Archive for the ‘Game Threat’ Category

longoriaopeningday

Not pictured: the team that’s gonna fuckin’ win today!!

I think I’ve come down with a case of trench foot after traversing the slushy streets of Montreal from Parc-X to the train station yesterday, and the weather back here at home has hardly been less abysmal. And yet… baseball. Holy fucking shitting fucking baseball! It’s here! Today!

At 4:10 PM ET, to be precise!

Arriving with the exact opposite of the sort of fanfare that we were swept up in last year — the “coronation” that so irked Cleveland broadcasters — the Jays begin under the radar, under the ugly catwalks of Tropicana Field, and under nothing like the same weight of expectations. None of this, in other words. In fact, most pundits figure the club will finish last in the division, and with the question marks in the rotation and elsewhere, it’s hard to blame them.

But why focus on that on a day like this? Because we learned very quickly last year that what all of the predictions and projections amount to is something approximating jack fuckin’ shit. So, while it may be flawed to simply think that this is basically the same roster that was expected to contend this year, therefore they must be contenders again — sorry, it’s not at all the same roster, in terms of reasonable expectations, and it’s not as though the teams around them have remained static — that doesn’t mean that things can’t go really, really well.

There is a lot of talent here, and a lot to actually be excited about. Drew Hutchison is untested, but looking very good, and certainly not the sort of injury-waiting-to-happen that those who want to slag him for having had Tommy John surgery — sort of like everyone does — want to believe. Morrow and McGowan will almost assuredly pitch well for as long as they can stay healthy, and when they do break down, the club could do worse than giving a few turns to Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers or Marcus Stroman, before shifting their gaze to where Aaron Sanchez is at in double-A, having looked far more the potential front line big leaguer during the spring than his minor league record, and its 134 walks in 256 minor innings, has shown.

The bullpen, even without Casey Janssen out of the gate, looks to be as strong as ever, and the lineup, even with its glaring holes — its lack of a true platoon partner for Lind, its lack of a true centre field backup, its lack of a late inning pinch runner, its Ryan Goins — will find all kinds of ways to hit, even with less-twitchy 2014 Brett Lawrie still topping everything in sight. And defensively, Goins at least won’t bring the kind of butchery we saw at second last year. Reyes — despite it being eminently true that, as a defensive shortstop, he’s a really good hitter — is certainly a better sight there than Munenori Kawasaki or Maicer Izturis (who, combined, played in 85 games at short, in whole or in part, in 2013). And the successful removal of a tumour on Melky Cabrera’s spinal column has made him look an eternity removed from the arthritic sloth we saw in left field last season.

So lets get excited! Like these guys two years ago at Opera Bob’s:

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griffbag

Still here on the train, and Griff posted a Mail Bag over at the Toronto Star. Let’s see if I can’t bang this the fuck out, shall we?

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q : Hi Richard Stoeten,

Like a lot of fans, I guess, trying to work out ways we are not going to win this year sometimes seems the dominant Jays theme at this time of the year. Strange thing is, they announced the 25-man (roster) as we sat around having coffee and we all suddenly turned into optimists again. Nothing to do with the names even, just everything seems a little better than last season.

I don’t know whether you agree or not but the consensus was that defence and offence looked good. Even though it may well turn out a bust, seeing Dustin McGowan start is a bit special. And the team seems to have lost the sourness of last year. I know great players make great teams, but sometimes it’s intangible things like chemistry, break out years, etc that wins championships

Talking of special, I don’t know whose idea it was to stage the games in Montreal, but pin a medal on him. it’s a fantastic idea. No disrespect to the Jays, but memories of the Expos sure lingers on and for all of us who were fans during that time it’s a great pre-season starter.

Look forward to reading about a winning the pennant in your column next fall Griff. Until then…Go Jays

— Frank Taker, Prescott, Ont.

