabled list might be in store for the young flamethrower. What a shame...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Purcey's poor 4th inning kills Blue Jays

The Blue Jays started out so well in the series opener against the Athletics. Marco Scutaro homered, then Aaron Hill smacked a 2 run shot in the 3rd, followed by a Kevin Millar 2 run double in that same inning. I was at this ball game, and I said to a friend "Purcey has to have a solid next inning. If he gives up any runs this inning following the big offensive outburst, it'll demoralizes the Jays."

Sure enough, Purcey, who battled control problems yet again, surrendered a bases loaded triple and threw a wild pitch which led to another run. Boom. Just like that, the 5-1 lead evaporated...

The young pitcher is still learning, so hopefully he keeps this in the memory bank and doesn't allow a bad outing break his confidence. Purcey can pitch at the big league level, but it's a matter of finding consistency. But throwing away a lead after your team tears it up offensively almost certainly will crush a team's morale, and it did tonight...

Fan experience at Rogers Centre far greater with Skydome open

Now that the phenomenal weather has hit Toronto, hopefully the Rogers Centre dome will be open for balance of the remaining games. The experiences differ so vastly when it's open compared to when the dome is closed...

Baseball is an outdoor sport, it should never be watched indoors. So going to Blue Jays games with a closed roof the experience is so much worse. It's stuffy, there's no view of the great city, not to mention the cool light display on the CN Tower. The ambiance is much poorer. I'm sure the players would rather have it outdoors too.

The Rogers Centre has the wonderful ability to close the roof in the event of inclement weather, but in previous years the dome stayed closed well into May regardless of the temperature. So what if it's a bit chilly at 9 o'clock? Keep the dome open and let the fans enjoy the game the way it was intended...

Oh, and one other thing. The stadium should be called the Skydome, not the Rogers Centre, or any other corporate name for that matter...

Is Ricciardi a good G.M?

Easy there! WOAH! The words "good" and "Ricciardi" have just met in the same sentence for the first time. Ricciardi meet good, good meet Ricciardi. Nice to meet you. Likewise. Let's take things slowly, ok? No need to get frisky just yet...

The Kevin Millar signing by Ricciardi in the off-season was genius. It was only confirmed tonight when he broke open the game with a grand slam in the 7th inning (Jays are 8-3!) He is a valuable power bat off the bench, can face tough left handed batters (platooning with Lyle Overbay at 1st base so far this season), and is a great locker room guy...

Easy there Tiger. Come on there bro. Ricciardi is brutal. Or is he??

He drafted Travis Snider (stud!!!!!!) And Aaron Hill. Not to mention Adam Lind, Shaun Marcum and David Purcey. The list continues with Ricky Romero, Jesse Litsch and Casey Janssen...

What to make of his trades? Yes, they were pretty bad at the start of his Blue Jays tenure. However, he fleeced the San Francisco Giants in the Jeremy Accardo trade. What did he have to give up? Locker room malcontent Shea Hillenbrand and mediocre Vinnie Chulk. Accardo went on to save 30 games for Toronto in the 2007 season. Don't forget the Marco Scutaro deal that netted the Jays the starting shortstop for two bums that call themselves pitchers...

The glaring mistake Ricciardi has on his resume is selecting crusty Rusty Adams in the 2002 draft, but every G.M. hasn't struck out in the first round before...

Ok, back to reality. We were talking about how bad Ricciardi was, right?

Roy Halladay is unbelievable

Doc Halladay is so incredible that there's almost no need for it to be repeated. He is the ultimate professional, always puts together a phenomenal effort, pitches unworldly, and never receives any accolades...

There really is no point in saying how amazing he is. It's not like he can be a strikeout machine when he wants to be, like he was when he struck out the side after putting the first two batters on base in the 5th inning against the Twins tonight...

Roy Halladay is simply one of the greatest pitchers in the game, if not THE best. Ho hum, he's a former Cy Young award winner. Pretty boring stuff, really. Yawn, he's 3-0 to start the season. But no one likes a braggart, right?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brad Arnsberg: best pitching coach in MLB

Brad Arnsberg is the best pitching coach in all of baseball, yet it's largely unnoticed because in his tenure with the ball club, the Blue Jays have not put a winning product on the field. With their early success in '09, Arnsberg has played a pivotal role. No one figured their bats would be this hot, but by that same token, the rotation was supposed to be doom and gloom all year, yet it has been very stable...

