davisview

A good, old fashioned doubleheader! Uh… y’know… in snowy Minnesota in April.

The Jays and Twins have been snowed out today, meaning that R.A. Dickey and Dustin McGowan will both be pitching tomorrow, with Dickey presumably taking the regularly scheduled 1:10 PM ET start, and McGowan going at 7:10 PM ET in the game we’re all going to be far too drunk to remember the end of.

What, you’re not getting drunk all day and watching baseball? I thought I knew you.

The current forecast for Minneapolis, according to the Weather Network, has a high tomorrow of 5°C with a low of -2°C. Fun!

 

Image of Barry Davis’s “view” of Target Field via Barry Davis.

dailyduce2

If I wanted to be smothered to death, I’d go back to the Xcalibur and fess up. … If I go back to the Xcalibur and fess up, I’ll be smothered to death. That’s in our Charter.

I didn’t make a big deal of it at the time, despite a lot of people insisting it must be viewed as more evidence of Rogers’ nasty cheapness (hint: it isn’t), but it’s worth mentioning that in his Monday morning piece at Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal included a tidbit about Jays reliever Neil Wagner. Rosenthal explains that last year, the major league portion of Wagner’s deal “was worth $525,000, and Wagner spent nearly four months last season with the Jays, getting paid at that rate,” and performing reasonably well. However, because “the Jays, like many clubs, use a pay scale for 0-to-3 players” that is based on service time, “Wagner merited an offer of $506,250″ for 2014, and had no leverage to do anything about it. Yep, that’s how the CBA works, and it sure as shit wasn’t a dictum from Rogers that insisted the Jays cut Wagner’s pay — Rosenthal tells us exactly why that happened. So why is he mentioning it at all? Is he assigning some kind of major importance to the story by putting it under his byline? Hardly. Minor Leaguer has it, tweeting that it simply “was a cool look into pre-arb players who were once minor league free agents, not often does their pay get written about.” That’s it. And if Wagner or his agent is upset… um… shouldn’t it be at themselves for not knowing when they signed in the first place that the Jays use a service time-based scale for pre-arb players?

Also from Monday was the Monday Morning Ten Pack at Baseball Prospectus, which featured a pair of Jays prospects: Aaron Sanchez and Dan Norris. Sanchez, as you may have heard, didn’t have his best stuff. “His delivery escaped him most of the day and he struggled to throw strikes consistently,” we were told, with the addition that “seeing the raw potential in Sanchez was easy, but it was also very apparent that he still needs considerable work to reach his ceiling.” Norris isn’t the same calibre of prospect, and also struggled with command, but Chris King, who saw him pitch over the weekend for Dunedin, was impressed with his curve, and added that “on a night where his velocity was down a tick or two and he lacked fastball command, it was very impressive to see a kid battle like he did and shut out a pretty talented Brevard County lineup over six innings.” I’ll take it.

The Jays are looking at having to make a roster move to accommodate Jose Reyes’s return on Friday, which almost certainly means demoting one of their other middle infielders, and I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that — while I didn’t even consider Jonathan Diaz — I sort of figured that Munenori Kawasaki was probably the best fit all along. If Goins keeps hitting like he did last night, though, I could live with that.

Great stuff from Blue Jays Plus, where Gideon Turk talks to Sal Fasano, and looks at some of the drills that the Jays’ roving catching instructor was having his charges do during the spring, to help their receiving and their defensive skills in general.

And more great stuff, as always, from Grant Brisbee of SB Nation, who writes a premature post-mortem for the 2014 Jays, as part of an ongoing series, and decides that things really could be a whole lot worse for the club. Well… yeah.

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Breaking: Adam Lind

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Adam Lind has a bad feeling about his back after crossing the plate in Tuesday’s win at Minnesota

Brutal.

Adam Lind left tonight’s win over the Twins in the seventh inning, after moving quite gingerly after crossing the plate on Moises Sierra’s ground out, on which Joe Mauer inexplicably chose to take the out at first base rather than coming to the plate, allowing a run to cross. On the TV broadcast Drs. Buck and Pat were hopeful, based on the fact that Lind remained in the dugout for a while, and didn’t look like he was laboring too terribly, that it was mostly a precaution or something that wouldn’t require much time off.

Not so, according to the reports coming from the clubhouse following the game.

In case those tweets don’t make it quite clear enough, this doesn’t sound good. Mind you, not multiple-months not good, but certainly like something that could require a DL stint, as was required in 2011, when he missed 24 games with back trouble, and 2012 when he missed 29.

