Saturday, May 30, 2009

Silver lining in 9 game losing streak?

It's hard to imagine there being anything positive to take away from the worst road trip in the entire Blue Jays franchise history. The Blue Birds lost all 9 of their games, dropping from a sensational 27-14 record to 27-23. However, could there be a silver lining to take from that dastardly trip?

Unequivocally, the worst part of the losing skid was falling all three times to division rival Boston. However, it made the club realize that youngsters Brett Cecil and Robert Ray aren't quite ready for the big stage, so they were comfortable with sending the young starts back to AAA and replace them with Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero.

The 2nd part of the excursion was the awful three game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. Silver lining in that? It's 3 games that we lost to a club that's not in our league. Not a complete disaster. And that leads us to the 3rd series sweep in Baltimore. The last loss was the hardest to stomach, with the team blowing a 5 run 8th inning lead, and then a 2 run 11th inning edge, but it's not like the Orioles will be contending in the American League East, so it's not the worst team to lose to.

We should count our lucky starts the brutal stretch of losses didn't occur to the likes of Boston, New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. There would have been no words to describe how demoralizing that would have been. It's tough to take any positives from losing so many games in a row, but maybe, just maybe, Toronto got their terrible losing streak out of the way, and can now focus on getting their season back on track against the teams that they'll be in a battle with to make the playoffs.

Rolen ignites the rally; Jays FINALLY snap skid

It's about damn time! The Blue Jays finally won in their first game back home after losing all nine games on the worst road trip in franchise history. They end their skid against the team that started the miserable stretch, the Boston Red Sox.

Scott Rolen was the star of the Jays 6-3 series opening win. Twice in the contest, in the 3rd inning and again in the 5th, the crafty veteran doubled to drive in the tying run. The second time he ignited a rally, as the Jays scored five times in the 5th frame. That was all the run support Casey Janssen (1-1) needed to secure a victory.
Rolen, like many of the other Jays hitters during their recent power outage, now has 3 RBI in his last 2 games, this after having none in an astounding 13 contests.

It's only one game, but this was a huge W. The Jays ensure they are only 1 game back of the Red Sox, and can pull even with them with another win tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time to make Frasor the set-up man

The Blue Jays bullpen is a mess right now, with few pitchers worthy of being relied upon right now. A big issue, now that Scott Downs is the closer, is having a trusted set-up man work the 8th inning to gives Downs the opportunity to close a contest out. Jesse Carlson has been horrific, as has Blow Jay Ryan. Brandon League could possibly do the job well, but Cito Gaston doesn't have extreme faith in him either.

Enter Jason Frasor. Apart from one awful outing on the road trip, Frasor has enjoyed a renaissance season. Frasor is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.41, which is skewed because of the aforementioned bad game in Atlanta, where he gave up 4 runs. Having been the closer in the 2004 season, Frasor is used to working late in ball games, and he consistently is getting the job done this year. Why not see if he can get the job done? There's nothing to lose (apart from more games with the current set-up guys at the helm.)

Now is not the time to be experimenting in trying to let Carlson, Ryan etc. work through their problems in tight games. The Jays are still in contention in the A.L. East, and if they blow games against Boston in this upcoming series, it could crush our chances immensely of making it back to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.

Penciling Frasor in as the set-up hurler gives us the best chance to end that nasty drought.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where was Brandon League?

The most curious element of the Jays demoralizing loss Wednesday in Baltimore was the fact that Brandon League was not in the ball game trying to close things down for the Blue Jays.

In the 11th inning, with the Jays up two, Manager Cito Gaston brought in B.J. Ryan, who gave up a lead-off single and then induced a fly out. Instead of sticking with the club's former closer (that was a bit suspect, but shouldn't be questioned considering how bad Ryan has been) the Jays skipper yanked him out in favour of the relatively inexperienced Brian Wolfe. Really? Wolfe over League?

Is League really that far down on the depth chart now? I can't imagine so. He had a rough start to the year, but has pitched fairly well as of late, and he certainly is miles better than Wolfe. Why didn't Gaston put him in the game? I wonder if he is nursing an injury or illness. At least that's the only plausible explanation.

Wolfe ended up giving up an RBI single followed by a walk off 3 run homer to rookie Nolan Reimold. Game over. Jays swept again. Losing streak hits 9.

Where the heck was League when all this was going down?

Aaron Hill's heroics not lost upon us

Though he didn't ultimately end up being the hero to halt the Jays 8 game losing skid, props must be given to Aaron Hill for coming through in a clutch situation in extra innings Wednesday in Baltimore. The Jays 2nd basemen has had a season's worth worth of big hits that the likes of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios will have already this year.

After the brutal Jays bullpen squandered a 5 run lead, forcing the game into extra innings, Hill lifted a Danys Baez offering over the left field wall for, at the time, a huge 2 run blast to give the Blue Birds the lead in the 11th inning. Unfortunately, his efforts went unrewarded, because the Jays gas can 'pen lost in the bottom of the inning. The timely hitting by Hill should not be lost upon us.

Hill is currently in 3rd place in All-Star balloting amongst American League 2nd basemen (behind Ian Kinsler of Texas and Dustin Pedroia of Boston.) He is currently riding an 11 game hitting streak, and has put up gaudy numbers so far this season; .344 average, 12 home runs, 37 RBI and 32 runs scored. If he keeps up his tear, along with his propensity to get the big hit, he should be making his first All-Star appearance July in St. Louis.

Carlson securing Halladay's ticket out of town

Jesse Carlson is single handily becoming the man that will will be booking Roy Halladay's ticket out of Toronto. Could you blame Doc for wanting to leave after the headaches this rubber armed Carlson has caused?

Carlson will be the most despised Blue Jay of all time, knowing he shoulders the burden for Halladay's exit after royally screwing him over all the time. Not only he did allow 5 runs in the 8th to piss away Halladay's attempt at his league leading 9th win against Baltimore Wednesday, but he also was the big loser in Halladay's previous start in Atlanta, where he gave up the winning run.