Following last night's 12-2 drubbing of the Twins, Arnsberg must be commended for making Scott Richmond a half decent starter. Make no mistake, Richmond is still not a long term solution, nor should he get too big headed about going 6.1 innings (a career high), but Arnsberg has worked his magic with yet another hurler...

When you consider how well Ricky Romero has started his big league career, particularly after being labeled a "bust" by many pundits, how does Arnsberg not deserve a lot of the credit? After a poor start to the spring, General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was all set to send Romero back to AAA, but Arnsberg insisted on keeping him with the team. believing he could work with him to make him an effective big league pitcher. The early results are something to behold. 1-0, with a 2.57 ERA in 2 starts, which includes his latest outing, a stellar 8 inning performance against the Twins...

David Purcey, like Romero, a former first round pick has had enough solid starts in his brief career to know that he'll be a keeper. It's very exciting when prospects Brett Cecil and Brad Mills are awaiting their chance to become another quality major league pitcher. They'll be able to owe their success to the best in the business, Brad Arnsberg...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brian Tallet moving to starting rotation

Moments after I posted yesterday that Bill Murphy was called up and was going to be inserted into the rotation, I had my doubts. Instead of reading between the lines of this peculiar promotion, I figured the team would give him a couple of starts. Wrong. Murphy is going to be a lefty specialist in the bullpen...

Which means (gulp!) Brian Tallet is the newest member of the Blue Jays rotation! He's been very good in a long relief role, and then suddenly quite poor in the early season. Tallet, originally selected by the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft, has started 6 times in his career, once with the Jays back in 2006. Look for Brian to make a couple of spot starts and then move over for one of the Jays prospects...

What do you think? Are the Jays doomed in games he starts? He can be fairly decent, can't he?

Snider sitting against Lefties...

In the three games the Blue Jays have faced left handed start pitching this season, Travis Snider has been on the bench to start the game in all three of them. It's an interesting decision by Manager Cito Gaston, one that could benefit the young rookie, at least in the short term. However, at what point do the Jays decide to let him loose and make him an every day player, regardless of who is on the mound?

After Snider's two monster home runs Monday against Minny, it might have been good timing to throw him in against a lefty and see how he does. Gaston instead opted to err on the side of caution (though Snider is still far better than Jose Bautista, regardless of who is pitching.) Another potential reason Snider isn't playing every day is due to the fact he jammed his knee in spring training. The Jays might want to hold off on him playing every day, and not having him hit against lefties is a valid "excuse" to do so...

It should be noted that Lyle Overbay has sat in favour of Kevin Millar in each of the three contests vs. left handed pitching also. But Overbay has been pretty bad. So it's only worth a brief mention...

Romero shines; Jays lose in extras

In his 2nd career Major League start, Ricky Romero was outstanding for the Jays. The '05 6th overall pick has certainly silenced the critics (for now) that labelled him a bust. He went deep into the game, pitching 8 solid innings and surrendering just 2 runs...

What was most exceptional about Romero was his poise on the mound. He never seemed to get rattled, working quickly and effectively, and pitched to contact. He threw 106 pitches, 70 of which were for strikes. For a staff that has issued far too many free passes, his control is a welcomed bright spot...

The most impressive aspect of his outing against the Twins was the 6th inning. Down 2-1, it all could have come unravelled for Romero. He loaded up the bags with nobody out. Showing the mettle of a vet, he promptly struck out Michael Cuddyer and induced an inning ending double play to get out of the inning unscathed...

The Jays did not get much offense in this contest, and Jesse Carlson lost it in the 11th when Joe Crede spanked one over the head of Vernon Wells. These types of games will happen. It would have been phenomenal to jump to a 7-2 start, but the Twins were due against the Jays having lost their last 10 until this one...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Litsch to DL; Murphy called up

As expected, Jesse Litsch is heading to the 15 day disabled list with forearm tightness. At least we now know why he's been poor in his first two starts (not to mention he didn't face many major league hitters in spring training.)