Fuck that noise about intangibles, Frank, it’s about current health, and about the ability to dream on the arms of guys like McGowan and Morrow and Hutchison, rather than Redmond and Rogers and Happ, alongside the dependable, if not downright potentially excellent-ish Dickey and Buehrle, that makes the whole thing feel pretty good right now. We’re kidding ourselves, surely, but this is the time of year for it — and also to get caught up in feel-good things like that and the whole Expos nostalgia trip that we’re allowing ourselves to indulge in — so… fuck it. Let’s just go with it. Shit, maybe even Goins really will be able to play enough defence to make up for his bat.

Plus, failing all else, it’s hard not to feel good about our chances of drinking a beer in the sun very, very soon.

That’ll play.

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hutcsarasota

With their roster in place for Opening Day — provided everybody stays fully encased in bubble wrap until then — the Jays make the 13 minute drive to Clearwater to take on the Phillies in their final slice of Grapefruit League action before heading to Montreal for two final tuneups tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon.

Aaaaand it would appear as though the garbage that is Windows 8 doesn’t want me to post this, so it’s dropping my wifi every three minutes. Some key scuttlebutt is going around, so I won’t be deterred. Guess I’ll just stop trying to fight through this horseshit, post what little I have here, and just switch machines to the one that actually works but is intentionally dumb. Ugh.

Hey! But it’s Drew Hutchison on the hill, and this one is actually MLB.tv, so that’s good, right? Couldn’t expect Rogers to find room for it on actual TV, though, what with all the poker and radio shows they need to air, but still! And Pete Puma!

Scuttlebutt

Brendan Kennedy tweeted earlier that Jose Reyes is on the traveling roster for today’s game, and Barry Davis later added that Reyes will DH tomorrow in Montreal. However things later changed a bit: Reyes is apparently feeling fine, as Davis tweeted that he’s now set to play at shortstop on the turf in Montreal tomorrow. Thank fuck!

Davis also tweets that Edwin Encarnacion is fine following yesterday’s incident. It’s just a bruise.

Drew writes at Getting Blanked about Dustin McGowan, how he’s maybe never been quite as good as Jays fans want to believe, but how he’s also seriously warming the frosty hearts of this fan base.

Alex Anthopoulos was on Prime Time Sports yesterday. Watch it, if you feel like it. But actually maybe you’d rather…

Follow @SportsBarHeroes on Twitter and check their timeline for some news about a bit of a happening next week, which I’ll be posting about soon! And while you’re at it, even if you already have, watch the video! (Explained here).

TV: MLB.tv

And now the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

CF Colby Rasmus (L)
RF Moises Sierra (R)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
DH Jose Bautista (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
SS Maicer Izturis (S)
2B Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Drew Hutchison

Philadelphia Phillies

CF Ben Revere (L)
SS Jimmy Rollins (S)
2B Chase Utley (L)
DH Ryan Howard (L)
RF Marlon Byrd (R)
C Carlos Ruiz (R)
3B Cody Asche (L)
1B John Mayberry Jr. (R)
LF Tony Gwynn Jr. (L)

RHP Pete Puma

mcgowanthrowing

Whoa. OK, so I should probably get the hell out of bed and write about how the Jays’ Opening Day roster was formally set today, featuring five key bits of not entirely not-fucking-confounding news:

McGowan Starts Home Opener

I’ve written about this rather extensively over the past several days, as it appeared more and more clear that Dustin McGowan’s performances were a cut above those of everyone else pitching for the last spot in the Jays’ rotation, and fortunately the Jays seem to have their heads on straight with this one, despite the obvious risks. It just made too much sense for even this bizarre-thinking organization to not ignore — especially after McGowan reportedly has been saying that he feels great this morning (let’s just pretend it’s still morning) following yesterday’s 62 pitch outing.

Brandon Morrow, who almost kind of looked ready-enough in his last tuneup, gets bumped up a spot and will pitch in the final game at Tampa so that McGowan can continue to go on regular rest, pitching March 30th against minor leaguers, and then taking the ball in the home opener against Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees. It’s easy to be pretty jaded about this club — really, really, really easy — but how awesome is that?

For the sake of completeness, I should note that Morrow will also be on regular rest in his first start of the year, as he’ll pitch on the Saturday in Montreal, along with Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup.

Happ To The DL

Not entirely unsurprising news here, as apparently J.A. Happ’s back isn’t right, or wasn’t right, or flared up, or… something something left arm shittiness.

