The blob is nothing if not unpredictable. If you asked the most seasoned baseball analysts and Blue Jay fans in April who would be holding up the back-end of the starting rotation by August, it is unlikely even two of 100 would have chosen Brad Mills and Henderson Alvarez to be there.
The tendency of injury in MLB starting rotations and the depth of talent and competition in the organization have combined to see 10 young pitchers (Romero, Morrow, Reyes, Drabek, Villanueva, Cecil, Litsch, Mills, Stewart, Alvarez), all 27 and under, start for the Blue Birds.
1. Ricky Romero is the only one, who has not missed a start due to injury or seen time in the minors. The top three (Romero, Morrow, Cecil) have, more or less, found their form and consistency.
4. Brad Mills needs a quality start tonight, if he wants to stay out of Las Vegas.
5. Henderson Alvarez will likely get the Zach Stewart treatment: three starts, more if he doesn’t get hit hard.
6. Jesse Litsch remains in the bullpen. He may yet start some games, if others falter or injure.
7. Kyle Drabek, see you in September.
8. Dustin McGowan made the jump to New Hampshire Double-A last week. Eight scoreless innings of work there is a great sign.
9. Joel Carreno. I’m surprised this guy doesn’t get more attention. He’s been projected as a big league reliever, even though he’s arguably been the Fisher Cats ace this season.
10. Chad Jenkins, next September or 2013.
11. Nestor Molina, next September or 2013.
12. Deck McGuire made the jump to New Hampshire, before sitting down for a rest on the 7-day disabled list. Next September at earliest.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (27)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Brad Mills (26)
- ↑Henderson Alvarez (21)
- ↓Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
- Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- Dustin McGowan (29) – New Hampshire
- Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
- ↑Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- ↑Nestor Molina (22) – New Hampshire
- Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire (7-day DL)
- ↑P.J. Walters – (26) – Las Vegas
- ↓Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
- Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
- ↑Yohan Pino (27) – New Hampshire
- ↑Willie Collazo (31) – New Hampshire
- Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
- Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
- ↑Asher Wojciechowski – Dunedin
On this, the evening of Brad Mill’s second start of the season, I renew my claim that anything can happen in this starting rotation.
A guy named Brett Lawrie also takes his first career at bats this eve.
Seven straight balls from Brad Mills in the third inning. I digress, or not.
If the wind does not blow in Mills’ direction tonight, does Litsch then rejoin the rotation?
Luis Perez is also in the running. Jays management would seem to want to have a look at him in the rotation, or so it has been suggested by the Jays Talk. Since Mills has already thrown a few starts over the past three seasons, he now needs a string of quality starts to stick around.
One out, two on, bottom of three. Blue Birds four, Orange ones two.
If and when he does join the rotation, Luis Perez will have a slightly longer leash than Mills, given that it would be his first opportunity.
One gets the sense that this will be the last best chance for Brad Mills to permanently join the ranks of MLB starters.
If only in shades, does watching Brad Mills pitch remind you of a young Jimmy Key?
He’s out of the third. Two runners left on.
Brett Lawrie to take his second at bat. No longer batting 1000.
Mills survives the fourth.
Alan Ashby and Jerry Howarth speak in ominous tones about Mills’ shaky control, leaving pitches well above and up in the zone. Can he settle in for another few innings?
Three up, three down in the fifth. Mills in position for the win.
Jerry Howarth just called Brad Mills a magician. Alan Ashby corrects himself on having judged Mills too harshly.
It’s clear Alan Ashby does not get a good feeling watching Brad Mills, pitching high with a fastball of 86 mph.
Mills then walks two, loads the bases, and allows another run.
Jays 4, Orioles 3.
In comes Perez to get the Jays out of the sixth.
Jays jump ahead to a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh.
Litsch comes in to get the Jays through the seventh.
It looks like neither Perez or Litsch will fill Villanueva’s rotation spot.
Could it be the second coming of Kyle Drabek? Or the first coming of Henderson Alvarez?
Frank Francisco continues his streak of effectiveness with a clean eighth inning.
