Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jays nab pitchers in draft, including 2 Canadians

The Toronto Blue Jays selected four pitchers with their first four picks of the Major League Baseball draft, including a pair of Canucks. The club was believed to be targeting lefty James Paxton, who has Canadian roots in the first round, but opted instead to go with burly 6' 4'' righty Chad Jenkins with the 20th pick. He's a big, strong fireballer that has great off speed pitches in his repertoire. He's expected to make a quick ascent up the organizational ladder within the next couple of years.

Toronto did not miss out on Paxton, however, as the native of British Columbia was taken with their next selection. The lefty out of Kentucky racked up 115 strike outs in 78 1/3 innings. The Jays bucked their conventional trend with their next pick, high schooler Jake Eliopoulos from Newmarket, Ontario. He's considered the top Canadian pitcher from the 2009 graduating high school class. Toronto was not done accruing arms, taking RHP Jake Barrett in the 3rd round out of High School.

I like that the team has taken pitchers with their first 4 draft picks. The A.L. East is so competitive with stacked lineups from top to bottom, so the only way Toronto will be able to compete is to throw the best pitching at them. It's interesting that J.P. Ricciardi is now more open to selecting high school kids instead of his conventional "wisdom" of always going with collegiate athletes in the early rounds.

Let's hope this draft pays off. You can never have enough top quality pitchers in the pipeline. If the Canadians pan out, it's an even bigger bonus to have them representing our team.

Mustache Man can pitch

Despite the fact I've long been a fan of Brian Tallet, I did not think he would be this effective since being slotted into the starting rotation in April. He's had enough starts to gauge his ability as a starter, and the results have been fantastic.

In 11 starts, Tallet has been sublime, posting just one awful outing, and hasn't given up more than 3 runs in 9 of those 11 trips to the mound. In his last 8 starts, Tallet has lasted 6 or 7 innings in all of them.

Tallet, who has struggled in the first two frames in his last 2 outings, managed to fix his early control problems recently to shut down the Rangers and notch his most efficient outing of the season. He held a great Rangers offense to just two measly hits in 7 innings of work.

Simply put, Tallet can flat out pitch. He's surprised us all, including probably himself. It must be the mustache.

Litsch shelved for remainder of season

Just over a month ago, on April 26th I posted about my fears that Jesse Litsch's "precautionary visit" with Dr. James Andrews was way more serious than was originally reported. I had some gigantic concerns he was going to be sidelined for a long time. Turns out I was correct, unfortunately.

Litsch will miss the remainder of the 2009 season, and possibly a few months of the 2010 campaign when he goes under the knife Friday with Dr. Andrews, performing Tommy John surgery. Litsch has been on the disabled list since April 13th, and recently went back to Dr. Andrews to get a 2nd opinion on his arm. This time, however, the diagnosis is clear. He's expected to be out between 10 months to a year.

It's quite a fall for the 24 year old righty. Litsch came into the season as the 2nd most experienced member of the starting staff, expecting to be leaned on heavily with starters Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum nursing long term ailments of their own. With the amount of quality young arms currently on the Jays roster, and ones pushing through their way through the system, Litsch might find himself in a difficult numbers game to return as a member of the rotation once he regains his health. He might have to hope for other pitchers to fall victim to an injury like himself to make it back to Toronto.

Was he really all that great anyhow? His numbers were decent, but there's not a whole lot of upside to his game, perhaps projecting to be a 4th starter at best. His time might have passed. Remember Gustavo Chacin?

Rolen benefiting from reduction in playing time

Blue Jays third basemen Scott Rolen is quietly having a production year at the plate, even if his power numbers aren't where they used to be. Last season he struggled to find a consistent swing having battled shoulder injuries. This year, however, he's provided a boost to the Jays offense and is benefiting from a reduction in playing time.

Manager Cito Gaston has made it a point to rest the 34 year old Rolen on matinee games following a night contest. This season, Rolen has appeared in just 51 of the first 61 games to date. Rolen was held out of the game Saturday afternoon, and experienced tightness in his back Sunday, so as a precautionary measure, the team opted to leave him out of the lineup.

Rolen will never be the prodigious power hitter he once was in the late 90's to the mid 2000's, as he has just 3 homers and 19 RBI this campaign. However, the Jays are casting him correctly, making sure he doesn't aggravate his past injuries to maximize the production out of him. It appears to be paying off, as Rolen is hitting for a solid .314 average, including a scorching 6 for 8 clip in the two games against the Rangers following his 2 day break.

The crafty vet's still got game.