Ricky Romero – leadership shown, all-star calibre, struggles with Red Sox
Kyle Drabek – demotion to Las Vegas, return to rotation a challenge
Brett Cecil – fastball up to 93 mph again, rotation mainstay rest of way
Jo Jo Reyes – unfocused, #5 spot in starting rotation, on the bubble
Jesse Litsch – rehab stint in Las Vegas, rotation spot in doubt
Brandon Morrow – shades of 2010, momentum, on verge of breakthrough
Carlos Villaneuva – exceeding expectations, #4 starter, trade bait
Sean Camp – Zen master of eliciting ground balls, hittable, 1 blown save
Jason Frasor – sure hand, candidate for closer role, 2 blown saves
John Rauch – hothead, very hittable, 7 saves in 9 tries
Mark Rzepczynski – reliable middle-relief, 3 blown saves, 3 extra base hits allowed
Casey Jannssen – placed on 15-day DL, retroactive to June 15
Octavio Dotel – improved effectiveness, innings eater
Frank Francisco – below average closer, 4 blown saves, unprofessional tendency
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, unestablished rookie, 2 blown saves
Aaron Hill – too cautious, shell of 2009 self, Blue Jay end near
Adam Lind – dialed in, future batting champion, all-star production
Travis Snider – 3 doubles in MLB return, deserving outfield starter
Jason Nix – below Mendoza line, designated for assignment July 2
Jose Molina – above-average backup catcher, effective place holder
Corey Patterson – horrendous decision-making on base paths + outfield, liability
Jose Bautista – constant development, all-star, MVP candidate
J.P. Arencibia – good rookie production, sunken BA
Rajai Davis – lightning speed, awful slump, too many SO, second half producer
Edwin Encarnacion – natural DH, streaky, on the bubble
Yunel Escobar – all-star calibre statistics, improved power + work ethic
Juan Rivera – place holder role over, DFA July 3
John McDonald – above Mendoza line again, unsung Toronto hero
Mike McCoy – down + up again, good OBP, useful professional
Eric Thames – spark plug, confident, room for improvement in SO/BB ratio
Blue Birds 5, Red Birds 4
A home run by Jose Bautista in the top of the 9th and a great day at the plate for newly recalled outfielder Eric Thames filled the gaping void in a Toronto offense that had scored but five runs in its previous six games.
The 24-year-old rookie smacked two doubles on the eve of his return. But, most importantly, he legged out an infield grounder that broke up a double play, allowing him to score the first run of the game on a ground out by Adam Lind after Jose Bautista had advanced Thames to third with a double. With the inning still alive, in part, due to the speed of Thames, Aaron Hill proceeded to drive home Bautista with a single.
A sigh of relief let out by Jays faithful, as the tide turned from a one for 20 stretch of hitting with runners in scoring position.
Yunel Escobar extended his hitting streak to six games.
Thames up to Toronto meant McCoy down to Vegas for the umpteenth time in the past two seasons. His .217 AVG belies real productivity at the plate, where he managed almost as many walks as strikeouts (12 BB, 16 SO, 69 AB) and carried an OBP of .333, good for sixth on the team. But his ability to fill in at most positions, even pitcher, make him a man of utility.
No doubt we haven’t seen the last of the real McCoy.
Brandon Morrow managed to log his second consecutive quality start (3 ER, 9 SO, 1 BB, 7 IP), despite giving up two home runs, only the third and fourth he has given up all season long. Jason Frasor ended up with the win. He pitched a perfect 8th inning before Bautista hit his league-leading 23rd home run for the game-winning run. Frank Francisco had a 3-up, 3- down 9th for the save.
From the native land of Adam Lind, it’s Chris from Indiana, a first-time caller. That’s me. Or at least it was tonight on Jays Talk with sports personality Mike Wilner.
I gotta say, I can’t wait to get back to Toronto, see some great friends, pay my respects to the Island, and make that 500-level season pass pay.
One week and counting, down.
Visiting with Roy Halladay, before an “engaging” party with some of those great friends will be just what the Doc ordered for this Canada Day weekend.
Baseball North, here I come.
Despite how fast I spoke and stuttered, I managed to articulate my confusion (or confuse my articulation) about the Sisyphean comeback of Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan.
On Mike Wilner’s Tim Freaking Hudson post, drag the little grey bar of the audio to 56 minutes 15 seconds for a listen.
Mike Wilner: Chris is in Indiana, Chris.
Chris: Yes, I was…..I love the show. I was hoping you might help me better understand the Dustin McGowan situation. I read in one of the major papers that there’s 30 days from the end of extended spring training June 8 for the Jays to decide whether to put him on the 25-man roster or put him through waivers. And I also heard Anthopoulos talking today on the radio about…he was musing cautiously about putting him in the rotation for September and the timeline’s for September. I’m just wondering how the contract and the situation works out in terms of the roster moves the Jays would have to make. Assuming he….