Don't forget he surrendered the eventual game, and series winning home run to Hideki Matsui and the Yankees, and a game tying 2 run shot he served up on a platter to Jim Thome in the most recent home stand.

After taking 6 seasons to finally break into the Major League's, and then performing well last season, the league has caught up to him because he's a meat ball fanatic, serving up healthy doses of crap sandwiches.

Put simply, Carlson is junk. And he needs to leave. NOW!

Jays bullpen screws over Halladay

Roy Halladay was well on his way to his Major League Baseball leading 9th win against the Orioles until the Jays bullpen gagged all over themselves, which is quickly throwing away a solid season.

Doc handed a 5 run lead over to his bullpen after 7 innings. Easy stuff, game over right? WRONG. The porous bullpen threw up all over themselves once again, surrendering all five runs the Orioles needed to tie up the contest. How this is even possible is beyond me.

Manager Cito Gaston decided against sending Halladay back out for the 8th inning with his pitch count over 100. It was a smart decision, because the club can't afford to overwork Doc. It's just too bad everyone in the bullpen has been garbage as of late.

Halladay's contract is over after next season, and he has said he wants to see what direction the club is headed before he commits to anything long term. Understandably, the guy wants to win a championship, or at least have a good shot at even making the playoffs. With colossal choke jobs like this one, it sure will make him think twice about re-upping with the Blue Jays.

What a disgusting loss, and an even more pathetic 9 game losing streak.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bring back Gregg Zaun!!

With the Blue Jays losing their past seven contests, it has become incredibly obvious why the club has been awful! We don't have Gregg Zaun on the team. If we did, he'd lift us to a level never seen before, providing that classic veteran leadership and locker room presence. Therefore, I'm officially starting the BRING BACK GREGG ZAUN campaign.

Of course, he would be able to make sure all of our pitchers were at their best. After all, he should be in hall of fame for his ability to "call a good game" as he always did in his 5 year tenure in Toronto. Don't get me started on how amazing he is at throwing runners out. Wow!

As evidence by his game winning RBI single today in Baltimore, we could really use Zaun and his ability to be a "professional hitter" at the plate. You know, his stout .215 batting average is evidence enough that he's the new age Sultan of Swat. If we had Zaunbie back in a Blue Jay uniform, he'd be out there bashing balls into another stratosphere, propelling us to the greatest heights in baseball history!!!

BRING BACK GREGG ZAUN. He'd be our saviour. Our rock. Our everything.

Blue Jays bats need to WAKE UP

The Blue Jays hitting this past week has been so horrendous it is beyond comprehension. We could have won every game during this demoralizing 7 game losing skid had we had even a glimmer of clutch hitting.

How many times must we rely on the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind to come through with huge hits? Lind has run into his first rough patch, going 3 for his last 30, with no RBI in his last 8 games. It's impossible to put blame on him, because he's scorched the ball all season. Hey Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Lyle Overbay, how about picking the team up? This is ridiculous.

In the last 7 contests, Toronto's problem hasn't been putting runners on base, but it's the ice cold hitting when there are runners in scoring position. In that span, the club has combined to hit .138 (8-for-58) with ducks on the pond, including a 1 for 9 mark Tuesday in the opener against Baltimore.

If the Jays are to get back to their winning ways and compete in the A.L. East, they need to wake the hell up, now!

Vernon Wells finally gets an RBI!

It took 18 LOOOOOOOOONG games, but Vernon Wells FINALLY got an RBI Monday against the Orioles. Will he finally start rounding in to form? Or is there merely an aberration? He still has been pathetic, but has been decent in the past two games.

I think we can all safely presume he will go on a tear and reach MVP status, that much is obvious. You can't deny that! V-Dub is the man!

Or not.

Should Overbay have made that catch?

I've been wondering if I should be chastising Lyle Overbay for the Jays loss yesterday after he failed to make a grab on a sharp lined ball to first base.

With the game tied at 2 and the bases loaded in the 7th, pinch hitter Chipper Jones ripped one at the direction of Overbay. It was a catchable ball, though it was sizzled towards him. A run scored, and then the Braves onslaught was on. They would score 6 more in the inning and to eventually pound Toronto.

Overbay was not charged with an error on the play, but the ball could have been grabbed, and he likely could have doubled up the runner to change the complexion of the game. Overbay is a fantastic fielding first basemen, and hasn't made an error all season, so I'll let him slide on this one.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jason Frasor implodes

Holy crap Jason Frasor looked like a gargantuan buffoon today against Atlanta. The guy got smashed around like I smash Wendy's baconators. Really? You are this bad? Actually, the more appropriate question should be, were you ACTUALLY that good this year?

A lot of the blame falls on Shawn Camp's shoulders, but Frasor didn't help his cause when he inherited the bases loaded from the awful Jays reliever. He proceeded to allow an RBI single to Chipper Jones, a ground rule double that scored 2 runs, a sac fly, and a 3 run homer.

So Frasor allowed three inherited runs to score (that were charged to Camp), then gave up 4 more of his own. What a travesty. That's brutal. Has the axe fallen on Frasor, would suddenly looked competent this year?

The diminutive righty allowed just 1 run in 16 innings for a 0.56 ERA. So I'm willing to give you a break for one disgusting day Frasor, but if you continue to pitch with a rubber arm like this, you will feel my wrath!

Shawn Camp is LUGGAGE!

Shawn Camp is complete garbage. He is, without a doubt, the biggest loser in the Blue Jays bullpen. That's right, he's even worse than Blow Jay Ryan. And if you are worse than Ryan, then you are pathetic.

In a 2-2 game, Camp came into the game in the 7th and retired the first batter. Then, he allowed two hits and a walk before being yanked. Sure, Jason Frasor didn't help him by surrendering runs to all three men he inherited on base. But still, can Camp show any level of competence?