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Spring Threat: Jays @ Pirates

gibbersst

It reaaaaaly shouldn’t be coming down to this, but it would seem as though today is a big day for the shaping of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation — or at least the version of it that will break camp with the club. J.A. Happ gets the start in Bradenton, with a squad of minor leaguers behind him and what people are calling the Pirates’ A-lineup in front of him. Esmil Rogers follows suit, his most recent outing having been a very solid start against the Phillies — six strikeouts, five hits, one walk, over 4.2 innings — which was thoroughly overshadowed by a sparkling performance from Dustin McGowan… who also takes the hill today in a minor league game.

And… um… remember after that game against the Phillies when ol’ Dr. Gibbers made it plain that the Jays would not begin the year with Dustin McGowan in the starting rotation?

Yeah, um… about that… um… what a piece from the day after by John Lott of the National Post, and this one from Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun, presupposes is, maybe he will?

Evidently, according to Rutsey, pitching coach Pete Walker and Alex Anthopoulos don’t quite see eye-to-eye with Gibbers and his ultra-conservative ways when it comes to McGowan’s health. After Gibbons had put a damper on the idea of McGowan being in the mix, his boss and his pitching coach told reporters that there was still a chance. McGowan still had to respond well to his next side session, and to the 65 pitches he’ll throw today, but in the Sun piece Walker suggested that the Jays have him on the exact path I laid out last week (because it was obvious, FYI, not because I possess any kind of super secret special knowledge), which would put him in line to start the home opener, following the start today and a minor league start on Sunday,  if this scheme actually ends up working. And, damn it, it just might be crazy enough to!

Anyway, following all this, Gibbons, according to Lott’s piece, chided the media for running with the idea that he had ruled McGowan out of the rotation mix, even though… he pretty much did. He also chided them for allegedly twisting his words about Ryan Goins who had then not yet been “officially” named the club’s starting second baseman, even though he now has. (He has also been “dumbly” been named the club’s second baseman, FYI.)

Kind of weird optics going on there with the backpedaling and Gibbons looking like he had been overruled, but… who knows? And it’s not like he’s wrong and there aren’t big problems with this whole McGowan fantasy. I mean, it takes a hell of an effort to get through the part in that Sun piece where we’re told McGowan’s health problems are behind him — because… seriously? — but… I don’t know, man. Weighted balls? Maybe?

Yeah, I don’t know. And frankly, unsexy as it probably sounds, J.A. Happ can go a long way towards wresting the competition back in his favour by just looking like a damn big leaguer today. We shall see! (Er… hear, at least.)

Scuttlebutt

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looks at the many unanswered questions remaining with the rotation.

John Lott tweets that Jose Reyes says that his hamstring is feeling “way better” this morning, while Barry Davis adds that the shortstop tells him that this injury is nowhere near as bad as previous ones.

Scott MacArthur tweets that ol’ Gibbers says that if Reyes can play in the next couple of days, it will be as DH, and if he’s healthy enough he’ll make the trip to Montreal for the series this weekend. Sigh of relief?

Mike Wilner seems to have been the first to tweet the suggestion from Gibbons that whoever catches R.A. Dickey tomorrow will be the club’s backup catcher to start the year. Both Erik Kratz and Josh Thole are with the club in Bradenton today, but the fact that Kratz is in the game and batting cleanup probably gives you some indication of how highly the Jays think of his bat.

The results weren’t the greatest yesterday for Brandon Morrow, though he wasn’t exactly being hit all over the yard either, and according to John Lott of the National Post, John Gibbons says that the right-hander’s health is really all that matters. From all indications, Morrow felt good and took another step toward being ready for the season. He’ll start on Saturday in Montreal, from all indications.

Schadenfraude update: Geovany Soto is hurt for Texas, but that’s not exactly thrust J.P. Arencibia into the role of Rangers starting catcher, as a report from the Dallas Morning News says Ron Washington is very non-committal about who’ll get the role, and MLBTR passes along various details about how the club is hoping to fill various roster holes created by injury from outside the organization, including behind the plate. So… I don’t know. If I were them I’d probably actually just go with J.P., if only because he’s so likely to nail it just to spite us.