MW: If you bring him up in September, you don’t have to make any move. Rosters are expanded in September, but they would have to make room for him on the 40-man roster, which is full right now. He’s on the 60-day disabled list, so he doesn’t take up a space on the 40-man roster. What you heard about 30 days from the end of extended spring-training is not really true. We had been led to believe that, but we now understand that you can still keep a guy…..even though extended spring training is over, and it’s over now. You don’t have to send a guy out on a rehab assignment until he’s ready to rehab. So Dustin McGowan’s not ready to rehab yet. Once he goes out on an official rehab assignment, it can be no more than 30 days. And at the end of those 30 days, if he’s healthy, he has to come to the major leagues or…..McGowan, in McGowan’s case because he’s out of options, he would have to be put on waivers, if they want to keep him down in the minor leagues.
Chris: Okay, I think I got it. Thanks a lot.
MW: Alright, you’re welcome, and since the Blue Jays are saying early September -that’s what Alex Anthopoulos said today- that means he’s not going to go out on the rehab assignment until early August. And they’re being very very careful with him. At the end of June, he’s going to go three innings every five days. He’s going to do that twice. Then, he’s going to do four innings every five days twice, then five innings every five days twice, and they’re going to hopefully get him up to seven. And if he’s capable of doing that, it’s a minor miracle for one thing, and it’s fantastic news for another. And then Dustin McGowan will come back, if all goes well, be in the rotation next year, and he’s a free agent after next year (laughs). So we’ll see how that works.
Most days, I’m here without a phone, but Skype got the job done, mostly.
Here’s the text from my follow-up question and answer in the comments section from Miked Up:
Thanks for clearing up some of the confusion around Dustin McGowan scenarios. I meant to ask, if all goes well, and he begins his rehab assignment say August 1, how will the Jays have been preparing him up to that point? How will he be incrementally “gaming up” to August 1, without the benefit of pitching to batters like in extended spring training? The IBL Leafs could always use another reliever! I jest, but am curious whether rules exist that would preclude him from pitching a little semi-professional or amateur ball.
MW: Yes, those rules exist. But he can pitch simulated games to real batters, and that’s what he’s going to be doing up until it’s time to send him out on the official assignment.
Right after my call is an amusing affirmation of the truly acrobatic nature of John McDonald’s game.
MW: Dave is in Guelph. Hey Dave.
Dave: I’m just a huge fan of Johnny Mac.
MW: Well, who isn’t?
Dave: Well, he’s a wizard in the infield, acrobat in the outfield.
Dave: Johnny Mac?
MW: He’s played maybe two innings in the outfield in his life.
MW: I wouldn’t go so far as…..
Dave: Well, he’s an acrobat.
Dave: Anyways, he’s good on defense.
MW: Yes, he is.
Braves 5, Jays 1
And the wheels go spin.
Zach Stewart handed over the car keys after 3.2 IP on this wild night out, but the Jays offense has been spinning its wheels the last five games, scoring only nine runs in that span.
I think Ricky Romero was right and respectful enough, given the circumstances, in his post-game interview yesterday when he called out the Jays offense for not stepping up. It’s true, Lind and Bautista cannot do it alone.
If the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is true, surely a fine-tuning is appropriate, when the machine is sputtering, whether that be additional batting practice or a line-up shuffle or call-up.
But this organization’s depth of starting pitching is its greatest strength, and the vehicle to a successful future. As I alluded to in a June 17 post, Zach Stewart needs a few more lessons in Triple-A, like Brad Mills and Brett Cecil did.
He is not ready to handle this machine every five days.
I’m reminded of a popular movie, a coming-of-age tale that hit the screen the same year Zach Stewart was born.
In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cameron is convinced to take out his Father’s 961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder SWB for a joy ride. Sure he lived a little, and team Ferris had some fun, but the car did get trashed.
Like a good joyride, there is instant gratification to be had in letting Zach Stewart take the wheel. Everybody loves him, or at least the idea of him. But if he needs a few more lessons in control, as I suspect he does, this team will be spinning its wheels, like Cameron and Ferris did with the Ferrari, right before it reversed off the edge, down into the ravine.
Putting the imperfect metaphor aside, Double-A does come before Triple-A. It hasn’t for Zach Stewart with the 2011 Jays.
And it should.
Let us mind our speed and handle the vehicle with care.
Let us give our more experienced young starters license to ride out this stretch.
The year of the Zach.