Consider this: In his last 9.1 innings of work, spanning seven contests, Camp has given up 10 runs. TEN....FREAKING....RUNS....

You are garbage Camp. Get off the team. JP Ricciardi, call up Jeremy Accardo to replace this pile of goo!

Wells contributes on base paths

Obviously, we all despise Vernon Wells for being brutal in the clutch. But he did something against the Braves today that really impressed me. No, I'm not drunk at 2 in the afternoon, I really am saying he did something well (for a change)

First of all, it's quite amazing he was actually on base (no small feat, as he was 0 for 9 to start this series against Atlanta) but I digress. With the Jays down 2-0 in the 4th inning, and the club struggling mightily to score runs in the past five contests, Wells singled to lead off the frame. Then, Wells stole 2nd base, and on the following pitch, got a great jump for third and swiped that bag also, marking the 8th stolen base he's achieved in 8 attempts this year. Wells wound up scoring on a ground out by Jose Bautista to cut the Braves lead in half.

We obviously expect huge numbers from Vernon, especially because he's in the midst of a 7-year, $126 million dollar contract. Playing a little small is still impressive, particularly with the team needing to squeeze out any runs they can.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blow Jay Ryan still sucks

Blow Jay Ryan is still completely awful, even in his new role with the ball club. He was stripped of his closing duties after the shoulder "injury", so now the team is trying to find a defined role for him.

How about the role of team gas can? With the Jays down 3-2 in the 7th inning, Ryan served up a solo home run to Kelly Johnson. That run came back to haunt the Jays, because Toronto's rally in the 9th inning fell one run short. They were not able to bring across the tying run, failing to cash in with a bases loaded opportunity and just one out.

Blow Jay Ryan sucks. The mysterious "injury" he suffered in April, was, in my view, a complete fabrication. The team just wanted him to have some time off because he is awful. After tonight, the team gas can has outdone himself, proving that he still is a complete waste of space.

Easy prediction; Rios grounds into double play

I have to be considered a total genius after tonight's ball game in Atlanta. With the Jays down 4-2 in the 8th inning, and Aaron Hill on first base, the "big" hitter in Toronto's lineup came up to the dish, representing the tying run.

Why am I a genius? Because I predicted that Alex Rios would end the inning by grounding into a double play off of Braves reliever Peter Moylan (who?????????) Of course I was correct, the gigantic bum Rios did just that.

Who would have predicted that? I mean, Rios is an absolute stud. The guy is the greatest clutch hitter in major league baseball history. He's had so many game winning hits that you can't remember them all. Between him and Vernon Wells (the original Mr. Awesome) you have to admire the resolve and big time hitting they consistently produce.

Rios and Wells could have tied the ball game last night in the 9th, with the Jays down a run. They didn't. Tonight, they continued to be absolute crap. Good job.

It's saying something when lead-off hitter Marco Scutaro has more RBI then those two piles of goo. They're awful.

Janssen solid in return

In his first start since the 2006 season, Casey Janssen looked pretty solid against the Braves. He went 6 innings, giving up just three runs. Unfortunately, because the Blue Jays offense is awful right now, he is currently in line to lose the ball game.

The only thing that Janssen didn't do well was hold a lead he was given in the 3rd inning. As I've mentioned before, when a pitcher is given a lead and then coughs that up the following inning, that totally demoralizes a ball club. Janssen surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom of the 3rd frame, and then gave up an additional run in the 4th.

The batter that gave Janssen the biggest fit was Braves starter Derek Lowe! He had two hits off Janssen, getting the rally started in the 3rd (scoring a run), then hitting the go ahead RBI single in the 4th.

Overall, however, the Jays have to be happy with Janssen in his return. Had his offense been anything other then pathetic, he might have won his first game back.

Janssen returns tonight for first time since '07

It has seemed like an eternity since Casey Janssen last pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays. In fact, it has been. Janssen hasn't pitched in a regular season game in over 600 days, and has not started a game since way back in 2006. Janssen returns to the starting rotation tonight against the Atlanta Braves.

It's been a long road back from injury for the 27 year old. In spring 2008, he suffered a torn labrum, missing the entire campaign. Just when he was destined to break camp and head north this year, he felt tightness in his back below his shoulder, causing another set back. In five minor league starts since rehab, he has given up just 2 runs in 23 and 2/3 innings, for a sensational ERA of 0.76.

The timing couldn't be better for his return. He did a very good job as a rookie starter in 2006 before tailing off a bit toward the end of the season, and was phenomenal as Toronto's set-up man in 2007, so to Janssen back in the fold will be a welcome addition for an already stout pitching staff.

Pinch hitting for Roy Halladay backfires

Roy Halladay was his typical dominant self against the Braves last night, carving up the Atlanta order through 7 innings without giving up a single run. He could have lasted longer, but was pinch hit for in the top of the 8th inning because the Jays had a runner in scoring position and were looking to break the 0-0 deadlock. The move backfired, as recent call-up Joe Inglett, pinch hitting for Halladay, struck out. Jesse Carlson came in to pitch in the bottom of the frame, and screwed over the Jays once again, giving up the lone run the Braves needed.

It's unbelievable that Halladay doesn't get the win because we made Kenshin Kawakami look like Cy Young! Coming into the game he was 2-5 with an 5.73 ERA, and hadn't lasted longer then 6 innings in his major league career. Of course, he managed to stifle our ice cold bats and came out with the victory. Incredibly, with Doc not factoring into the win or loss, that ended a string of 26 starts in which he had posted a decision, 20 of which were W's.

Should Cito Gaston pinch hit for Halladay? Ya, it was the right thing to do, because we were going for the win. Hindsight is 20-20, but man does it sting now knowing we lost because of it. Alex Rios and Vernon Wells had a chance to tie the game with a base hit in the 9th, but they failed, of course.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Toronto Blue Jays Prospect: J.P. Arencibia

After a slow start to his season with the Las Vegas 51's, the Blue Jays "catcher of the future" J.P. Arencibia is tearing the cover off the baseball in his last 10 contests, looking very impressive as he adjusts to playing at the AAA level.