To replace Litsch, the HUGE news is that the Jays have called up lefty Bill Murphy. This guy is incredible, quite possibly the second coming of Doc Halladay. He has carved up batters in the minor leagues in record pace after being selected in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft by the Oakland Athletics. He is destined to be a fixture of the Blue Jays rotation for years to come...

Or for 2 of 3 starts, if he is lucky. Murphy is awful. In AAA Syracuse last season, he went 8-10 with an ERA of 5.32. In his brief appearance in the majors with the Diamondbacks in 2007, he surrendered 4 runs in 6.1 innings of work, giving him a rather pedestrian 5.68 ERA. Simply put, Murphy is nothing more than a stopgap...

It's rather curious Toronto did not call up on of its top prospects in Brad Mills (15-5 in 2 seasons in the Jays system), or 1st round pick in 2007, Brett Cecil. They'll likely get the call after some seasoning with AAA Las Vegas when their season gets underway...

Jays winning despite lack of production from big guns

It's a good sign that the Toronto Blue Jays are winning ball games (6 in their first 8), despite the fact that arguably their two best hitters haven't even hit their stride offensively...

Consider this. Alex Rios has hit just .24o, with zero home runs and 6 RBI, four of which came in one contest. Cleanup hitter Vernon Wells has hit for a good average but has a paltry 1 dinger and 3 RBI. It's a wonder how Adam Lind is tied for first in baseball with 12 RBI without the support of the "big guns" in front of him in the batting order...

Eventually Rios and Wells will start swinging a hot stick, so the best offense in MLB (wow!) should become even more potent. 8 games into the '09 season, isn't that a shocking proposition...

Jays need to continue rolling Ryan out in the 9th

B.J. Ryan had his best outing of the season, throwing 11 of his 12 pitches for strikes and picking up his first save against Minnesota. After his first two outings of the year, however, Ryan didn't made himself very popular in Toronto. A blown save against Detroit, and a woeful outing versus Cleveland raised questions about his status with the club. Having said that, Toronto needs to keep rolling him out in the 9th inning of tight games...

There is absolutely no reason for Manager Cito Gaston to make a change, at least not yet. The team has made a sizable investment in Ryan ($10 million each for the next 2 years) suggesting he's going to be around for a while. See if he can work through his struggles instead of delegating his role so early. What good would that do anyways? Handing his role over to someone like Scott Downs or Brandon League would only illustrate to other players they don't have much job security. That can't help production or morale within the clubhouse. Would the Yankees jettison Mariano Rivera if he had two bad outings?

If Blow Jay Ryan puts together a string of awful outings, don't be surprised to see Downs step in to shut down contests...

Litsch hurt; Jays rally to win again

The Blue Jays dug themselves a hole once again, but in what has become customary the first week into the season, they rallied for the victory. The win, which lifted Toronto to a formidable 6-2 record, came with good news and bad news...

The bad news is that Jesse Litsch left the game after tightness in his forearm. He'll be evaluated tomorrow, but this can't be a good sign for a pitching staff that is missing 2 starters from last season (3 if you include Casey Janssen, a presumed member of the rotation heading into '09.) Litsch hasn't looked good in both starts against Detroit and Minnesota, giving up 9 earned runs in 9 innings, and this could explain why. A trip to the disabled list is very likely...

The good news, however, is that they pounded out a season high 19 hits (19 hits!!) erasing an early 3-1 deficit to defeat the Twins for the 10th consecutive time. Leading the charge was 21 year old rookie Travis Snider. He hit two massive bombs, the latter supplying the winning runs. Additionally, First Baseman Lyle Overbay finally started to get going with the bat, driving in three (including his 1st dinger of the campaign.)

In what was the Jays 4th come from behind victory in their first 8 games, it's another sign that each game someone else is stepping up to lead the charge offensively. Every win like this is vital for a ball club that tempered expectations coming into the season...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Brandon League has been terrible

I'll admit it, I thought Brandon was primed to bust out for a sensational season with the potential to be the Blue Jays closer at the end of the season. He still might reach that level, but so far this season, he has been pathetic...

After the Jays crawled back to cut the 4 run Cleveland lead to 1, he promptly gave up a 2 run homer to Travis Hafner, eventually getting tagged for 3 runs. Toronto might have lost the game anyways, but a brutal performance like that squashed any hopes of a comeback. In the first game of the series, he walked a batter and beaned another to cough up the lead (luckily he still posted the victory because of a 6 run outburst by the team) After those two poor outings, he now has a bloated ERA of 9.00!