Kyle Drabek – heart on sleeve, raging bull of emotion on the mound, wild
Brett Cecil – fastball down to 90 mph, 8 HRs allowed in 4 starts before demotion
Jo Jo Reyes – 26-game winless streak snapped, emotions in check, weak pick-off move
Jesse Litsch – fastball + compete-level return, rotation spot deserved when healthy
Brandon Morrow – slow start, potent arsenal, control a work in progress
Carlos Villaneuva – good stuff, reliable from bullpen, exceeding expectations as starter
Sean Camp – ground ball out master, outstanding April/ May, rocky June
Jason Frasor – painstakingly deliberate approach, sure hand, best season pace
John Rauch – shades of K-Gregg, less careful, Jays best closer not saying much
Mark Rzepczynski – odd man out, smooth transition to pen, control issues lately
Casey Jannssen – bullpen stud, return to 2007 form, confident presence
Octavio Dotel – ineffective, innings eater during big losses, oldest man in pen
Frank Francisco – power + unreliability, below average closer
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, verdict still out, given small sample-size
Aaron Hill – stats split difference between 2009 and 2010 season, too cautious
Adam Lind – back in the saddle again, Indiana boy in perfect spot behind Bautista
Travis Snider – lack of confidence, swing kinks, walk to strikeout ratio improved
Jason Nix – clutch hitting in April, non-existent May, battling Mendoza line
Jose Molina –calm in eye of storm, excellent back-up catcher, hitting well
Corey Patterson – less than smart base running, seeing good pitches
Jose Bautista – BA + OBP + OPS off the charts, home run mastery
J.P. Arencibia – great rookie production, ability + rapport with pitchers improving
Rajai Davis – speed, nice addition, injury riddled, wait and see
Edwin Encarnacion – defensive liability, disappeared home run production
Yunel Escobar – great start overall, occasional odd no-throw decisions
Juan Rivera – horrendous start, rebounded offensively, first base fill-in admirable
John McDonald – decreased production, no fearful demeanour, usual infield brilliance
Mike McCoy – future John McDonald, reliable + energetic uber-utility man
CAMPECHE, Mexico – Across the street from El Estadio Nelson Barrera, where Fernando Valenzuela was thought to be discovered, from my bedroom in the Mexican family home I stay, through my laptop and the MLB online stream, it was a thing of beauty to watch the final home game of Cito Gaston and all the bells and whistles that came with it.
A speech from his old roommate Hank Aaron, glowing words from champion Blue Jays Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, along with a standing ovation from a packed “SkyDome” and a single tear from a grateful Gaston, conjured the collective joy last felt in 1993.
It was a thing of nostalgia to realize how his leadership of our dear ball club and his presence in our beloved city interconnected with so many great memories from childhood: like game 6 of the 1992 World Series when we leapt out of our seats and ran onto the field to celebrate via Jumbotron with our Jays in Atlanta. A friend had gotten overexcited as the gates opened earlier that night and disappeared in the crowd, charging up to the 500 level, never to be seen again.
It was a last call with Cito, the closing time on the last three seasons of ball games I attended or logged by TV in varying states of elation, frustration, and drunkeness . It was time for him to go, but as a hard man of steely nerve, he is a hard man not to respect, unless you get into the Bob McCowan v. Cito Gaston controversy of yesteryear.
In spite of the near incomprehensible fall from grace of both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill — see .305 and .286 BA. (2009) to .237 and .205 for Lind and Hill respectively, 2010 was the most exciting season of Blue Jays baseball since 1993. Motherload of slumps and all, Lind-Hill still managed to combine for49 dingers.
The team statistics speak for themselves in aesthetically pleasing fashion:
595 extra base hits (team record)
.454 slugging % (mlb leader)
257 team dingers (mlb leader)
54 Bautista dingers (mlb leader)
7 players with 20+ dingers
4 pitchers w/ 10+ wins
Had we maintained an above .500 W-L record through interleague play, as opposed to a dismal 9-17 mark, we would have fought for the wild in September. It was that close.
The bullpen often seemed shaky with a seeming inability to nail down saves i.e. preserving wins for our starters.
0/2= 0% Brian Tallet
0/2= 0% Scott Downs
2/4= 50% Sean Camp
4/8= 50% Jason Frasor
37/43= 86% Kevin Gregg
That’s 16 games the Jays led late in the game, almost all of which were lost. In an ideal baseball world, without an interleague meltdown, where our bullpen had been perfect, we would have amassed a dominant and best ever 100- 62 record, 1 win better than the 1985 squad with Tom Henke as closer. Not the most likely scenario since few teams have converted 100% of save opportunities.
What shocked me is that the Jays finished the season a respectable 5th place in MLB with 45 saves converted. But I would sooner tempt a 53-year-old Tom Henke out of retirement than endure the torture of another season of K-Gregg’s semi-calculated melodramatics: all those BB’s to go for the easiest possible outs.
Whoever next year’s closer, with three of our top four 2010 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil) returning a year wiser, and Kyle Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Brad Mills battling for spots, with Dustin McGowan just maybe on the mend, a full season of opportunity for T-Snyde, Arencibia, and Escobar, a return to form by Lind and Hill, and anything near a repeat season from Bautista; the future looks bright. Then again, the future always shines bright for the Toronto Blue Jays. Every year, we are one year closer to the next time we win another World Series.