Brad Mills will earn the victory on 5.1 IP and 3 ER, 4 BB and 5 SO, if John Rauch can lock it down in the ninth.
Rauch has been our most reliable closer of the season, and that’s not saying much at all.
I look forward to saying goodbye to this man, though not as excruciating as Kevin Gregg, he is less effective and certainly a place holder with a very limited shelf life in Toronto.
He did it. Rauch the save, Mills the win and most likely another whirl (start), despite not pitching nearly as well tonight as he did in his last outing.
He may be one of these guys who can buck the trend. Maybe he can get away with throwing up in the zone, said Ashby.
Welcome Colby Rasmus. Hopefully, he and Travis Snider will push each other to meet their ubiquitously spoken of potential.
As of Wednesday July 27, GM Alex Anthopolous, video seen at Getting Blanked, had only stated that Brad Mills was called up for temporary bullpen depth, until the Blue Jays new pitchers (P.J. Walters and Trevor Miller) arrived. A decision had not yet been made on who would start Saturday’s game. How quickly things change in these starting rotation sweepstakes. Brad Mills is our #5.
According to Mike Wilner on the Jays Talk, Mills is likely getting the start today as a way of showing him off as potential trade bait, before the deadline strikes Sunday. The following John Farrell quote from bluejays. com, provides some context:
“The fact that Brad has thrown the ball exceptionally well in Las Vegas, I think he’s earned the spot,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s got the opportunity to take this start and run with it.”
Whatever the case may be, Mills deserves at least a 10 game stint in some major league ball club’s starting rotation.
He’s dominated in Triple-A, unlike Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Kyle Drabek. He’s got a lot to prove at the big league level, and I think he’s about ready to do it.
Zach Stewart is out, no longer part of the puzzle. Our depth of starting rotation makes losing Zach a moot point, (in the modern sense of the term).
I don’t think Luis Perez has earned his shot in the rotation, though look for him to rejoin the big club’s bullpen soon.
Carlos Villanueva will have to pitch better than he did Thursday over his next three starts, especially if Mills hangs around, Litsch pitches well in long relief and Kyle Drabek continues to bring his ERA back down to Earth.
Exciting times, indeed.
Chad Beck made the jump to Las Vegas this week. Deck McGuire is now a New Hampshire Fisher Cat, and Dustin McGowan is now up to pitching three innings per start with Dunedin. Joel Carreno and Henderson Alvarez are knocking on the Blue Jays door. It will be interesting to see if either gets the chance to show his stuff when the roster expands to 40 come September.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (27)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Carlos Villanueva (27)
- ↑Brad Mills (26)
- ↑Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
- ↑Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- ↑Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
- ↑Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
- ↑Luis Perez (26) – Las Vegas
- ↑Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
- Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- ↑Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire
- ↑Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
- ↓Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
- ↓Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
- ↑Nestor Molina (22) -Dunedin
- ↑B.J. LaMura (30) – New Hampshire
- ↑Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
- ↑Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
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
To animate the notion of a malleable starting rotation, composed of this organization’s top 20 starters, think gelatinous blob. Individual forces push toward and pull back from various spots, while overall movement trends in the same direction.
The blob is getting bigger.
It was last spotted heading south.
Engrossing New York and Boston is only a matter of time.
Brett Cecil is looking more like a #3 man. Tao of Stieb waxes poetic on the thighs of Cecil, which recovered from a rough last outing and a trying stretch to start the game against the Red Sox last night, going the distance in a losing cause at Fenway Park.
8 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 SO
Jesse Litsch got hit hard wearing the Las Vegas 51s uniform July 4. He’ll have to put together a few quality starts in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League before Jays brass will consider moving him back into the rotation. Andrew Stoeten at Drunk Jays Fans speculates on how the starting rotation numbers game may play out. Through two starts for Vegas, the Litsch line does not help his cause in the starting rotation sweepstakes:
6 IP, 8 ER , 16 H, 0 BB, 5 SO
Despite putting together a promising start to the season in Double-A, Reidier Gonzalez is again getting pounded by PCL hitters.