With Blow Jay Ryan having a disgusting start to the campaign, League had an outstanding opportunity to really prove he could handle more for the club. But after the first week in the 2009 season, he might just be pitching himself out of a job...

Rios & Wells put Jays back in it!

Just as I was about to post about how Alex Rios has had a pretty poor start to the season, and how Vernon Wells has hit for average (but for no power), they break out in a huge way in the 6th against Cleveland!

Boom!

Rios tripled home Marco Scutaro, and Wells crushed a no doubt 2 run blast to left. Toronto has now cut the lead to 5-4...

Game on!

Quietly Scott Rolen has been swinging hot stick

After a weak offensive 1st season with the Jays, 3rd baseman Scott Rolen really has got his swing together. He made adjustments last year in his swing as he battled through a sore shoulder...

Thus far in the first week of the season, he has benefited from being behind the scorching hot Adam Lind in the batting order. Though he hasn't put up huge power numbers (1 home run, 2 RBI), he has an outstanding batting average, hitting at a .421 clip through 6 games...

His defense last year was simply phenomenal. There was never a doubt about the veteran's glove. Maybe, just maybe, the Jays are starting to get a great return on their investment in the Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen deal...

Somewhere J.P. Ricciardi is smiling...

Purcey both brilliant & poor in first 2 innings

Through two innings, the '04 first round pick has thrown 46 pitches already! That is simply far too many. Purcey has surrendered 1 run, but the oddity is he's whiffed 4 batters, but has also issued free passes to 3 of them...

Will update as the game goes further along. Hopefully after the Blue Jays offense comes to life...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blow Jay Ryan

That's right. That's now the nickname for the guy who is supposed to save games and provide stellar 9th inning relief pitching for the best bullpen in baseball in 2008...

Prove me wrong Blow Jay Ryan, prove me wrong big guy...

How good is Adam Lind?

With my latest post being a doom and gloom perspective of Blow Jay Ryan (I mean B.J. Ryan), let's talk Adam Lind...

He is unconscious. Incredible. Amazing. Spectacular. Scintillating...

Lind has 3 home runs, 12 RBI and is hitting a stupidly ridiculous .462!

I will refrain from coming down to earth. Now is not the time to think realistically...

Because the Blue Jays are 5-1!!!

Jays push their record to 5-1; Ryan almost blows it

Roy Halladay (2-0) put in a typical Doc outing, carving up the Indians lineup, and the Jays scored early on '08 A.L. Cy Young winner Cliff Lee (0-2) The game was all but in hand up 5-1 with 2 outs and nobody out in the 9th. And then B.J. Ryan almost threw the game away...

Ryan coughed up three runs to the Tribe before Jason Frasor whiffed Victor Martinez sealing the victory. After Ryan blew the save in the 2nd game of the season against Detroit, I gave him a free pass for one poor pitch to Brandon Inge. However, after this putrid display, Ryan is quickly establishing himself as a big liability...

We should be rejoicing. The Jays are 5-1! So why is everyone holding their breath in Toronto now? And more importantly, what do do with B.J. Ryan? Just like with Frank Thomas last year (who got off to a horrendous start, and eventually was released), how long can the ball club keep rolling out Ryan in any situation (especially a close one) without being frightened? Is it advantageous to put him on the Disabled List? Cut ties with him? Ryan and the team insists he isn't hurt. Coupling in his horrendous spring performance, Ryan has been an utter disaster...

Be scared. Very, very scared...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jays win wacky affair against Cleveland

The Jays pushed their record to an impressive 4-1 after defeating the Indians 13-7 in a extremely wacky and error filled affair...

It's hard to imagine the Jays were once down 3-0 in this contest, but after starter Scott Richmond dug them into a hole, the red hot bats (led by Adam Lind) began the comeback. And then the game was delayed for a Jays record 3 hours, 47 minutes due to rain. You'd think eventually everyone would give up and call it a day. But not for Cleveland's home opener! This was supposed to be a special game. It was, but not for the home squad...