Arencibia has 5 home runs and 14 RBI in his last 10 games, putting together a scorching .389 average in just 36 at bats. On the campaign, he has 7 dingers and 26 RBI. Always lauded for his offensive prowess, Arencibia has improved on his once perceived weakness, his defense. It's still a work in progress, however, as he has 7 errors this season.

Originally selected 21st overall in the 2007 draft out of Tennessee, the 23 year old backstopper has elevated in the Jays system. With Raul Chavez now the back-up catcher for the Jays (after Michael Barrett went down in April with a shoulder injury), it might just take one injury to either himself or incumbent Rod Barajas for the organization to give a look to their #1 prospect behind the plate.

Axe falls on Cecil, Snider, Ray; three called up

The Toronto Blue Jays made a flurry of roster moves following their embarrassing three game sweep of the Red Sox, sending down two pitchers and their top hitting prospect.

As reported last night, Snider is packing his bags for AAA Las Vegas after struggling mightily the past couple of months. With three upcoming series in National League ball parks, the club has brought up utility man Joe Inglett, and they'll benefit from his versatility.

Brett Cecil and Robert Ray were shaky in their starts at Fenway Park, so they were optioned down to AAA to make room for Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero. Janssen has not pitched in Toronto since 2007, but is ready to jump back into the rotation, posting a minuscule 0.76 ERA in 5 minor league starts.

Romero will be back Monday and will try to build on his impressive start to his major league career. Before going down with his oblique injury, he posted a 2-0 record and a 1.71 ERA. He had a rather rough 3 starts in the minors since returning from injury, posting a 6.91 ERA.

These are good moves that the Jays made. The rotation is more steady, and Inglett provides a lot of options for the ball club, particularly his ability to bat lead-off and play multiple positions.

Ray knocked around in Boston; time for a demotion?

The Blue Jays were swept at Fenway park, losing the finale 5-1 as Robert Ray allowed 5 runs in 4.1 innings of work. The rookie has looked fairly decent in four starts in his big league career, but appeared shaky in Boston. Unfortunately, the Toronto bats could not support him, pushing his record to 1-2 on the campaign.

It's time to send Ray back down to AAA. He has been decent in four starts, particularly his last outing against the White Sox, where he didn't allow an earned run in 8 innings of work, but he doesn't have great "stuff." With so many young pitchers pushing to get back into the rotation, it would benefit the Jays to have a more major league ready pitcher in the starting five.

The two likely candidates are Casey Janssen and Rickey Romero. The lefty Romero was brilliant in his first 3 starts of his career, going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA. However, since an oblique injury sent him to the disabled list, his results in the minor leagues since returning have been less than inspiring, with a 6.91 in three starts. Janssen, on the other hand, has an E.R.A. of 0.76 in 5 games between single A Dunedin and AA New Hampshire, including 4 starts. There's no way the organization can afford to let him rot in the minor leagues much longer. Janssen should be the guy replacing Ray in the starting rotation.

Snider sent down; Inglett to return?

As expected, the Toronto Blue Jays have sent struggling left fielder Travis Snider down to AAA Las Vegas to work on his stroke at the plate. After an sizzling start to the season, the Jays top prospect fell on hard times and wasn't able to work out of his funk.

Since Snider stroked a pair of home runs in Minnesota April 13th, he has zero dingers and just 3 RBI, seeing average drop from .316 to .242. Snider will be a cornerstone of this franchise for years to come, and this demotion shouldn't be treated as a question of his skills. However, Snider was rushed to the big leagues, so it's no wonder he struggled at the dish. It's only a matter of time until he's back with the Jays.

Now that Snider is gone, the question remains, who will replace him? I discussed yesterday that his best replacement would be Joe Inglett, but mentioned that he was on the disabled list. As fortune has it, Inglett was activated from the D.L. last night and played in a game for Las Vegas. It's almost a formality for Inglett to return to Toronto, especially with his versatility in interleague play.

My boy Russ Adams could be a surprise call up, but he's on the disabled list, so a return to Toronto seems unlikely, at least for now. By tomorrow afternoon, the odds on favourite to re-join the big club is Inglett.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Toronto Blue Jays prospect: Brian Dopirak

The Toronto Blue Jays took a chance on 2002 2nd round draft pick Brian Dopirak last season, signing him after the Chicago Cubs released him in March of 2008. Dopirak is considered a late bloomer at age 25, but he's quickly ascending in the Jays organizational ladder and might just be knocking on the door to break into the big leagues in the next couple of years.

After Toronto signed the former Cubs minor league player of the year, they sent him to Single A Class Dunedin, where he raked big time, so much so that he was promoted to AA before the end of the campaign. In 106 games with Dunedin, Dopirak clubbed 27 home runs and added 88 RBI's before forcing the organizations hand in promoting him. This year, playing with the New Hampshire Fisher-Cats in AA, he's continued to scorch the ball, blasting 8 home runs and picking up 33 RBI in 40 games.

Two weeks ago, Dopirak had a monster game, crushing 2 home runs and piling up 8 RBI, finishing only a single short of the cycle. The big outing was good enough to earn the 1st basemen the Eastern League Player of the Week award. An elevation to AAA Las Vegas could be in the offing in the coming months, and if he continues to peak, Dopirak could find himself slipping his way into a Blue Jays uniform.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Should Snider be sent down to the minors?

The debate over what the Blue Jays should do with scuffling prospect Travis Snider is beginning to simmer. Should they keep him with the club, allowing him to hit 9th in the order and struggle to make contact, or should he be sent down to AAA in order to get his confidence at the plate back?

With Toronto heading to Atlanta for interleague play Thursday, and having a pair of series mid-June in National League ball parks in Philadelphia and Washington, it might not be a bad idea to send him down to get more at-bats, because he'll make way for Adam Lind in left field in N.L. parks (where there's no Designated Hitter.) Lind has been so productive so far that he has to be in the lineup every day, so Snider would be bumped to the bench.

