Archive for the ‘Rotation Battles’ Category

With Joey Votto having now bankrupted Cincinnati for generations to come, the folks at CBS Sports are going to require a new dimension by which to acknowledge the Jays’ existence. Danny Knobler gave it a go yesterday, calling the club’s decision to promote Joel Carreno in place of Brett Cecil “stunning and understandable, if that combination is possible.”

What appears stunning to him, however, is kinda odd…

Right. Like Kyle Drabek and Henderson Alvarez did last year… because the Jays triple-A affiliate is in the shitty Pacific Coast League, and the Red Sox at least have Pawtucket.

No matter. It’s doom and gloom for the Jays, who “end spring training with a patchwork rotation that calls into question their chances of survival in baseball’s toughest division.”

Maybe I’ve just cooled on Cecil and Dustin McGowan, and am overly optimistic from what I saw of Kyle Drabek this spring, but… is it really such a step down from what was originally planned to Drabek and Carreno? Is it a step down at all, frankly?

Having followed the Jays through camp, I don’t think it is.

Besides, as Knobler himself acknowledges on Twitter, Carreno is only to be a temporary fill-in, ostensibly until Dustin McGowan gets back.

Of course, the “end of April, at a minimum” timeline on McGowan’s return– as John Farrell gave over the weekend, according to John Lott of the National Post– is probably overly optimistic, seeing as it relies on him being healthy enough to start throwing again on schedule by the end of the week, then building his arm back up, setback-free, over the course of the month. Still, it’s not going to be long before some of the guys at New Hampshire start knocking on the door anyway. The Jays weren’t afraid to call up Henderson Alvarez after just 14 starts and 88 innings in double-A last year, and the best arms who’ll start the season there– Drew Hutchison and Deck McGuire– already have three Eastern League starts under their belts.

It was always going to be a patchwork rotation here, so it’s hard to be too concerned about it now.

It appeared last week that the Jays may have shielded struggling pitcher Brett Cecil from the media, failing to let anybody know that he’d been moved to a minor league game until it was already in progress. And with many members of the local media having already headed north, maybe they hoped they’d get away with it again, and not have to face the questions that have uncomfortably built over the course of camp, first about Cecil’s lacklustre velocity, then about his overall terribleness, and the tenuous grasp he held on his rotation spot– which for most of the spring was believed to be third in line, behind Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.

Not so, as reporters like Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, and others made it to Lakeland to witness the absolute catastrofuck of a day that Cecil had on Monday against the Tigers.

“There’s concern. There’ll certainly be discussion and evaluation and internal talks that will take place today and tomorrow,” said John Farrell, after Cecil left “a lot of pitches up over the plate; a lot of pitches found the middle of the plate.”

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Oh my. Brett Cecil pitched the Jays’ penultimate Spring Training game today against the Detroit Tigers, and not to continue what seems like an eternal game of piling on Cecil– I’d like to see him succeed– but, um… it didn’t go so well.

I’ll leave it to Shi Davidi to elaborate…

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As a continuation of the club’s policy of hiding starters from clubs they’ll be facing early in the season, today’s scheduled starter for the Blue Jays, Brett Cecil, ended up pitching in a minor league game instead of against the Orioles. On the surface, it seems normal enough– the club did the same with Brandon Morrow yesterday, sending Kyle Drabek to face the Yankees regulars instead– but at Miked Up, Mike Wilner tells us something a little curious.

“The second reason to have Cecil work at the minor-league complex was because in the more controlled environment, they could make sure to get him seven ‘innings’ of work by ending innings early just to get him the ups and downs.  As it turned out, they didn’t need to.  It was an intra-squad game, so there wasn’t any scoring kept, and we didn’t find out Cecil was pitching until after the game had started (and weren’t told it was going to happen in the morning), so none of the media assemblage was there to see him.”

I’m not knowledgeable enough of the situation to suggest something fishy is going on here, but seeing as Cecil has been easily the most scrutinized of the Jays projected starters, and– given the way Kyle Drabek has pitched this spring– is the rotation member with perhaps the most tenuous grasp on his spot, you can see how there’s benefit to not further deepening the image problem, or allowing the media to push the magnifying glass harder down onto his head.