After play was resumed, the madness began in the 7th inning. Up 5-4, Toronto was aided by a throwing error by 3rd baseman Jhonny Peralta. Alex Rios made the Tribe pay with his first 2 RBI of the season (he finished with 4), putting the Blue Birds up 7-4. In the bottom frame, a failed routine double play by Toronto gave Cleveland life, and they turned it into the runs to tie the game up. The 7th run courtesy a Brandon League hit by pitch...

The bizarre turn of events continued. With one on in the 8th, Kevin Millar slipped out of the batters box. What should have been one out and a runner on 2nd turned into Millar reaching first when Ryan Garko couldn't field a routine throw. With the bases loaded Marco Scutaro blooped an RBI single, with a second run crossing the plate on a fielding error by Shin-Soo Choo. In all, 6 runs plated for the Jays in the 8th which gave them their convincing 13-7 margin of victory...

A comedy of errors and misfortunes, couple with Toronto's scintillating hitting (Lind, Hill, Rolen & Scutaro in particular) has Toronto in a position to go 5-1 Saturday against Cliff Lee in the 2nd game against the Indians...

Who bats leadoff when Scutaro sits?

On days that manager Cito Gaston decides to give starting shortstop Marco Scutaro a day off, who will be the lead off hitter for the Blue Jays? Aaron Hill? Alex Rios? Sounds crazy, but I've heard Lyle Overbay's name mentioned. Who should it be?

Rios certainly has the most experience batting lead off for Toronto, having done so at varying times throughout the past few seasons. Ideally the ball club would want to keep him 3rd in the order because of his production, not to mention they'd want stability with Rios (He's batted all around the order the past couple years.)

The most intriguing option to me is Aaron Hill. He has looked great so far this year, not missing a beat after being on the shelf for much '08 with a concussion. Additionally, Hill is currently is hitting 2nd, so the jump shouldn't be too difficult. However, in brief stints as the lead off hitter last campaign, he struggled mightily. There obviously wasn't enough to get a full idea of what he could bring to the table, but it might scare Gaston away from going with Hill...

The notion of Overbay batting first did seem nuts at first, but the more it's considered, it might not be too bad. Though he's struggled thus far, a week into the '09 season, he had the highest on base percentage of any Jay last year, and drew the most walks. Lyle is a doubles hitter (when he's actually hitting, which doesn't seem to be much this year), and could really set the table for the heart of the Blue Jays order...

Woah, wait a minute. Did I just say Overbay batting lead off would be a good thing? Yiiiikes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Richmond to make season debut Friday vs. Indians

Starting 3-1 is a good thing. Only if you can push that to 4-1. Toronto might be in tough to do so tomorrow against Cleveland with Canadian Scott Richmond toeing the rubber. How long will the Jays hand the ball every 5 days to a 29 year old rookie if he struggles out of the gate?

Richmond went 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA last season in just 5 starts. He surrendered 3 runs in no more than 5.2 innings of work in his first four starts, and had his longest outing in his final start (6 frames) against Baltimore. Richmond did not look good in the spring, barely beating out prospect Brad Mills for the 5th and final spot in the rotation...

The Canuck is auditioning with Toronto for probably a month. If he doesn't show much after that I'd expect him to be replaced (barring injuries to other pitchers.) Unlike youngsters David Purcey and Jesse Litsch, he hasn't established himself with a truly phenomenal outing at the big league level. Richmond's ceiling is not very high which will likely prevent him from making a long term impact with the Jays organization...

Jays bats continue to sizzle to win series vs. Tigers

The Jays bats continue to be a source of power so far this season. Toronto smacked three more home runs, winning the series finale against Detroit 6-2. The great part of the early success with the bats is it seems to be a new guy or two every game stepping up for Toronto...

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind both had solo blasts, giving them a pair of dingers in the opening four games. Lind's blast to left centre was followed by a Travis Snider RBI double and a Marco Scutaro (Scutsy!) 2 run bomb to break open the contest in the 6th...

The only Jays without a hit in this one were Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. Imagine that, Toronto won without either of those two playing a factor. How many times could you say that in the past?

Up next a visit to Cleveland for a 3 game tilt with the Tribe. Scott Richmond is on the bump for Toronto. Uh oh...