If you recall — and I only barely did, though Scott MacArthur was kind enough to confirm via tweet — Lind and Encarnacion were flipped, positionally, at the last minute before Sunday’s game (Scott’s original tweet here), which was due to the back injury at that point.

Brendan Kennedy quotes Lind as saying that he hasn’t felt pain like this in his back “for years.” Ugh.

Hey, but at least Jose Reyes is coming back soon, right? Right???

We’ll keep you posted on any roster moves, should they happen — and with the Jays’ already stretched bench, it wouldn’t be surprising if they felt they had to do something quickly, just to avoid playing shorthanded, however, it also wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if they waited, given that the forecast for tomorrow doesn’t look great, and they may get an extra day to figure out what to do here — and… um… we’ll also remind you that Dan Johnson is hitting .242/.366/.545 so far at Buffalo this year… so… that’s something, right? Right???

jackiestatue

The Jays are in Minnesota to take on the Twins here on Jackie Robinson Day– the 67th anniversary of Robinson’s first game in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers, following an astonishing (.349/.468/.462!) single season in this country with the Montreal Royals.

Sadly, I don’t have the time to write out all the thoughts I have on why this is such an important day, and something that baseball actually, somehow, manages to do right by continuing to celebrate. Sure, the league is sort of patting itself on the back for being the incubator for a powerful story of perseverance and humanity overcoming hate in the midst of an era where basic civil rights of the kind that it’s so easy for so many of us to simply take for granted needed to be fought for — the kind of story that both transcends sports and underscores the power that sport can have to effect change and impart powerful ideas to broader society — when the reality is that it was baseball’s own racist policies that were being broken down. But I suppose that they don’t hide from that is itself a signal of progress — not that they really ever had a choice.

But… well… this isn’t about the league itself anyway, nor is it about the long way that the world still has to go, despite 67 years of that progress. It’s about the triumph of what’s decent and right, and a celebration of a man who, to make the world a better place, faced more pressure and vitriol than any man should, as one of the faces of a struggle for a people that faced imposed disadvantages and hatred more than any people should, and simultaneously for the basic right to freedom for all people.

There’s no more important figure in the game, and like I say, MLB surprisingly actually gets this one right.

Scuttlebutt

It is cold in Minnesota in April. Think you might hear about this a couple more times before the game is over.

The Jays announced today that Jeremy Jeffress has cleared waivers and been assigned to Buffalo — meaning that the eight-man bullpen thing worked… the first time. Guess we’re doing it again, though. Marcus Walden was D’d FA in order to make room on the 40-man for Munenori Kawasaki, who we’d known since Sunday was on his way up — and he is indeed with the team tonight, bizarrely starting in the two-spot (though at least he’ll take some pitches and maybe get on base, right? Right???). (Note: Drew nailed it.)

Another lineup note: Colby Rasmus sits tonight with a tight hamstring — which he was removed from Sunday’s game for. Makes sense given the cold, and the fact that if he were to do something to make it worse, they couldn’t retroactively DL him. Best to just wait until it’s right. Especially since, even though they’re 6-6, judging by their lineup, I have no idea how these Twins have managed to win a game.

Scott MacArthur adds that he spoke to Colby, who says his hamstring is feeling much better, and that he hopes to play tomorrow. Brendan Kennedy tweets that John Gibbons also notes that Moises Sierra has hit Phil Hughes better in a small sample, as well, so… y’know… microsplits. (FYRE GOBBONS!!!!!!)

About that, though. Gregor Chisholm tweets that Gibbons says that with more cold forecast for tomorrow, don’t be surprised if Colby gets another day off.

Better news: Kennedy also tweets that Jose Reyes is now scheduled to play for Dunedin tonight and tomorrow, and the Blue Jays on Friday in Cleveland, barring setback. That’ll play.

One more from Kennedy, who adds that Casey Janssen doesn’t have as structured a rehab program as yet — he’ll throw 25 pitches today and they’ll take it from there.

Janssen is throwing, and @stivbators tells us that various guns have his fastball at 86-88. Yeesh.

J.A. Happ still thinks he’s a starter, and isn’t particularly thrilled with being in the bullpen. Fair enough, it’s just, y’know, pitch your way out of it, then.

“Fans of an outdoor stadium in Toronto should heed this week’s attendance in Minnesota,” tweets @mattomic. “From 5° to -1 with chance of flurries each game.” (See, I told you that you might hear about this.)

Shirtless Melky Cabrera? Shirtless Melky Cabrera. (Shirtless Melky).