MacGruber? MacGruber.

TV: None

And now the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

RF Matt Tuiasosopo (R)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Erik Kratz (R)
1B Dan Johnson (L)
CF Brett Carroll (R)
2B Maicer Izturis (S)
SS Ryan Goins (L)
3B Jonathan Diaz (R)

LHP J.A. Happ

Pittsburgh Pirates

LF Starling Marte (R)
C Russell Martin (R)
CF Andrew McCutchen (L)
3B Pedro Alvarez (L)
1B Gaby Sanchez (R)
RF Jose Tabata (R)
2B Neil Walker (S)
SS Jordy Mercer (R)

RHP Wandy Rodriguez

morrowst

There is rain in the forecast for the Clearwater area today, which could spoil a rather interesting afternoon of baseball in Dunedin, with Brandon Morrow on the hill for the Jays, facing big league hitters — or, at the very least, members of the Philadelphia Phillies — for the last time before taking two big turns in front of big Jays crowds, Saturday in Montreal, and then in the home opener next week. Assuming, that is, that Dustin McGowan isn’t squeezed into the spot… or something.

And, of course, Morrow hasn’t been particularly sharp, or throwing particularly hard as yet this spring, though his last outing — in a minor league game — was reportedly a step in the right direction. And thank fuck for that! I mean, we’re talking about Dustin McGowan possibly, shit-you-not, potentially getting a look as a rotation candidate. Things, clearly, must be desperate, and if Morrow doesn’t look like the guy the Jays need him to be this afternoon, it probably won’t mean anything, but it will sure feel like it means something. And something not good, because no matter how discouraged we all may be about how the off-season has gone, it’s still spring, everybody’s record is still the same, and no right thinking person could be absurd enough to have already given up hope that there’s at least a chance things finally break right for this team.

Hey, and Casey Janssen is pitching too!

Holy shit, and Bautista in centre!

Scuttlebutt

Moises Sierra was a late scratch from this one, which prompted some to start wondering about the possibility he could be traded. Not so, though — at least according to the club — as he has apparently come down with the flu that sidelined Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos earlier in camp. Gregor Chisholm was the first in my feed to tweet it.

The Jays have made Ryan Goins officially their second baseman. Probably going to work out great, right? Right??? John Lott has the details for the National Post.

It’s J.P. Arencibia’s moment now. The Rangers’ would-be starting catcher, Geovany Soto, is out for the next ten to twelve weeks, according to a tweet from Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan.

Speaking of injuries: Josh Johnson.

TV: MLB.tv

And now the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

LF Matt Tuiasosopo (R)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
DH Colby Rasmus (L)
CF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
RF Brad Glenn (R)
SS Maicer Izturis (S)
2B Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Brandon Morrow

Philadelphia Phillies

Today’s Phillies lineup brought to you by this tweet from Dominic Continenza. Inaccuracies possible.

1. No power
2. Asshole
3. Chase utley
4. Overpaid
5. Old as ass
6. Dom brown
7. Older than ass
8. Who’s Cody Asche?
9.?

Spring Threat: Jays @ Rays

sanchezST14

The Jays take on the Rays in Port Charlotte this afternoon and… SEE. SEE, WE CAN DEVELOP PLAYERS!

By which I mean Aaron Sanchez takes the hill for the Jays, soaking in the big league experience like every 21-year-old prospect deemed the future of the organization and not shuttled to the grim backfields of Dunedin. One set of rules for the somebodys, another for the nobodys — seems about right, eh?

And there remains chatter about the possibility of Sanchez — who, one feels the need to remind, surrendered more than four walks per nine innings against high-A hitters last season, and over five the year before at Lansing — actually breaking camp as a member of the club’s rotation. To the team’s credit, they’re certainly not the ones saying it, but the lack of thrilling rotation options, and Sanchez’s huge arm and fantastic spring, has naturally got folks talking… about this utter insanity.

Ben Nicholson-Smith takes an even-handed look at the situation in a piece at Sportsnet.

Also: baseball-ish!