Romero picks up win in Major League Debut

2005 1st round draft pick Ricky Romero had a very respectable major league debut. He went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, striking out 5 to pick up his first "W" of his career. Even more impressive is that he worked out of a jam and then settled down afterwards. He didn't look flustered out on the mound with his family in attendance...

Romero really had one poor inning (the 3rd), but managed to get out of the frame with minimal damage thanks to a phenomenal defensive play by Jose Bautista. His 5 K's were the most for a Blue Jays pitcher making his debut since Dustin McGowan fanned six in 2005, looking poised against a solid Tigers squad. Those that were quick to label Romero a "bust" might have to reserve judgment on the young lefty...

It's only one game, but the Jays hope that Romero will string together a number of quality starts in the coming weeks to quash any belief that it was a mistake selecting Romero with the 6th pick in the '05 draft...

Lyle Overbay is scuffling...

Yikes. After a 2 run double in his 1st at-bat of the season, 1st baseman Lyle Overbay has gone 0 for 11. Not one measly hit! That's awful. Sure, he's hit a few balls to the warning track that have been caught, but after a miserable spring causing him to be "demoted" to 7th in the order, he's starting to press...

If Overbay stinks up the joint against the Tigers in the series finale Thursday then it's time to really start worrying...

Is it too early to coax John Olerud out of retirement?

Litsch roughed up for first Jays loss of season

Jesse Litsch did not have his best stuff Wednesday against the Tigers, surrendering 3 home runs (tying a career high) to Miguel Cabrera (two homers), and Brandon Inge (who hit his 3 round tripper in as many games.) Is there a way to paint Litsch in a good light after this contest? Kind of...

Though he denied it was the cause of the 5-1 defeat, Litsch hasn't faced many big league hitters in quite some In spring training, the club opted to give Jesse more innings in minor league affairs because there was such a battle amongst a slew of candidates for the 4th & 5th spots in the starting rotation. It'll probably take a few more starts to really get a gauge on how Litsch will fare this season. Though he's the 2nd longest tenured member of the starting staff, it is sometimes easy to forget that at age 24, Litsch is the youngest member of the rotation...

However, it certainly was not his best outing. He did serve up three huge home runs. And they were of the 'no doubt about it' variety. At this stage of the season, however, team's are looking at the positives in each outing. Litsch's next start better be a good one or else it'll be much harder to remain optimistic...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The forgotten at bat: Adam Lind's walk in the 9th

So Adam Lind did not have a 6 RBI encore performance like he had on opening day. In fact, he didn't even pick up a hit in the 2nd game of the series. He did, however, come up large to play a key role in the Blue Jays victory...

With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Lind had a superb battle with Tigers reliever Brandon Lyon. After going ahead 2-0 in the count, he fouled a couple of pitches off to square it at 2-2. Lind continued to fight, fouling another pitch back and then drawing a ball. After spoiling the next pair of pitches, he promptly was issued a free pass after a solid 9 pitch at bat. Jose Bautista came in to pinch run for Adam, so Lind represented the winning run on the Rod Barajas Sacrifice Fly...

Little things like that shouldn't go unnoticed with Lind displaying that even if he isn't dynamite some days, he can still be a vital part of this ball club winning games...

Gaston confidence in David Purcey pays off

After pitching six solid innings against a potent Tigers offense, starter David Purcey ran into trouble in the 7th. Down 1-0, Purcey surrendered an RBI double and then with runners on 2nd and 3rd his attempt to intentionally walk Brandon Inge sailed over Rod Barajas. To make matters worse, on the same play, Purcey could have caught Marcus Thames at 2nd after the relay but he whaled it into centre field allowing a 3rd run to score...

Manager Cito Gaston could easily have yanked the young lefty right then and there. Instead, he allowed him to battle through it. Gaston showed a little confidence in Purcey, and he returned the favour by whiffing Inge and inducing a line out to end the inning. While this was a risky move by Cito, I was glad he left him in there. If, at the first sign of trouble Gaston pulled the hook, what's that telling Purcey and the rest of the team? It'd be displaying little faith in the young man's abilities, which could hinder his development...

This situation is reminiscent to a Jays/White Sox game two years ago. Dustin McGowan loaded the bases with no one out. He was left out on the mound to work through the mess he'd created and he proceeded to retire the next three batters to end the threat. That was a key moment in McGowan's career where he started to fulfill his potential. Could it have the same impact for Purcey?