Snider had a very solid debut after a September call-up last season, and absolutely tore the cover off the ball in spring training this year. He broke camp with the big club and impressed in the early going with 3 home runs in the first 6 contests. It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Jays best prospect since, though he is still hitting .242, so it's not as if he's been totally awful this season.

There's not a whole lot of other quality options (Joe Inglett would be, but he's currently on the disabled list) or prospects ready to make the jump north of the border, so that could force Toronto's hand into keeping Snider at the major league level for the foreseeable future.

Cecil's rough 5th inning sinks Jays

After such a brilliant start to his major league career, it was only a matter of time that Jays rookie pitcher Brett Cecil would run into a rough patch. In his first three starts with the big club, Cecil posted a 2-0 record with a sterling 1.80 ERA. After this one, his ERA shot up to 4.38 after the surging Boston Red Sox put the beat down on the rook.

Cecil looked decent through the first 4 frames, but ran into a heap of trouble in the 5th. Down 2-0 heading into the 5th inning, the lanky lefty served up David Ortiz's first home run of the year, then proceeded to get smashed around for 3 more long balls (5 dingers in total in the contest) sending to the showers early. The Sox cruised from there, and have the opportunity to sweep away the Jays tomorrow night.

The Jays are now 1-4 in the 5 games against the Yankees and Beantown this season. Is there cause for concern? Maybe. But Toronto is still 1 1/2 games up in the A.L. East, so there's no need to panic just yet. Cecil had a rough inning, but has proven to be remarkable in his three previous outings. The Jays didn't just forget how to win ball games, and Cecil didn't complete forget how to pitch.

Rios & Wells fail again

I understand that both Alex Rios and Vernon Wells aren't as awful as myself, and plenty other Blue Jays make them out to be, but Tuesday in the much hyped affair against the Red Sox, their inability to come up huge on the big stage reared its ugly head once again.

Down one run in the 8th inning, and with 2 men aboard and just one out, Rios and Wells hit weak fly balls to end any hopes of a stirring comeback. No surprise really, it's pretty much what we've all come to expect!

Having said that, it's more difficult to rip Rios for this one, given how he's swung the bat well recently (hitting the game winning RBI Monday against Chicago), but how often does he do that against a team within the vaunted A.L. East? Can I give him a free pass for this one? Maybe.

There are no excuses for Wells, the guy is garbage (Saturday's strong outing appears to be a mere blip on the radar.) He is so awful, and the worst part is, everyone knows it. There is not a single Jays fan that was totally confident he'd pull through in that at bat. It's a little bit overstated how hideous a player he is, with the expectation that V-Dub has to hit a grand slam every at bat, even with no one on base, but Wells, dude, come on!

Chalk it up! Our two "big hitters" in the heart of the order continue to display no heart at all.

Scott Rolen: the defensive wizard

Scott Rolen is an absolute marvel to watch at 3rd base for the Blue Jays. It's easy to see why the guy has been a 7-time gold glove winner, because he consistently is a phenomenal defender, year in and year out.

His majestic glove was on full display Monday against the White Sox. In the 3rd inning, he ranged to his right to pick up a sharply hit ball off the bat of Josh Fields, then threw it from his knees to complete rob Fields of extra bases. It was one of those plays that made you simply say wow. We come to expect these types of plays from Rolen, reacting at times like it's nothing out of the ordinary. The truth is, his leather larceny is otherworldly.

The added bonus this season is that he is feeling a lot healthier, and subsequently contributing well offensively. The power numbers aren't (and won't) be what they used to be, but Rolen has been solid at the dish, hitting at a .311 clip with 3 home runs and 15 RBI's.

I was not a fan of the Blue Jays/Cardinals swap of Rolen/Troy Glaus deal when it was made two years ago, but with the creaky Glaus breaking down, and with Rolen swinging a decent stick to go along with his customary exceptional defense, it's looking more and more that the Jays plucked a gem away from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Richmond bounces back

In what might be characterized as his most impressive outing of the season, particularly because it followed his worst start of the year, Scott Richmond bounced back in a big way Monday against the White Sox.

Had the 29-year old rookie had a poor showing following his 5 run in 1 1/2 inning debacle against the Yankees, he likely would have been on the hot seat with a number of pitchers in the minor leagues nipping at his heels. The righty went 7 strong innings without giving up a run, whiffing 7 batters and allowing just 5 hits. He left with a 2 run lead, but did not factor into the decision after Jesse Carlson coughed up the lead in the 8th.

The great start put to rest (for now) suggestions that his AL Rookie of the Month award in April was merely a mirage, where he was bound to fall back down to earth eventually. He better not get too comfortable, however, because the likes of Casey Janssen, Ricky Romero, David Purcey, Brad Mills, Fabio Castro, Jesse Litsch and others are awaiting their turn to be the next pitcher to turn heads north of the border.

And that's precisely what is so great about the situation with the pitching staff. They know the next start could be their last, so they are preparing, and giving their all each and every start.

Time to worry about Jesse Carlson?

It's easy to jump to conclusions pretty quickly about relievers, especially when they've had a couple of bad outings, but should we be worried about the effectiveness of Jesse Carlson?

Monday marked the 2nd straight sour outing in a tight ball game by the diminutive lefty. Though he eventually wound up with the win, Carlson surrendered a 2-run shot to Jim Thome in the top of the 8th, erasing a 2 run edge. The Jays scored one in the bottom half of the frame ro let him off the hook and award him a victory. On Thursday, it was Carlson's poor pitch to Hideki Matsui in the 8th inning that led to a series clinching solo home run fpr the Yankees. He's also had a rough outing against Cleveland in early May, and was saddled with the extra innings loss mid-April to the Twins.

The 28-year old Carlson took a long trip to the major leagues, and has been mostly quite productive since being called up in early 2008. The question is, however, has the league caught up to him? Will he no longer be an effective relief pitcher in the Blue Jays bullpen?

