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Friday Bantering: Banter in the time of COVID

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the game against the Pirates yesterday, because it’s going to have to tide us all over for a while. Spring Training has officially been cancelled, and the beginning of the season moved back by at least two weeks. That means no baseball until at least April 9th. has a FAQ on what this means for the schedule, but the short answer is that there really isn’t a plan right now and no-one has any idea when things will get started for the season, if they do at all. If anyone has spring training tickets that are now unusable, the Blue Jays tweeted out a refund policy that should help you out.

The Jays played their annual exhibition against the Canada Jr. Team yesterday. I won’t recap it, because it turns out high minor leaguers will get a lot of hits if you play them against even very good high school kids, but you can find the box score here.

In the real fake game of the day, Trent Thornton struggled a bit with the Pirates. He gave up seven hits, including a double and a home run, through three innings, walking none but only striking out two. Marc Rzepczynski came in to pitch a clean fourth, before handing off to Nate Pearson. Pearson pitched like a mere mortal for the first time this spring, allowing a run on two hits and a walk while striking out two in two innings of work. After the way he’s looked, it was a bit of a shock to see any contact made against him. He had me feeling like a 0.00 ERA was about where he was going to be all season. Sean Reid-Foley relieved him and worked around a walk and a single to avoid giving up a run in the seventh. Justin Miller gave up a solo shot in the eighth but stopped the damage there, and Kirby Snead closed it out with a pair of Ks in the ninth.

On offense, it took the Jays a while to figure out Joe Musgrove. He started off the game with three scoreless innings, including four strikeouts. This lineup has been too hot to be held down for long, though. Vlad lead off the fourth with a towering home run to center right, and Travis Shaw, Reese McGuire, and Forrest Wall strung together singles around a Joe Panik double play ball to push one more across. Bo Bichette followed that up in the fifth with a solo home run, his fourth of the spring. The subs mostly came in for the bottom of the fifth, and in the top of the sixth Ryan Noda and Reese McGuire worked back to back walks, followed by an Andy Burns HBP and a Brock Lundquist ground ball single that scored two. In the bottom of the eighth, Patrick Cantwell lead off with a single and then scored on a Santiago Espinal double. That would prove to be the winning run. Following walks to Burns and Lundquist, Kevin smith singled on a soft fly ball to drive in Espinal for an insurance run the Jays would end up not needing.

The Blue Jays finish the Grapefruit League at 12 and 6 in the games that count (although they don’t really). That puts them in a tie for second behind the 14-5 Phillies. I’d say that’s a pretty encouraging start. On the other hand, the team they’re tied with is the Marlins, so take that for what it’s worth. Here’s how the likely starters did individually:

  • Bo Bichette finished the spring hitting .290/.371/.774 in 31 AB
  • Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit .286/.355/.607 in 28 AB
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit .357/.419/.571 in 28 AB
  • Travis Shaw hit .213/.314/.464 in 28 AB
  • Cavan Biggio hit .192/.344/.213 in 26 AB
  • Randal Grichuk hit .320/.433/.720 in 25 AB
  • Derek Fisher his .250/.333/.333 in 24 AB
  • Danny Jansen hit .529/.600/1.353 in 17 AB
  • Teoscar Hernandez hit .167/.286/.333 in 14 AB

Everyone but Teoscar did reasonably well. Even Biggio managed more walks (6) than strikeouts (5). And Danny Jansen went fully nuclear, with an OPS approaching 2. It was an encouraging spring all around on the hitting side.

Other Notables:

  • Santiago Espinal hit .417/.462/1.000 with three home runs, a triple, and three doubles in 24 ABs. He displayed a really surprising level of power, and made about the best possible case for a potential utility role on the team.
  • Brandon Drury hit .125/.192/.167 in 24 Ab, and maybe didn’t look that good at the plate.
  • By contrast, Joe Panik, his likely competitor for the utility infielder job, mashed to the tune of .381/.462/.762 in 21 AB. Personally, I wouldn’t consider it a hard choice between the two, but Drury’s partially guaranteed salary might play a deciding role for the Jays (although how guaranteeing arbitration salaries in the context of a cancelled spring training and a delayed season is probably somewhat up in the air)
  • Rowdy Tellez hit .238/.360/.476 in 21 AB
  • Reese McGuire hit .200/.238/.400 in 20 AB
  • Alejandro Kirk hit .500/.667/.875 in 8 ABs and stole the show just about every time he apeared.

On the Pitching Side:

  • Trent Thornton posted a 4.22 ERA in 10.2 innings with 6 Ks, 5 BBs, and a home run allowed
  • Chase Anderson posted an 11.57 in 9.1 IP, 6K, 7BB, 4HR
  • Shun Yamaguchi posted a 9.00 in 9.0IP, 6K, 5BB, 5HR
  • Anthony Kay posted a 7.36 in 7.1IP, 9K, 7BB, 0HR
  • Nate Pearson posted a 1.29 in 7.0IP, 11K, 3BB, 0HR
  • Matt Shoemaker posted a 0.00 in 6.2 IP, 9K, 1BB, 0HR
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu posted a 1.42 in 6.1, 6K, 0BB, 1HR

This was less encouraging. Ryu and Shoemaker were great, as was Pearson, but the other starters largely struggled. It did seem like things were improving recently.

You can find full spring training stats here.

Not really a lot of baseball news beyond the one big story. Trey Mancini, the one good Oriole, had a malignant tumor removed from his colon this week. Hopefully he has a speedy and full recovery. We’ll continue to have posts on various subjects up for the remainder of the spring as we wait to have current baseball to talk about. Stay safe everyone.