Padres reporter Corey Brock tweets that Josh Johnson has an upcoming visit with Dr. James Andrews, while Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported last night that Rays pitcher Matt Moore will have Tommy John surgery and is out for the year.

TV: Sportsnet

Next game: Tomorrow, 8:10 PM ET, @ Minnesota

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

LF Melky Cabrera (S)
2B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
CF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
RF Moises Sierra (R)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
SS Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Brandon Morrow

Minnesota Twins

2B Brian Dozier (R)
1B Joe Mauer (L)
3B Trevor Plouffe (R)
RF Chris Colabello (R)
LF Jason Kubel (L)
DH Josmil Pinto (R)
C Kurt Suzuki (R)
CF Aaron Hicks (S)
SS Pedro Florimon (S)

RHP Phil Hughes

keripodcast

Yesterday over at Grantland, Jonah Keri has relaunched his podcast for 2014, and — lo and behold! — Alex Anthopoulos was the lead guest, offering much of the same kind of stuff that we’ve heard from him over the past year, but with enough twists to keep it fresh and interesting — and, at times, somewhat maddening.

Actually it probably doesn’t even reach quite the level of “maddening” — what he offers us is quite a bit more good than bad, I’d say — but in there we still manage to find a little bit of revisionist history, a little bit of dancing around Jonah asking the crucial question when it comes to the idea that pitchers are afraid to sign here, a little bit of goalpost pushing, and a little bit of hollowly saying exactly what you’d expect him to about Colby Rasmus.

Some highlights!

On the off-season…

Asked to give an overview of how the Jays got to where they are, and failed to make a splash this winter, Anthopoulos an excellent of walking the tightrope between pure honesty and putting as positive a spin on things as he could. To wit:

When the season was over we didn’t know the status of Brandon Morrow. He was going to throw, basically, a simulated game early- to mid-November, and we were going to have to wait to find out how he was going to do, and if he was going to be ready for Spring Training. That was going to dictate some of the factors in the off-season. A guy like Drew Hutchison, that we were really high on in 2012 before he got hurt — as a 21-year-old and really started to turn the corner — he was going to go out and pitch in the fall league and we wanted to go out and see him and evaluate him. I got a chance to see him in November as well, and he really turned the corner. So, once Morrow had come out of his simulated games and had a clean bill of health, and we had full expectations for him in Spring Training, and seeing Drew’s progress in the fall league, we felt that was two starters that we didn’t have that we were going to add to the rotation.

We still wanted to be able to add one more starter if we could, via free agency or trade, but we didn’t want to force anything. There were some trade talks that we had that ultimately didn’t materialize — we would have had to force a move, and we obviously didn’t believe in doing that.

That’s not an incorrect chronology of events, and the stuff about how good they ended up feeling about Morrow and Hutchison isn’t new either, it’s just… really? I mean, where was this “if Morrow’s OK and Hutchison looks great, we really only want to add one starter — but only at the right price” stuff back in September, when pitching was the number one priority and they were bound and determined to find a way to improve? Because I didn’t hear it, and I certainly don’t think that it was by design that the Blue Jays’ rotation looks the way it does today.

Maybe I’m overdue for a tinfoil hat, but that spin on things sure seems exactly to me like the cheap veneer the Jays prefer to use when covering over whatever strangeness went on behind the scenes this winter.

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mcgowanBAL

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of thoughts on what went on over the weekend (delayed because yesterday Dirk Hayhurst decided to write something rather interesting that involved the Jays)…

Generalizations

After 13 games, the 2014 Jays are 7-6. The 2013 version of the club was 6-7 at this point, but I don’t think you’d find anybody who wouldn’t say that what we’re witnessing now has certainly has felt completely different than the small difference in record would suggest.

Much of that is down to the fact that the pitching has been more than good enough to dream of big things on, as long as they stay healthy, and the defence has looked much better so far this season, particularly at second base, behind the plate, and in left field. That they’ve actually got some offensive production out of two of those positions hasn’t hurt either.

Also big, however, and somewhat overlooked, is the fact that the bullpen has started the year rolling. In 2013, Darren Oliver and Sergio Santos gave up runs in a tight game-two loss against Cleveland, then Oliver and Esmil Rogers let the Clevelands back into a what would eventually be a 10-8 win the next day. A day later it was Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress handing a victory to Boston in John Farrell’s return.