Scutaro doesn't miss any action after injury

I must admit, when Marco Scutaro was hit in the chest by a ball on his way to stealing 3rd base, which made him squirm in pain, my heart stopped. Based on his reaction, it seemed like he was toast, possibly with an injury that could be quite serious. Fortunately, it appears to have been just a minor ailment, and he made it back into the lineup today against Chicago.

Scutaro has been fantastic this year, exceeding expectations both with the bat and in the field. The question is, does anyone not love Scutaro? It seems impossible. In two seasons in Toronto, his give it his all style of play has endeared him to us all.

I'll re-open the question; if Scutaro misses time this year, who replaces him at the top of the order? Joe Inglett, currently playing in AAA Las Vegas and the Jays lead-off hitter for a good chunk of '08? He'd be a good option, but would he start at short? Does Alex Rios slide up to top of the order? What about experimenting with Johnny Mac at the top of the order? How about Lyle Overbay? My money would be on Jose Bautista moving up to lead the charge, because he has the club's best on base percentage and has moved around in the lineup all season. It's a tough call, one that Manager Cito Gaston doesn't want to make (which is why I'm convinced McDonald has just one start this year, though it was at 2nd base in place of Aaron Hill)

I'd rather not know the answers to these questions, because it would mean our boy Marco Scutaro is healthy and in the lineup the entire season. We all know he's a critical piece to this Blue Jays squad!

Monday, May 18, 2009

White Sox fail to bury Halladay early

Roy Halladay did not have his best stuff in the first inning Sunday against the White Sox. He allowed 3 hits and made an error which proved costly. The ChiSox took advantage, scoring a pair of runs to lift themselves to an early 2 run cushion. However, a poor base running decision by Jermaine Dye killed the early rally, and Doc Halladay dominated in typical fashion from there.

Up 2-0, with runners on 1st and 2nd, Dye attempted to swipe 3rd base. He failed, marking the first out of the inning. You can't make the first out of an inning at 3rd! It was at that moment where Chicago lost their early mojo, and three batters later, Doc navigated his way out of a tough start to the contest.

Against a brilliant pitcher like Halladay it's imperative bury him early to have any level of success, because he'll bear down and burn you later. After the first frame, Halladay allowed just 3 hits against no runs in the following six innings, striking out 7 more batters.

After digging themselves an early hole, the Blue Jays offense came to life, scoring 8 runs to lift Halladay to his Major League leading 8th victory. Vintage Doc. Just when he appears vulnerable, he bounces back to dominate.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Give Vernon Wells credit (for once)

It almost seems sacrilegious to be giving Vernon Wells his due because he's usually a waste of space run producer, but in the Blue Jays 2-1 victory over the White Sox Saturday, you have to tip your hat to V-Dub for playing a critical role in leading the charge back.

Down 1-0 in the 6th inning, with rookie Robert Ray having a career day, but still in position to be the tough luck loser, Wells singled, then stole 2nd base to get into scoring position. However, his efforts were unrewarded when Adam Lind promptly grounded out and Jose Bautista struck out to end the threat. Undeterred, in the 8th frame, the Jays Centre Fielder poked had another base rap, then subsequently swiped 2nd again. In this instance he was rewarded for his efforts. Adam Lind smacked a game tying double, and then later scored the winning run to cap the mini comeback.

It's easy to criticize Vernon for his paltry .180 batting average with runners in scoring position, or his penchant for putting up big numbers when the game is out of hand but give Wells credit in this one. He did the little things to ensure a critical victory for his club.

Wow, the name Vernon Wells and the word credit in the same sentence. Wow.

Robert pitching his way onto the Jays "Ray"dar

The Toronto Blue Jays keep churning out solid young pitchers, and that was not more apparent then today, when rookie Robert Ray produced his best outing of his brief major league career.

Ray was originally penciled in to the starting rotation to bridge the gap until Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen and Jesse Litsch could return from injury. Instead, Ray, who has just 1 career start in AAA, has certainly put himself squarely on the team's radar following a superb outing Saturday against the White Sox. The big righty was brilliant, working a career high 8 strong innings without allowing an earned run, striking out 3 and surrendering just 3 hits. He used all sides of the plate and had great movement on his pitches, keeping the White Sox hitters off balance.

Down 1-0 in the 8th, The Jays lifted Ray to his first victory of his career with some timely hitting. Adam Lind drove in Vernon Wells with a double to square the contest, and Jose Bautista followed, driving in the the eventual winning run.

Cecil with another solid performance

Brett Cecil has done a great job since being promoted to the Blue Jays rotation. Friday's start against the White Sox was no different, as the tall lefty picked up his second win of the campaign, working 6 solid innings, allowing just three runs. The Jays offense picked up the rookie, scoring 8 runs in the first 4 innings, and Cecil was able to cruise from there, but had it not been for his strong poise, it could have been a lot tighter.

Up 8-1 in the 6th inning, the 2007 first round pick ran into some trouble. He walked Carlos Quentin, then served up a meatball 2 run bomb to Jermaine Dye. At that point, Chicago was within 5, and ready to pounce on the rookie. The would have gotten a lot tighter around the collar had he not bared down, striking out Paul Konerko (who had homered off him earlier), and inducing a ground out to A.J. Pierzynski.

This performance will make it that much more tougher for the club to send him back down to AAA. He is stating his claim to one of the spots in the rotation every start, displaying whey he's the top pitching prospect in the Jays system.

Ryan pitches well in first game back

I admit it, after B.J. Ryan walked the first batter in the 9th inning, there was a pit in my stomach. It was natural to assume he was going to have another brutal contest. But strangely, in his first major league game action since being summoned from the disabled list, Ryan looked pretty good in this one.

The Jays former stopper, working in a non save situation in the 9th frame, proceeded to strike out Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, before inducing a fly out to Alexei Ramirez to put the finishing touches on a series opening 8-3 victory over the White Sox.

