Eight days. There are just eight days left before the Toronto Blue Jays take the field in their shiny home whites against the Cleveland Indians to begin the 2013 regular season. It will be an exciting moment, and hopefully it would be remembered years later as the point when the Blue Jays returned to winning ways. The Jays actually only have four more days left in the Florida sun. After the game on Thursday, they will be flying north to Philadelphia for a couple of exhibition games at Citizens Bank Park. It's still pretty cold in Philadelphia this time of year, so I am curious how many innings major league pitchers will be allowed to throw (Mark Buehrle wants to hit 100, see below).
This will also be the final pre-season edition of the Monday Morning Media Mashup, as I will be on vacation on the Easter weekend to rest up for the regular season. Although I might not be writing too much here, I will keep tweeting (@Minor_Leaguer), especially during the Athletics - Giants spring training game at AT&T Park on Friday.
Blue Jays Related
Relief job battle winding down - Sportsnet.ca
Mike Wilner's recap from Sunday's game, since we kinda didn't do one here.
Toronto Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle battles the wind in minor-league tuneup - National Post
John Lott skipped the roadtrip to Fort Myers, instead went to watch Mark Buehrle throw against the Pirates' single-A prospects. My favourite line:
"The quick-working Buehrle was ready to pitch before the umpires made it onto the field. In fact, by the time the last umpire arrived, Buehrle already had finished an inning..."
Buehrle had trouble throwing his cutter, which may have had something to do with the very windy conditions. We'll see how he does this coming Friday when he makes his final spring start in Philadelphia, where he will be looking to hit 100 pitches.
The Org Guy, blogging anonymously from his basement, looks at how real spring training "battles" really are, after hearing Manny Acta on Keith Law's podcast. Thanks a lot, TOG, for spilling the beans of how blogs and newspapers get more pageviews in the spring.
Just like last year's battle between Eric Thames and Travis Snider, we all knew that the Ricky Romero was going to be the fifth starter no matter how well J.A. Happ did, and right after Henry Blanco was signed, we all knew that the club would want to give Josh Thole regular at bats in Buffalo. This is not to say that spring training is not important for minor leaguers and non-roster invitees to show off their craft, though.
I do think that the battle for the last position in the bullpen is more-or-less real. As for the choice between Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonafacio to start at second, I don't think the definitive decision has to be made at the end of spring training. Both of them will be on the 25-man roster, and manager John Gibbons can change his starter every game if he wanted to. Bonifacio is swinging the hotter bat, hitting .308/.345/.519 compared to Izturis at .239/.300/.304, but those are numbers from 50-55 PA. I would like to think that the Blue Jays would be smarter than to make a decision based on that sample size.
Jays get down to the crunch with roster - The Globe and Mail
Tom Maloney reviews the Blue Jays' bullpen situation after Sunday's game in which contender Jeremy Jeffress struggled badly, giving up 5 runs on 2 walks and 3 hits in an inning of work against the Twins. Right now, there are four "sure things" in the bullpen: Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, Darren Oliver, Casey Janssen (unless he is injured). For the remaining 3 spots, we have Aaron Loup (who has options) and Brett Cecil, Esmil Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress, and Dustin McGowan (who are out of options). And the darkhorse candidate Dave Bush, who is on a minor league contract.
Unless the Blue Jays decide they needed more time to decide between Cecil, Rogers, and Jeffress, Aaron Loup should also be a lock for the 'pen. I would think that Cecil, Rogers, and Jeffress, will be lost on waivers should the Jays try to send them to the minors. Jeffress hit 101 mph on Sunday, but again his control wasn't there. He has a lot of upside, but he hasn't "clicked" for either the Brewers or Royals either. I'm sure a fourth organization would be willing to pick him up to try to "fix" him. As for McGowan, he will likely be placed on the disabled list to start the year.
