Let the real fake games begin! Blue Jays links on the first day of spring training games

Mark Buehrle's souless stare. Should not have woken him up early to do this shot. - Marc Serota

We have been waiting a long time for this. It is currently -11 degrees (-22 wind chill) outside my window but the anticipation of today's spring training game warms me right up. The Blue Jays will be facing their spring training neighbours at the Phillies' Bright House FIeld in a 1 pm Eastern tilt this afternoon. The Blue Jays are trotting out their expected regular lineup (maybe this year it will actually happen more than three times!) today:

According to Gregor Chisholm's post on pitching schedules, the Jays have planned to send six pitchers out today. J.A. Happ will start and pitch two innings, Todd Redmond--who Nick Ashbourne wrote about this morning--will follow with two, Kyle Drabek will get one or two, and Chad Jenkins, Neil Wagner, and Mickey Storey will follow them.

We will have a spring gamethread up this afternoon, so please join us for some great baseball chat!

Links

Second to None - Getting Blanked
Last year's "darlings" are "just another team" this year, Drew Fairservice writes about the Blue Jays and their depressing options at second base. Stephen Drew, of course, is still a free agent option and will be a huge upgrade from what Toronto has now, but I'm not sure whether the Blue Jays' front office (or owners) would be all that willing to talk to agent Scott Boras after his comments to Ken Rosenthal the other day and yesterday's appearance on Jeff Blair's show. I firmly believe the Blue Jays won't be able to give Drew the contract he--and Boras--wants. Prove me wrong, Alex Anthopoulos! And also, how desperate is Boras these days to take his sales pitches public, first to Toronto telling everyone that Drew would be willing to play second base and now to New York telling the Yankees that he could move to third?

Agent Scott Boras wants to see Blue Jays win - Toronto Sun
Speaking of Boras--actually let's not. You can safely ignore the first half of this Bob Elliott piece, but do read the second part where he talks about a spring training battle off the field. Rogers Sportsnet Radio 590 the FAN are trying out various broadcasters to fill Jack Morris's role as Jerry Howarth's radio partner. It has been made clear that Rogers would like to see a former major league player in the booth from the time Warren Sawkiw was sacked. This afternoon's real fake game's radio broadcast will feature the voices of Howarth and former catcher Joe Siddall, who will also do the games through the middle of spring training. I have no idea how good Siddall is on the radio, but at the very least it seems like a nice gesture to give him a chance to focus on something else after his young son's death earlier this year. For the last weeks of spring, Elliott reports that the mic might rotate between Jeff Nelson, C.J. Nitkowski, and others.

Sanchez hit hard in Blue Jays intrasquad game - Sportsnet.ca
Mike Wilner recaps Tuesday's fake fake game that involved the Blue Jays beating the Blue Jays 1-0 in a five-inning intersquad scrimmage. Apparently both sides were wearing identical uniforms--you'd think this would be a nice place for them to debut their new red alternate alternate caps. Aaron Sanchez's nerves got to him, giving up "bullet after bullet" up the middle to Brett Lawrie, Dan Johnson, Kevin Pillar, Erik Kratz, and Maicer Izturis. Luckily, Sanchez will face less skilled players in the Eastern League this season. An interesting tidbit from Wilner's recap is that Munenori Kawasaki saw some time in left field--the position, not the Toronto-based baseball-themed brewery. John Gibbons said that Kawasaki will see some time there this spring to give him more versatility coming off the bench... in Buffalo, one would hope. Left field has been the place where teams generally try stick a player to try to get them another defensive position. In the past four seasons, Mark DeRosa, Jayson Nix, Omar Vizquel, John McDonald, Yan Gomes, and Edwin Encarnacion (!) are among the names to have manned left field for Toronto.

How new-found knuckleballer Tomo Ohka saved his pitching career - Toronto Star
Brad Lefton wrote a special piece for the Toronto Star in which he details the career of Tomo Ohka and how the Japanese knuckleballer ended up with a minor league contract and an invitation to Blue Jays big league camp. I have absolutely no expectations for Ohka, so I guess he can only exceed them. Josh Thole probably revealed how early the knuckleball is in its development by telling Barry Davis that it had improved a lot in the past week--I read that to mean that the pitch is still pretty bad, but not as bad as it was when Ohka showed up to camp.

The Toronto Blue Jays, Number One Prospects, and Aaron Sanchez - Drunk Jays Fans
Kyle Matte gives DJF a solid guest post in which he looks back at Blue Jays' development of top prospects of the past before looking forward to the future of current prospect Aaron Sanchez.

Prospects Will Break Your Heart: 2014 Organizational Rankings - Baseball Prospectus
Jason Parks ranks the Blue Jays in the middle third of farm systems at #13, but notes that the organization has "some of the best young prospect depth in baseball" and that the system should find itself in the top 10 in 2015, where "they are likely to stay for a very long time"... at least until the next big trade. The Red Sox are ranked #4, the Orioles just squeaked by the Jays at #12, the Yankees are at #23, and the Rays' thin farm has been bumped all the way down to #26.

Blue Jays’ future in hands of elite youngsters at Prospects Camp - Toronto Star
Richard Griffin reports from the Blue Jays' prospect camp.

The Most- and Least-Improved Teams for 2014 - FanGraphs Baseball
Jeff Sullivan looks at Steamer and ZiPS projections, which shows the Blue Jays, along with the Yankees, as one of the ten most-improved teams for 2014, with the Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles among the top ten teams going the other way. As Sullivan mentioned, this is somewhat expected, as the Blue Jays should enjoy some regression after an underachieving 2013 while the Red Sox should fall back down to earth.

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