With several pitchers going down this season, there has been much talk of what the team will be like when they get healthy. Not so surprisingly, due to the fact that Ryan was garbage in six appearances in April, there has been no discussion about how the bullpen could improve having him back. Ryan won't be the closer for the time being, instead handing those duties to Scott Downs, but inserting a veteran like Ryan into an already solid 'pen can only benefit the squad.

His outing Friday against the White Sox hopefully signals the return to his former self, or at least a semblance of it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Johnny Mac makes his first start!

How awesome was it to see John McDonald patrolling the infield against the Yankees last night? Johnny Mac manned 2nd base to allow Aaron Hill a relatively stress free game (Hill slid into the DH spot.) This season, watching McDonald run onto the field at the beginning of a contest has been non-existent, remarkably Thursday marked his first start in 37 games this campaign.

Even though you'd expect the guy to be a little bit rusty, especially because he wasn't in his customary spot at shortstop, he was in fine form, making several nice plays. He even added a single at the dish.

How incredible was it to have McDonald in the starting lineup? Everyone loves Johnny Mac! Let's hope we are treated to more in the coming weeks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Richmond/Frasor statistical anomaly

At the start of the season, if you were told by May 14th that Scott Richmond and Jason Frasor would have the same amount of wins, would you feel queasy? Obviously we all would have, assuming they likely had 0 wins combined with a bloated 8.75 ERA of some sorts.

Despite Richmond's awful outing against the Yankees (we can't be too quick to say he's finished already), both he and Frasor have posted 4 wins each! Who would ever have predicted that? Frasor has been an extremely reliable reliever in the bullpen, and Richmond was the American League rookie in the Month of April.

Even if the league has caught up to Richmond, and his first month of the year was a total mirage, we got one good month more than expected from the Canadian, right?

Aaron Hill injured?

For all our sake please tell us tomorrow that Aaron Hill won't miss any time after fouling a pitch off his shin Wednesday night. The Jays took him out for precautionary reasons a couple of innings after the incident, and from looking at the replays, it would seem that he'd be fine.

Still, how can you not hold your breath after this? Especially with Hill on fire to start the campaign. In 36 games, Hill has 9 home runs to go along with 30 RBI's, and is hitting a scorching .352.

There's no way he's going to miss any time, right? If he's gone, we're losing our MVP in the batting order. Joe Inglett would be a decent replacement, but he can't put up near the same numbers as Hill has, or ever will.

Let's hope our starting 2nd basemen will be back in the lineup for the rubber match of this three game tilt against the Yankees. We need him, big time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blow Jay Ryan to return; not as closer

The impending return of closer B.J. Ryan could occur on this current home stand, but there are very few people that are meeting it with optimism. In fact, most would just assume keep him off the ball club. Before being shelved with tightness in his shoulder, the big lefty blew two saves in four chances, pretty much hurting the team before he went to the disabled list (I still think his "injury" was just the team's excuse to give him a break until he worked out his mechanical issues.)

J.P. Ricciardi has gone on record as saying Scott Downs will remain in his current role as the closer when Ryan returns. It's hard to argue with Downs' success, as he's locked down all three save situations since being handed the job. Though the club has said all the right things about B.J., particularly how he's a great teammate and will accept his demotion of sorts, I have to wonder if this will become a problem in the clubhouse. From what I gather, it won't be, but if Downs blows a couple of saves, yet still maintains the job as the stopper, there could be some controversy brewing.

Just what will be Ryan's role in the bullpen? Will he be the setup guy? Used sparingly in the 7th inning? I can't see him being a long reliever, especially with his jello arm the last couple of seasons. I'd imagine they will start him off slowly, perhaps in the 7th frame, and then see if he can be trusted in the setup role over time.

In three rehab assignments, Ryan has performed well, allowing one run and throwing two strikeouts in three innings of work with the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Halladay takes down Burnett!

In the epic battle between Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, the Jays came out on top with a fantastic victory! The hype leading up to the game certainly was justified, as the Rogers Centre was buzzing throughout the evening. This victory was probably the most important of the season, at least in the court of public opinion, since many fans still aren't believing that this Jays squad is for real.

Halladay made quick work of the Yankees, allowing just 5 hits and one run while throwing his first complete game of the season. For much of the contest, he was unhittable. Burnett flinched first in the battle of wills. The Jays got to him in the 4th inning, scoring 3 runs, and the Doc took it from there, securing his 7th win of the campaign.

It's only May, and the Yankees are not playing their best baseball, but this victory is a huge boon to the ball club. If Toronto had lost this game, with Halladay on the hill no less, there would have been whispers and suggestions that the great start to the season was a mirage.!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Burnett vs. Halladay!

The most anticipated contest of the Blue Jays season kicks off in just over 4 hours time with A.J. Burnett returning to the Rogers Centre to square off against Roy Halladay! This game is massive, with considerable bad blood between Burnett and the city of Toronto.

Who isn't going to to this game? Burnett is most definitely going to get booed for bolting after opting out of his contract to cash in on the open market. Watching his mentor Halladay opposing him is sure to make this battle even more phenomenal.

Of all the games I've already been to this year, it just so happens I have to miss this one due to work. It's killing me! I'd trade a few of the brutal pitching battles I've seen already just to go to this epic game, but it's not going to happen.

The other subplot in the series is that it marks the first "real test" the Jays have faced to date (at least that's what the doubters say.) Look, you don't win 22 of your first 34 games without being very good. Having said that, apparently squaring off against a team 1 game below .500 like the Yankees will prove we are for real or a complete fraud.

Oh ya, did I mention it's "A-Fraud" Alex Rodriguez first game in Toronto since he was busted for steroids?

Monday, May 11, 2009

David Purcey update

How far has David Purcey fallen in the past month? After a fantastic spring training, he was pencilled in to be the number two starter in the Blue Jays rotation. With 5 mostly miserable starts that saw him go 0-2, posting a bloated 7.01 ERA, the big lefty was sent down to AAA Las Vegas to work on his release point and fix his control problems.

