Category: Mark Rzepczynski

The fortune of Brad Mills

Brad Mills makes the rotation, Brad Mills(er) time, starting rotation sweepstakes Jo Jo Reyes is out. Brad Mills is in, at least for today. Jesse Litsch, also called up, will work out of the bullpen, in the wake of the departure of Mark Rzepcynski, Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel.

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.

The race is always on. The climb is great – the fall is depth.

  1. Ricky Romero (26)
  2. Brandon Morrow (27)
  3. Brett Cecil (25)
  4. Carlos Villanueva (27)
  5. ↑Brad Mills (26)
  6. ↑Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
  7. ↑Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
  8. ↑Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
  9. ↑Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
  10. ↑Luis Perez (26) – Las Vegas
  11. ↑Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
  12. Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
  13. ↑Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire
  14. ↑Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
  15. ↓Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
  16. ↓Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
  17. ↑Nestor Molina (22) -Dunedin
  18. ↑B.J. LaMura  (30) – New Hampshire
  19. ↑Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
  20. ↑Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
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Blue Jay puzzle pieces

1977 redux, Ricky Romero

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

Blue Jays offensive production

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

Baseball in J Minor

Jesse Litsch, Lansing to New Hampshire to Las VegasAs it concerns demoted and rehabilitating Blue Jays starters, the news out of New Hampshire is better than out of Las Vegas.

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 is not leaving Las Vegas yetBrad Mills is not leaving Las Vegas yet

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.

  1. Ricky Romero
  2. Brandon Morrow
  3. Brett Cecil
  4. Carlos Villanueva
  5. Jo Jo Reyes
  6. Jesse Litsch
  7. Brad Mills
  8. Kyle Drabek
  9. Zach Stewart
  10. Dustin McGowan
  11. Scott Richmond
The oft-injured Robert Ray, who filled in adequately in the 2010 Jays rotation (4 GS, 24.1 IP, 4.44 ERA, 1-2) and pitched 3.2 innings of shutout relief last September, was released May 19, 2011. Dustin McGowan, contrary to first report, has not been shut down due to forearm stiffness. He threw a full bullpen session Monday. I’ll be waiting on the proverbial seat-edge to learn whether he pitches his next scheduled simulated game. To see him rejoin the starting rotation in September would be a thing of miraculous beauty.

Blue Jay puzzle pieces

Toronto Blue Jays, workhorse, #1 starter
Ricky Romero – workhorse, solid, if not timely, settling into role as staff ace

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

Adam Lind, Jose Bautista,

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   

On Yankees heels, Interleague awful

May 20, 2011 (pregame)

It’s still early. Competition is fierce. But the Blue Jays sit just one game out of the wild card spot. When the extent of its injuries and slumps are measured, this club is exceeding expectations overall.

The Yankees reeling over the Jorge Posada soap opera, their core talent aging well out of its prime, such things could develop into real liabilities. An average age of 25.6, the Jays starting rotation, with all its depth and talent, matches up favourably against those of all division rivals, especially that of the grey-beards in pin-stripes. See average age of 32. Each Yankee starter exceeds 30, apart from the 23-year-old Ivan Nova. The match up bodes well for our rivalry levelling out in the future. How close to now is that future?

This could really be the year, the first since 1993, the Jays finish above the Yankees.

Interleague awful

The Jays will show marked improvement, if they break even in interleague play this year.

All time- 115-132, 2008- 8-10, 2009- 7-11, and 2010- 7-11

In the world of WHAT IFs, a mere four-game swing last season to 11-7, all (other) things being equal, would have kept the Blue Jays in the fight for the wild last September.

May 20, 2011 (postgame)

Astros 5, Jays 2

UGH. Almost-wins are a tough pill to swallow. Frank Francisco appears to be suffering from the K-Gregg Syndrome, an inability to pitch well in back-to-back games. Rookie manager and de-facto team psychologist (Dr.) John Farrell misdiagnosed his team’s symptoms and did not follow procedure when he brought in the would-be closer in a non-save situation. The powerful yet thus far unreliable Francisco promptly allowed the Astros three runs. Mark Rzepcynski or Sean Camp might have been the more logical choice with the game tied 2-2.

Blue Jay hitting continues to suffer its Achilles Heel with runners in scoring position. While hard luck starter Jo Jo Reyes stepped up, shutting down the Astros over 7 innings and giving his team a chance to win, John Rauch blew the save and a 2-0 lead in the 8th inning. Interleague woes still pain us. Reyes appear infected by chronic winlessitis. Mr. Rauch came into the game with a 2.70 ERA, took a beating, and left it with a 3.57. Ouch.

Fall Classic


Fernando  Valenzuela, Campeche, mayan, Fall ClassicCAMPECHE, 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.

Consider:

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.