This year it has been an entirely different story — Todd Redmond’s loss in Saturday’s extra inning loss in Baltimore, and the questionable (yet also justifiable) bullpen usage that led to it, not withstanding – and the club seems to be winning games the way that they’re actually supposed to. As opposed to, y’know, relying on Maicer Izturis to hit crucial home runs, which the 2013 version of the Jays did three times in their first five weeks, including one that tied up the eventual game-two loss, one that plated the third run in a 4-3 victory over Chicago that brought the club’s record to 6-7, and an early May shot in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game in Tampa that brought the Jays’ record up to 13-21. Ugh.

I think what speaks most to why the feeling around this club is different now than a year ago, though, is this little tidbit (stolen from a commenter): the 2013 Jays were at or above .500 for seven days, from a victory on June 21st to a loss on June 28th, and hit .500 twice more in the following three games. That’s a grand total of nine times being at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game for the entire season. The 2014 Jays, after two weeks, have already been at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game ten times — and given that their record is currently 7-6, whether they win or lose tonight, that number is about to move to eleven.

So… yeah, that sure as shit feels better. And with the Twins on the schedule, it doesn’t exactly feel like the party is about to end just yet, does it?

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Season Over For Maicer Izturis?

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According to an email blast from the Jays, an MRI on Maicer Izturis has revealed a complete tear of the lateral collateral ligament in… whichever knee it was that he injured yesterday on the dugout steps in Baltimore. He’ll get a second opinion, but if the first diagnosis stands, he’s looking at a 4-6 month recovery time, and essentially the end of his season.

Izturis had already been stealing all kinds of playing time from supposed “regular second baseman” Ryan Goins, and in the field looked a world away from the 2013 he spent as a hapless defender and, per FanGraphs’ WAR, the worst player in baseball. He’d had a nice little meaningless streak at the plate, too!

Did that mean he was destined to get over-exposed as ol’ Gibbers vainly tried to wring every ounce of value from him possible even after the bat cooled? Well… it’s shitty to say such a negative thing like that on a day that is surely one of the worst of his professional career —  and probably incorrect to suggest that over-exposure can even exist in the way we normally conceive of it on a club that is routinely running Ryan Goins and Jonathan Diaz out there — but… probably?

I don’t mean to be negative on Izturis in a moment like this — shit, I praised him in a Game Threat last week for so far looking much more like the guy the Jays thought they were getting — but there are way too many people in my Twitter feed right now who are frightened about the what this loss means. Uh… it means Goins and Diaz sharing time at second once Reyes is back, which is damn close to what everyone thought was going to be the case two weeks ago. People are similarly mentioning Stephen Drew as a possible replacement, as though two weeks ago they wouldn’t have barely struggled to bother shrugging their shoulders at the idea of Maicer’s possible loss. (Not that Drew isn’t still a very good idea, but this alters that how?)

It was great that he helped out and looked decent for a couple of weeks, but the expectations don’t change after 13 games. Not on the potential of Izturis being good, not on Goins being bad. (Of course, you already entirely expected that Goins wouldn’t hit, right?)

Is this good? Of course not. But there is Goins, there is Diaz (who I think has earned the lion’s share of playing time, despite being the right-hander in the potential platoon), there is Munenori Kawasaki and Chriz Getz and Steve Tolleson and, if you want to move even more pieces (like Brett Lawrie) around, Andy LaRoche and Juan Francisco. This team is rife with replacement-level depth, and this injury means no more today, because Izturis looked back in form, than it would have if he hadn’t had two hot weeks at the plate coinciding with not looking useless in the field.

Don’t get me wrong, I was OK with the Izturis deal at the time, because it looked like he was possibly at a low ebb of his value and had been a nice utility piece in the years previous. Last year proved that he could go a whole lot farther south than I expected, but there was certainly a higher ceiling there than we saw. It’s just… we didn’t expect anything out of him. We got a nice bonus of a couple hot weeks, and that’s great. Yet the slash line had already dipped to .286/.324/.314 (Kawasaki over 289 PA last year: .229/.326/.308), the WAR had fallen by half (from 0.4 when I wrote the Game Threat linked above to 0.2 today), and the defence was never going to look as good as what Diaz or Goins will provide. It’s… it’s fine.

I mean, it sucks for Maicer and his teammates and all that, and it was great to see him looking better than what we remembered, but let’s not anybody act like it isn’t insane to think he was going to keep producing a quarter of a win every two weeks — a half a win per month, or 3 WAR over the course of the year. The difference between having him or Kawasaki as the utility guy isn’t just practically negligible, it may end up being net positive. Relax.