70.1 IP, 2.56 ERA, 1.21 WHIP – New Hampshire
22.1 IP, 11.69 ERA, 2.60 WHIP – Las Vegas
It is highly unlikely he will be called up to Toronto when the roster expand from 25 to 40.
Joel Carreno has been an Eastern League leader and strikeout master for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 15 games this season.
90.2 IP (7th), 3.18 ERA (8th), 1.18 WHIP (8th), 111 SO (2nd)
Compare with Zach Stewart through 13 starts:
75.2 IP (26th), 4.04 ERA (25th), 1.41 WHIP (27th), 53 SO (41st)
Robert Ray, thought to have been released outright by the Blue Jays May 19, 2011, is, in fact, still in the organization. Signed as a free agent on May 21, 2011, Ray has been in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting rotation since June 12. He yesterday logged his second quality start in five tries.
27.0 IP, 7.33 ERA, 1.63 WHIP , 23 SO
Since his promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire, Henderson Alvarez has started nine games for the Fisher Cats.
53.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 37 SO
Also making the jump to the Blue Jays Double-A starting rotation, Chad Jenkins has started five games. The 2009 first round draft pick would also seem to belong.
35.0 IP, 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 SO
Considering the Jays organization has promoted two of its better young pitchers (Drabek and Stewart) directly from Double-A to the Big Leagues, it is within the realm of possibility that Carreno, Alvarez, or Jenkins could get a look sooner than later.
Dustin McGowan, who was reported to have been shut down due to shoulder soreness, did miss a simulated start but threw two bullpen sessions instead last week. Tonight, July 6, he started his second game for the Dunedin Blue Jays, throwing two scoreless innings before youngster Drew Hutchison replaced him.
The 20-year-old Hutchison, a 15th round selection in 2009, has been promoted to Dunedin from the Lansing Lugnuts. In his first two starts, June 26 and July 1, Hutchison did not allow a run. He was pitching in his third game at the time of this posting.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (26)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Carlos Villanueva (27)
- Jo Jo Reyes (26)
- Brad Mills (26) – Las Vegas
- Jesse Litsch (26) – Las Vegas
- Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- Zach Stewart (24) – New Hampshire
- Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
- Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
- Joel Carreno (24) – New Hampshire
- Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
- Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- Deck McGuire (21) – Dunedin
- Nestor Molina (22) – Dunedin
- Reidier Gonzalez (25) – Las Vegas
- Mike MacDonald (29) – Las Vegas
- Chad Beck (26) – New Hampshire
- Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
3. Brett Cecil – June 30, 6.1 IP, 6 ER, defensive lapses
5. Jo Jo Reyes – July 3, 6.0 IP, 4 ER
6. Brad Mills – July 2, 7 IP, 2 ER
7. Jesse Litsch – July 4, 3 IP, 7 ER
8. Kyle Drabek – June 30, 6 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB
9. Zach Stewart – July 3, 6 IP, O ER (3 R)
10. Dustin McGowan – July 2, 33 pitches, 2/3 IP, 3 ER, defensive lapses
Following his 30-day rehabilitation, if he is not yet ready to rejoin the Blue Jays, McGowan may rest and/or start a new 30-day rehab stint.
Jesse Litsch barrels along the comeback trail, making the jump from Lansing to New Hampshire. His two starts for the Double-A Fisher Cats have bested the one in A-ball the previous week, where he gave up three runs in two(+) innings of work.
After 3.2 shutout innings June 23, Litsch lasted five innings and gave up one run June 28. His next start will likely take place in a Las Vegas 51s uniform.
The question, however, is whether the Jays starting rotation will a have a space available for Litsch when he is ready. With Villanueva pitching so reliably, I would be inclined to think not yet.
If anyone gets the yank, it should be Jo Jo Reyes, especially if his next start ends as soon as his last one did (3.2 IP, 6 ER).
The .363 blog posted an interesting take yesterday on the shelf life of Jo Jo.