Aaron Hill back with a flourish

It must have seemed like an eternity for Aaron Hill. After colliding with teammate David Eckstein his 2008 campaign abruptly came to an end in early May. Originally believed to be a mild concussion that would keep him out of the lineup for a few days turned into a week, then a month, and eventually the team shut him down for the remainder of the season..

Hill is healthy again and has returned to the Jays lineup. Down 3-1 in the 8th inning to the Tigers, he sent a Brandon Lyon offering over an outstretched Carlos Guillen for a pivotal 3 run home run erasing the deficit and giving the Jays a 4-3 lead. One can only imagine just how sweet it was for Hill to lift his team up when they were on the brink of defeat. Hill is showing no ill effects of his concussion, and if early indications are true, Hill is back in a big way. He didn't just return to the team and blend in, he came back with a flourish...

Cause for concern with B.J. Ryan?

No doubt after closer B.J. Ryan blew his first save opportunity of the season (yet still won the game) his critics will claim the Jays are in a heap of trouble with the former all-star. But what to make of Ryan coughing up the lead in the 9th inning? Is there cause for concern or is it merely a blip on the radar?

After whiffing Marcus Thames for the first out in the 9th, Brandon Inge tattooed a Ryan offering off Windows restaurant in centre field. The concern of fans at the Rogers Centre was palpable. After a miserable spring, in which Ryan got lit up and his velocity was down, the big lefty failed to close the door on the Tigers...

But let's give Ryan the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. It wasn't as if he was pounded for 6 hits and 5 runs. He made a mistake on one pitch and paid the price dearly. It's easy to correlate his struggles in spring with this outing, but that simply might not be the case (unless this becomes a trend.) On the plus side, Ryan's fastball reached the high 80's, so his loss in velocity seems to be a non-issue. Had the Jays lost this contest at Ryan's expense, it'd be a whole lot harder to reserve judgment...

Fantastic comeback victory for the Jays!

The thrilling 5-4 come from behind (then nearly blown) victory by the Blue Jays simply would not have happened these past few frustrating campaigns under former Manager John Gibbons. Everything went the Tigers way in this one, except for when it mattered. After a couple of questionable calls at 2nd base went Detroit's way, it seemed the Jays were destined to go home losers. But the team showed resiliency, not unlike what they did down the stretch in '08 after Gibbons was canned. Call it the Cito Gaston factor...

Down 3-0 in the 8th inning, veteran Scott Rolen laced his first home run of the young season, then Aaron Hill followed that up with a three run blast that just sailed over the left field wall giving the Jays a huge 4-3 lead heading to the 9th. Closer B. J. Ryan promptly blew the save in the 9th, serving up a no doubt solo shot to Brandon Inge. Instead of hanging their heads, in the bottom half of the 9th and the bases loaded, Rod Barajas' sacrifice fly lifted Toronto to a massive victory. It can't be underscored enough; even though the season is 2 games old, a big victory like this goes a long way in setting up a season...

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The team was expected to be awful. The rotation would falter. The creaky veterans would get hurt. The young kids would go through their lumps. Suddenly, just two games in, there is optimism in a city starved for a decent professional sports team...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some Blue Jays fans just don't get it.

You're at the game, and the home team is destroying the Tigers. Everyone is having fun, and then you have to be a goon and chuck stuff onto the field. Come on, what are you doing? Really?

That thought entered my mind quite a few times last night when the Jays were up big in the 8th inning and the game was delayed for nearly 10 minutes because fans started heaving beer cups, batteries, golf balls, baseballs, you name it, in the direction of the Tigers players...

The P.A. Announcer (who took a long time to address the crowd) eventually informed everyone at the Rogers Centre if this behaviour continued it would spell a forfeiture of the game for Toronto. And yet a few fans were still tossing debris onto the field. Those fans aren't true fans. They're just dumb...

Another ridiculous thing you see constantly at Jays games are people on their cell phones talking to someone a few sections down, waving frantically to get their attention! What's the deal with that? Do you realize how ridiculous you look? I don't even understand the point in doing it, because it's never as if their "friends" move to sit beside them. Mainly they distract other fans and look like a fool in the process...

And don't even get me started on how much i LOATHE the "wave" at sporting events...