Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rookie Rzepczynski continues to impress

Rookie lefty Marc Rzepczynski has a great last name. His surname is also incredibly hard to spell. Well now he's proving to be a great pitcher that is incredibly hard to hit off of. Tuesday in Seattle, Mr. R turned in a fine performance that was better than the final stat line suggests.

After giving up a run in the first inning and running into trouble in the 2nd frame, Rzepczynski settled down, retiring 11 batters in a row, whiffing 7 of them, striking out the side in the 4th inning. Rzepczynski winded up leaving after 8 strike outs (setting a career high) in 5.1 innings of work, where he allowed three earned runs.

The 2007 fifth round pick has shown a great ability to pitch at the big league level, in particular displaying his talent for striking out batters. While not factoring into the decision in this one, his 8 K's Tuesday gives him 30 over the course of 27.2 innings in his first five starts in his major league career.

Richmond & Marcum return to Jays clubhouse

A pair of starting pitchers were back with the Blue Jays in time for their six game west coast road trip Monday, as both Scott Richmond and Shaun Marcum were in the clubhouse for the series opener in Seattle. Both Richmond and Marcum are expected to be activated off the disabled list shortly and should be inserted into the clubs starting rotation.

Marcum, who was expected to miss all of the 2009 campaign following Tommy John Surgery on his elbow, was in Seattle to receive treatment on his back before heading to AAA Las Vegas. The 27 year old injured himself in his latest rehab assignment, pulling himself out of the contest as a precautionary measure. The club has set a tentative return date in Toronto for early August.

For Richmond, who has been out since July 5th with a shoulder injury, the 29 year old rookie will be able to help the Jays shortly, as he's expected to get the start Friday against the Oakland Athletics.

Having both Richmond (6-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts) and Marcum (0-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 5 starts in his rehab stint) back will significantly aid the teams starting rotation, which is expected to expand to a 6 man staff to preserve the young starters for the stretch drive of the season.

Snider heating up in AAA

Travis Snider appears to finally be healthy after battling a lingering back injury for the better part of a month, and has settled in nicely as the cleanup hitter for the the Jays AAA affiliate in Las Vegas.

In Snider's past 6 games, the 21 year old left fielder has 3 home runs, totalling 8 RBI's with a solid .320 batting average, including 5 hits in his last 9 trips to the plate. The pop in his bat is a welcomed sign for the Blue Jays top prospect, who scuffled at the major league level this year after posting 3 home runs in his first 6 games, ultimately leading to his demotion.

While Snider is unlikely to receive a promotion to the big club any time soon (which will allow him to get regular at bats against both righties and lefties in the minors) he should be in line for a September call up when rosters expand.

Should Romero be rookie of the year?

It's a wonderful question to be pondering after Ricky Romero (not to mention J.P. Ricciardi) faced much scrutiny the past couple of seasons, but now the Jays rookie starter has squarely put himself in the discussion for American League rookie of the year honours.

Romero won again tonight in Seattle, moving his record to an impressive 9-4 while fashioning a solid 3.59 ERA. Romero, the 6th overall pick in the 2005 draft, has lasted at least 6 innings in 12 of his 16 starts this season. He has been so poised and mature beyond his 24 years, displaying a great knack for getting himself out of jams, not to mention the ability to bounce back from a poor inning.

The likely rookie of the year candidates Romero is up against include Rays hurler Jeff Niemann, Tigers righty Rick Porcello, White Sox 3rd basemen Gordon Beckham, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. All of these players have had pretty good success this season, but nothing that stands out as jaw dropping, leaving Romero the likely top candidate.

Should Romero continue his high level of play, he might just be the first Jays rookie of the year since Eric Hinske in 2002. We can only hope Romero has a higher career arc than the journeyman Hinske. With his outstanding play this year, it should be an indication he'll be a fixture in the Jays rotation for years to come.

Downs shakes off rough week

It's hard to fathom Scott Downs blowing two saves in one week, plus losing another game in extra innings to Tampa Bay, but the reliable lefty has struggled mightily since coming off the disabled list, allowing 5 runs in 5 innings of work. Not exactly what we're used to seeing from the 33 year old lefty.

In Toronto's first game against Seattle Monday, Downs came in the 8th inning in a non save situation and provided excellent relief, retiring all three batters he faced. It's probably safe to conclude he's shaken off his rough stretch. The Jays are going to need Downs to shore up the back end of that bullpen, because they are in desperate need of victories, having lost 6 straight one run contests.

Even with the bad week, Downs still has had an excellent campaign, saving 9 games with a 2.97 ERA. With the trade deadline just 4 days away, there's been interest from the New York Yankees, (among others) in acquiring the crafty lefty, presumably for the 8th inning role behind Mariano Rivera. It's conceivable we might have seen Downs pitch his last game in a Blue Jays uniform.