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.