Brad Mills, June 26, went six innings for the 51s, allowing four earned runs, days before getting passed up for a Toronto promotion. Though he seems to have hit a bit of a rough patch in the Pacific Coast League, statistically, he remains at the top among all starting pitchers there:
3.72 ERA (3rd), 101.2 IP (2nd), 1.28 WHIP (2nd), 92 SO (1st)
Brett Cecil, June 23, also went six innings for the 51s in his last start, allowing five earned runs. The Jays called him up anyway June 29. Cecil’s velocity has returned, touching 93 and averaging 89 mph, which returns the 6-10 mph differential considered necessary for an effective change-up.
Discounting two God-awful performances for Las Vegas, Cecil has almost matched Brad Mills in core performance measurements. Cecil also has something Mills may never have: a 15 win season at the major league level.
In related news, the Zach Stewart flirtation is over. See you in September, Zach. New Hampshire’s lucky to have you. I’m sure you will be fighting hard for your return and a pass to a proper rookie season in 2012.
I still think his ticket ought to include a pass through Las Vegas.
Upon being reactivated to the 25-man roster, Cecil alluded to the very real difference between pitching in the Pacific Coast and Majors, saying he had never had to base pitch selection on which way the wind is blowing. Perhaps it is that sort of thing the Jays want to avoid with Zach Stewart, having returned him to the Fisher Cats of the Double-A Eastern League.
Only nine PCL starting pitchers now hold an ERA below 4.00, while just 27 have ERA below 5.00 in the 16-team league.
Among them, the Jays forgettable 5th starter of Spring 2010, Dana Eveland, is enjoying a bit of success in that league. His 7-4 record and 3.86 ERA through 16 starts (91 IP) for the Albuquerue Isotopes may serve to give the 27-year-old another shot with a major league club. Just so long as it’s not with the Jays, preferably with an AL East squad. Eveland went 3-4 with a 6.45 ERA in 44.2 IP before the Jays traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ronald Uviedo, June 1, 2010.
As regards another former 5th starter, I would be shocked to ever see Scott Richmond start a regular season game for the Blue Jays. The #3 man in Las Vegas, has gone 4-6 with a 6.26 ERA and given up 14 HR in hitter-friendly air. In my estimation, the April 2009 MLB rookie of the month, now sits 11th in the organization’s depth chart.
My characterization of depth chart is one of constant malleability that considers current performance, health, and major league readiness as its main criteria, but also takes into account perceived statistical blips and temporary setbacks, such as in the case of Brett Cecil. My top five, though not in the same order as Bluejays. com or Torontostar. com, will not include players outside the starting rotation.
That said, when Litsch was still with the Lansing Lugnuts and Cecil still finding his form with the Las Vegas 51s, I believe Brad Mills was the most deserving candidate to take on the spot surrendered by Kyle Drabek.
Since Mark Rzepczynski has adjusted so well to his new role as lefty-specialist in middle relief, I’ve left him off this list.
- Ricky Romero
- Brandon Morrow
- Brett Cecil
- Carlos Villanueva
- Jo Jo Reyes
- Jesse Litsch
- Brad Mills
- Kyle Drabek
- Zach Stewart
- Dustin McGowan
- Scott Richmond
Aces 16, Aliens 7
The Kyle Drabek Experience played a short set in Reno last night.
The dream is turning stormy.
Strange but true, Drabek’s evening lasted just 2/3 of an inning, which equalled in length his June 1 performance against the Indians when he still donned the Blue Jay uniform.
But this nightmare proved worse, his struggle more acute and the failure more complete.
He may as well have been asleep for all the cognisance he displayed on the mound.
After allowing five runs on four hits, two home runs and three walks, Drabek’s ERA stands at an astronomical 17.36 in two Triple-A starts.
Inside the mind of Kyle, fears and desires have run amok.
Wanting more is not enough. Thinking positive is not enough. Throwing hard is not enough.
He must first wake up.
Wake up, Kyle.
We need you.
But he’s got to learn how to wake up on the right side of the bed.
For Drabek, it’s all about balance and control: mental, emotional and physical. When he finds that sweet spot in his mind, heart and catcher’s mitt, he will awaken from this nightmare to the real dream.
For now, he remains mired inside his very own Salvador Dali painting.
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.
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.