Danny Gallagher profiles former Expos general manager and current Blue Jays major league scout Jim Beattie. He was the one who first hired Alex Anthopoulos, and has come full-circle to report to his former "gopher." He reports that he is looking at bullpen depth and perhaps a second baseman, as neither Bonifacio and Izturis are "everyday guys." Remember that Beattie is a pro scout and his job is to look for ways to fill any potential weaknesses on the team. It doesn't mean that the front office is actively seeking to acquire talent to fill those holes.
Of course, he went to look back at his days with the Expos, saying that the organization would have done a lot better if they had secured a new stadium like the Mariners. (Small fact check: Safeco Field in Seattle opened in 1999, not 1995.)
Decisions on the horizon - Sportsnet.ca
"We have our five starters," GM Alex Anthopoulos said on Sunday--and J.A. Happ is not one of them. Shi Davidi also looks at the enigma that is Jeffress, quoting John Gibbons who said "I remember he would really scatter it when he was off, now he’s not missing by much. That’s the good thing."
Alex Anthopoulos speaks with Mike Wilner about the injury statuses of Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion, Casey Janssen, and Dustin McGowan. Also about Dave Bush and Jeremy Jeffress (before their outings on Sunday), and Brett Cecil--saying that the club is taking longer than they thought to decide on the bullpen. And of course, Anthopoulos says his quote of the day on Ricky Romero.
Blue Jays preview - FOX Sports (Video)
Jon Paul Morosi does a Blue Jays season preview. I sort of wanted to punch him in the face in the beginning of the video, but it got better. And some how he forgot about Melky Cabrera.
The Tao continues on with his series "37 Jays", which was actually recently renamed from "37 Jays in 37ish Days" for some mysteriously unknown reason. Josh Johnson is targeted in this edition.
Much congratulations to Steve Clarke: his book 101 Things Blue Jays Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (Tom reviewed it here) is a national bestseller! It shows how excited Canadians are about baseball, and the Blue Jays, nowadays. Nothing against Clarke, but he really benefited from the timely release of the book. Unfortunately, it still sits behind The Zombie Survival Guide, which has somehow made its way up onto the non-fiction list, so go out and buy!
Down On The Farm
Our very own Jared Macdonald (we happily share him with JaysProspects.com) chimed in on his "prospect to watch" in this Brendan Kennedy piece. What do you think of his choices?
The Voice of the Bisons, Ben Wagner, has a 44-minute preview of the Buffalo Bisons.
Around The League
I am actually enjoying the Vernon Wells trade not because of the Yankees' suffering--I'm actually enjoying it more because of how badly the Vernon Wells Experiment failed for the Angels. Yes it's still schadenfreude, but I think that is part and parcel of being a Blue Jays fan, no? In any case I'd like to highlight the Tweet of the Night, courtesy of SI.com's Jay Jaffe:
maybe Hal Steinbrenner told Brian Cashman to get well soon, and Cashman just misinterpreted it— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) March 25, 2013
Examining baseball's most inflammatory situations - ESPN (Insider Only)
Buster Olney looks at the top "hot spots" in the major leagues, and lists the Blue Jays at #7. He wrote "...and as is the case with all teams in the AL East, their weaknesses could take them down." I don't know what that means--I'm pretty sure that is true of all teams. Olney did mention that the health concerns over Janssen and Santos were troubling since the Blue Jays lacked bullpen depth (legitimate, proven depth at least). He also wrote that Romero's spot wasn't assured, but Alex Anthopoulos seemed pretty sure of it.
Strangest injuries of the spring - ESPN
Jayson Stark looks at the weirdest injuries during spring training. I didn't hear about the fifth runner-up: former Blue Jay Marc Rzepczynski injured his eye and had to sleep standing up for a week and a half after debris caused by a golf swing got into it.
World traveler and friend of the blog Brendan van Son is now in Cameroon, half way through his scooter trip from Mali to South Africa. Good luck with the Gabonese visa, and please stay safe and away from any coups. I look forward to seeing you back home in August to watch a ballgame at the exotic Rogers Centre!