I hope it’s not that, because by essentially creating a closed session from which only Alex Anthopoulos can provide us information– shock: he was very positive– all they’ve done is create the conditions for fans to start wildly speculating about what the club possibly doesn’t want us to see.

Counterproductive, and kind of a bullshit move? Let’s hope it was an honest mistake.

Gregor Chisholm lays the following tweet on us:

Not exactly surprising news, but actually… potentially great news.

No, not because of any sort of newfound ill will towards McGowan and his contract, or his guaranteed rotation spot when healthy, but because it potentially extends the battle for the Jays’ last spot between Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek.

I don’t think Drabek looked quite as good yesterday against the Yankees as some of the reports on him suggested– getting bailed out of one inning on a great throw to the plate from Colby Rasmus, and having Andruw Jones hit him hard, but foul, in the fourth, after a hard A-Rod double and a walk to Ibanez– but he looked plenty OK. And while I’m well aware that velocity isn’t everything, and that I’m basing this view on scant looks and whatever information has come out of camp, I’d bet on Drabek having better success right now in the big leagues than Brett Cecil.

I don’t know that the Jays will be willing to make the switch by the time McGowan gets back, but anything Drabek can do to show that he’s progressing beyond last year’s disasterfuck is probably a good thing, in terms of letting the club feel confident in pulling the plug on Cecil once he starts repeatedly getting his ass handed to him.

Speaking of, Cecil pitches today, but it’s in a minor league game, in order to hide him from the OriLOLes [note: really?], who he’s scheduled to face early in the season. Ryan Tepera, who is apparently a real thing, gets the start for the Jays Major Leaguers, with eight of the club’s nine Opening Day hitters in the lineup against Baltimore’s Dana Eveland.

After yesterday’s heavy dose of realism, Jays fans demanded that Keith Law, the obliterator of all their little hopes and dreams, come forth and defend his absurd views on Dustin McGowan!

Or… probably it was just his contract with TSN Radio. Or maybe they just asked.

Either way, KLaw hit the airwaves– the free, public airwaves that I can quote anything from with a clear conscience, I should add– this afternoon and elaborated on what he saw yesterday when he took in the epic Grapefruit League tilt between the Jays and the Astros in Kissimmee.

And, actually, he skipped a lot of the stuff about McGowan. Or… probably I just tuned in a little too late to catch it.

What I did hear was pretty seriously awesome, especially where two the players I’d like to see the Jays not dick around are concerned: Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider.

He also talked Anthony Gose, Travis d’Arnaud, about the back of the rotation in general, and followed up his piece from yesterday with some activity in the comments.

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Far be it from me to actually give too much of a shit about the ins and outs of every spring training game– especially those with three weeks still to go until Opening Day– but with both Dustin McGowan and Kyle Drabek pitching today, at the very least their performances warrant some scrutiny. Y’know, as much as anybody’s performance does at this point in the spring. Or in a game against the damn hopeless Astros.

ESPN’s Keith Law was at the game and tweeted out some stray observations, including an assertion that McGowan, who pitched first, looked “very ordinary so far.”

That, however, was early on, and by the end of the outing, McGowan had come around.

The Fan’s Mike Wilner echoed the sentiment that McGowan improved as his day went on. “He looked very good after the first inning,” he tweeted, “not so great in the first.” On the day McGowan went three innings, giving up one hit, an unearned run, walking one and striking out three, which on the whole is pretty successful. However, he threw 46 pitches, 27 for strikes, according to Wilner. That rate is close to the percentage of strikes he threw in his 21 innings in the Majors last year, which I think we can agree simply isn’t going to cut it– however, we’re talking about such small sample sizes here that just an extra strike or two one way or the other changes the way the rate looks pretty significantly. Still, it’s hardly doom and gloom, and any day that McGowan finishes where he’s still healthy remains, at this point, a pretty damn good day.

Not only that, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star points out that McGowan threw a bullpen session between today’s start and his previous one, the first time he’s been able to do so since since 2008.

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