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Reflections on the Blue Jays

toronto_blue_jays_logoGreetings from the Great White North and man is it ever white this year. I’m sure this is the worst winter in the last several years. I’m Rincewind and a great guy named Hugo and I run a blog called Bluebird Banter where we blather on and on about the Toronto Blue Jays. It is time for our monthly check in here at Baseball Reflections.

A couple of weeks into spring training (the spring part is just a rumor around here) and the big question for the Jays ‘who will get the 4th and 5th spots in the starting rotation?’ is no closer to being answered. The first three in the rotation are pretty much set, Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch and David Purcey will get those spots. The 4 and 5 will be filled by two of Scott Richmond, Matt Clement, Mike Maroth, Casey Janssen or prospects Brett Cecil, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero.

Actually you can take Maroth’s name off the list, he was a long shot at best and now he has a knee injury that he is trying to pitch through. Add to that he was shelled in his one spring training outing against the Canadian Team from the WBC and we can safely guess he won’t get a role. Ricky Romero hasn’t pitched well in his first couple of spring outings either. On the other hand Brett Cecil has looked terrific in his first couple of times out this spring.  He is our top pitching prospect. I had thought he’d start the year in Triple A to stretch out the number of innings he can pitch. But if he continues to throw like this, it would be hard to keep him out of the major league rotation.

Matt Clement has looked good too; he pitched 3 perfect innings against Team USA on Thursday. Scott Richmond has looked good this spring as well; he has left the Jay’s camp to pitch for Team Canada. Richmond is a great story, two years ago he was pitching for the Edmonton Cracker Cats (yeah, I know, dumbest name in professional sports) of the Northern Independent League.  The only way he could have been further from the majors is if he had been writing for a blog somewhere.  The Jays found him and he got 5 starts last season and did quite well, finishing with an ERA of 4.00. Brad Mills has also looked great

this spring, but he hasn’t pitched above AA, so making the majors out of spring training would be a stretch. Casey Janssen has been brought along slowly after missing all of last season will an arm injury. He’s only pitched one inning up till now.

The good news is that the back end of the starting rotation figured to be our biggest worry going into spring training, but it looks like we should be OK there. Of course, it could be that pitchers are ahead of the batters at the start of spring.

The story on the offensive side of the ball? I guess the biggest worry is that Vernon Wells strained his left hamstring and likely won’t be back in action till near the end of March.  Of course, this came after all the newspapers had stories telling us about the great shape Vernon was in coming into camp, after working with a personal trainer all winter.

Among the guys actually swinging the bat, our top prospect and presumed full-time left fielder, Travis Snider has been great. He really looks set to have a big season, if I was going to bet I’d put money on him for Rookie of the Year.

One of the few spots on the team where there is open competition is backup catcher. The favorite for the role, Michael Barrett, hasn’t hit a thing so far and hasn’t looked good doing it. Lucky for him the other candidates for the role haven’t done much yet either. Other than that the only doubt left is who might get the last spot on the roster. Kevin Millar was thought to be a lock to back up first base, DH and emergency corner outfielder. But Jason Lane, who has quickly become a personal favorite of mine, has hit homers in consecutive games and beyond that has hit very well. He could be a useful part on the team, being a right-handed bat, with our DH, LFer and 1B being left-handed. Add in he’s quite good defensively in the outfield. But with Millar and Jose Bautista being right-handed bats and seemingly better liked by management, odds are long.

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop John McDonald duri...
Image via Wikipedia

One thing that might give him more of a chance of making that roster is a suggestion that defensive shortstop wizard John McDonald might be on the bubble to be released. Johnny Mac is great fun to watch in the field but his batting line last season was .210/.255/.269 and no glove can make that sort of bat worth carrying. If the Jays can convince themselves that Joe Inglett and/or Jose Bautista could back up Marco Scutaro at short, then MacDonald should be let go.

The World Baseball Classic has thinned out numbers in the Jays camp somewhat. Jay players that will be in the WBC are: Alex Rios representing Puerto Rico, Rod Barajas for Mexico, Marco Scutaro for Venezuela, Jose Bautista for Dominican Republic and Scott Richmond for Canada.

B.J. Ryan was to pitch for Team USA, but he was roughed up in his two appearances early this spring and decided not to leave the Jay’s camp so he could ‘work on his mechanics’. The way he looked in his last time out there for the Jays the US team wouldn’t want him anyway. But with both him and Joe Nathan from the Twins dropping out, it does hurt the USA Team’s bullpen. Then, with the team the US has put together, they shouldn’t have many close games that need a big time closer.

Anyway that’s likely enough from the frozen north for this month, talk to you again in early April, close to the start of the season. Maybe by then it will seem like spring up here.

Rincewind also writes for Bluebird Banter. Please follow the link provided to read his and Hugo‘s work there.

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