Just one problem; Purcey has been even worse in a pair of starts in the minor leagues! His last outing yielded a horrific 30.86 ERA! Purcey was bashed around for 8 earned runs, 8 hits, and walked 3, before exiting after just 2.1 innings. This is not how the career arc of the Jays 2004 1st round pick was supposed to go.

Barring a rash of injuries to the big club, it might be quite a while before Purcey steps foot on a major league mound again. With the unexpected brilliance of Brett Cecil, the decent performance by Robert Ray, not to mention the wonderful job Brian Tallet has done to go along with expected return of Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen, and Jesse Litsch in the coming weeks, it's easy to see how Purcey will be buried on the depth chart. If he doesn't pick up his game for Las Vegas, he faces a serious uphill battle to make any long term impact with the Blue Birds. His opportunity might have come and gone.

Brett Cecil stating case to stay with big club

Toronto's best pitching prospect is turning heads with his remarkable start to his major league career, so much so that the club will face a tough decision on what to do with Brett Cecil when the regular starters come back from injury.

Cecil has been dynamite in two starts, most notably yesterday against Oakland. He silenced the A's bats, holding them to just 5 hits over 8 innings, without giving up any runs, and for the 2nd consecutive start, Cecil whiffed 6 batters.. Against Cleveland in his big league debut, the 2007 first round pick gave up just 1 run in 6 innings. In two starts, his ERA is a minuscule 0.64!

If Cecil continues his scorching play, it will be a very difficult decision on what to do with Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen and Jesse Litsch when they come off the disabled list. Could the rotation conceivably have Roy Halladay, Romero, Scott Richmond, Brian Tallet, Cecil as the starting five? Or does Cecil get sent down along with Robert Ray to AAA, and Tallet move back to the bullpen in favour of Romero, Janssen and Litsch? Either way, the Jays will be facing a good problem with their starting five, something that couldn't be said a month ago.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Scott Downs (shockingly) nearly blows it

Scott Downs entered the ball game Saturday in the 9th inning with a sizable 5 run cushion. Completely out of character, Downsy almost blew the game. Who saw that one coming?

Perhaps due to the fact he hadn't worked in a few days, or maybe entering in a non save situation got to him, but the impenetrable Downs looked mighty human against the A's. He gave up a 2 run home run to Jason Giambi which cut the lead to 3, and then promptly loaded the bags before allowing another tally. It was only after inducing a foul out with the bases juiced to Landon Powell that the Jays could breathe a sigh of relief. Imagine how demoralizing it would've been to the club had he botched this contest?

Everyone is entitled to a rough day at work, so I'm in no way blaming him for his poor outing, and I certainly don't expect perfection (though it's hard not to with how amazing he is.) I'm just hoping that this isn't a precursor to an injury for the valuable lefty. Remember, two years ago closer B.J. Ryan had a really brutal effort against Detroit, and shortly thereafter went to the disabled list, undergoing Tommy John Surgery and missing the remainder of the season.

Let's cross our fingers that this was merely a blip on the radar, a bad outing by a solid veteran, a tough day at the office, and nothing else, because if it's revealed Downs is injured, suddenly a great bullpen will be hit very hard in his absence. Suddenly, everyone will hold their breath.

Lyle Overbay decides to show up

Thanks for coming out Lyle Overbay, finally you did something other than ground into a double play or pop out on Saturday. These precious moments are so rare that they are a sight to behold. Remember this day Blue Jays fans, it might not come around for another month or so.

Overbay homered, driving in 3 runs in the second contest of a three game set against the A's. The 1st basemen now has 2 long balls and 7 RBI in the last 4 games. Overall, he's put up respectable numbers, with 5 dingers and 18 RBI, with a so so .256 average.

So why then does Overbay appear to suck? Is it just me or does he inspire ZERO confidence when he's at the plate? It's not like he's the worst player to ever grace a Jays uniform, but what is it that makes him such a disrespected figure in Toronto? Even though he's done well recently, I can't bring myself to say nice things about him, and instead resort to backhanded compliments such as "well, at least you weren't awful like usual", and "Good job Overbay, for once"

Maybe I should give him his due. Or maybe he's still garbage.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hill returns to where it all ended in '08

Blue Jays 2nd basemen Aaron Hill has said that Toronto's first game in Oakland is "just another game", but that simply isn't the case. His disastrous injury, leading to the untimely end of his 2008 season undoubtedly must be in the back of his head.

On May 29th, Hill collided with teammate David Eckstein, leaving the game with a concussion. The team initially diagnosed the injury as being "day to day." Those days turned into a week, and then another. That turned into a month to month proposition, and before time, he was shut down for the entire season with concussion like symptoms.

There's no telling how much success the club could have had in 2008 (They were 18-9 in May before Hill went down) had the freak injury not occurred, but one thing is certain, his 2009 numbers prove his great value to the team; 8 long balls, 28 RBI, a hefty .357 batting average, ranking first in MLB with 51 hits. His importance to the squad was never more clear after that fateful day in May last year.

Richmond's brutal inning leads to first loss

The Blue Jays gave Scott Richmond a 3 run edge in the 2nd frame of the opener against the Athletics, courtesy of a Kevin Millar RBI single and a Rod Barajas 2 run home run. It didn't take long for the 29 year old rookie to throw away the lead, and it cost him his first loss of the campaign.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; My number one pet peeve with pitchers is when they immediately cough up an advantage that was handed to them the following inning. Richmond did just that, surrendering 5 runs as soon as Toronto put up a 3 spot. That demoralized the club, and their bats fell silent the rest of the contest.

Let's give Richmond the benefit of the doubt. Aside from getting lit up in the 2nd inning, he allowed just 1 hit in the other 7 innings, leading to his first career complete game. I have to give him credit for bouncing back, he definitely showed a lot of resolve.

Just no more of this Richmond, or else you'll be in the doghouse.