Sunday Threat: Jays @ Orioles

Tough loss last night, no doubt, though the instant, drunk, Saturday night nitpicking of bullpen management, baserunning, outfield positioning, and the throwing up of arms and batshit posturing like this team can’t hit can pretty much fuck off and die. Other than that nonsense, though, it was a hell of an entertaining evening of baseball, and not too far unlike what you’d expect to see from a mid-April night game in Baltimore. OK? Relax a little. Act like you’ve done this before.

You might think that a 7 PM start on a Saturday might give me enough time to do up a proper Game Threat for this one, but you might think wrong. You also, more likely, might not care about whatever the hell the Game Threat says, as long as there’s a fresh place to comment without having to scroll back through pages of gibberish, in which case… everybody wins! (Maybe even the Jays!)

Maybe there will even be a fresh threat tomorrow, stay tuned!!!

Hey, and for good measure, here are two real pieces of scuttlebutt: John Lott tweets that Jose Reyes felt good running the bases today, and that both he and Casey Janssen are Dunedin-bound, as they’re set for rehab assignments. Lot also tells us that the Jays are not saying what their plans are for J.A. Happ, as he continues to rehab and gets closer to full “health” — *WINK* — after a strong showing in Buffalo yesterday. Ol’ Gibbers “won’t say what factors will determine whatever that decision will be,” he adds.

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Dustin McGowan gets a do-over after a poor showing in his first game of the season — the home opener last Friday — and… well… it’s not like things get a whole lot easier. Sure, there won’t be 50,000 screaming down his neck, but there also won’t be Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte, Derek Jeter, or whatever other quad-A scrubs the Yankees were running out there.

Though, actually — he said, about to type out words he will surely later eat — looking at their Machado-less lineup, and I’m not really sure what the big deal with Baltimore is, anyway. Delmon Young? Ryan Flaherty and Steve Lombardozzi? Shit, I’ll take my chances with Maicer Izturis, thanks. Should be a good one, though, either way. Shouldn’t it?

Scuttlebutt

Steve Delabar has a wrap on his leg still, tweets Barry Davis, but the pitcher claims he’s good to go tonight, if called upon.

Shi Davidi tweets this: “Jose Reyes felt ‘comfortable’ running today, will push hamstring further tomorrow. If all goes well rehab assignment to follow.”

In a tweet from Davis, he adds that Reyes says he wants to get to a point where he’s not even thinking about the hamstring before he returns. “When I return I want it to be for rest of season,” Jose says.

Richard Griffin wonders if natural grass will be a factor tonight, given that the Jays have played on turf in every game since March 28th.

Scott MacArthur tweets that Pete Walker says he thinks Dustin McGowan has got the whole pitch-tipping thing “nipped in the bud.”

TV: Sportsnet

Next games: Saturday, 7:05 PM ET, @ Baltimore; Sunday, 1:35 PM ET, @ Baltimore

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 Maicer Izturis (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
SS Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Dustin McGowan

Baltimore Orioles

RF Nick Markakis (L)
DH Delmon Young (R)
1B Chris Davis (L)
CF Adam Jones (R)
C Matt Wieters (S)
LF Nelson Cruz (R)
3B Steve Lombardozzi (S)
SS Ryan Flaherty (L)
2B Jonathan Schoop (R)

RHP Chris Tillman

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Now a little something to kill time on a Friday afternoon: it’s an actual, shit-you-not real edition of the DJF podcast!

And today we’ve got just Drew and I, with @RyanEligh on the ones and twos, but no one filling in for the hopelessly disinterested Wally Pippp as our fourth Horseman of the Anthocalpyse while we discuss positivity, good times, real emotion, Carolans, Dustin McGowan’s Cy Young bid, and statues.

If you’re more inclined to download today’s podcast, hit up the mp3 link.

Soundcloud looks fancy and is awesome, but don’t forget that, if you prefer, the DJF iTunes page remains up and running too. Get on over there and subscribe– or update the subscription you already have to find the latest episode (once it’s up). You can also find it via our podcast RSS feed. Follow DJF on Facebook, too, while you’re at it. And the DJF Instagram!

Many (most? some?) mintmusical interludes courtesy Toronto’s own Optical Sounds, who recently released Psych Pop 2, their second free-to-download compilation of outstanding tunes from local psych- and garage-influenced artists, plus friends of their great collective. Be sure to check them out online and buy every single fucking thing you hear at their site!

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Yes, we’re going to do a proper DJF podcast today. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to provide more candy for your ear holes, as yesterday I had a lengthy chat about the Jays and the beginning of the season with some fine maritimers for the second edition of their East Coast Bias podcast. Notwithstanding the fact that they invited Drew on their show before me *COUGH* you should probably totally follow them by way @TheBigsNL — Terry David Mulligan does!

TDM!

Have a listen…

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Nobody talked about Maicer Izturis this winter as anything but dead weight on the Blue Jays’ roster, after his disastrous 2013 campaign. Even that awful campaign, a disaster-within-a-disaster, was somewhat overlooked thanks to the screaming deficiencies of guys like Emilio Bonifacio and J.P. Arencibia, but rest assured, he was awful.

At the plate, having arrived looking like a bounce-back candidate following an 82 wRC+ season for the Angels, Izturis nosedived further, down to wRC+ of 62 — the worst mark of his career, save for his 32 game cameo as a rookie on the 2004 Expos — behind a slash line of .236/.288/.310.

In the field he was just as bad, both by the eye test, and by the metrics. According to UZR, only ten third basemen cost their teams more runs than he and Pablo Sandoval (-4.7 UZR), yet Izturis played about 850 fewer innings than the Panda, 600-950 innings fewer than six of the ten behind him on the list, and fewer innings that all but one of them (Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar).

At shortstop, where Izturis logged his next-highest number of innings, the story isn’t much better. Only seventeen of 112 players to spend time at shortstop were worse than Maicer, per UZR, and Izturis’s -2.8 UZR in 174.1 innings was worse than the -2.7 that Jimmy Rollins accumulated over 1318.1.

He was awful, in other words. The worst position player in baseball, per FanGraphs’ WAR (-2.1), and tied for 24th-worst (-0.9) according to Baseball Reference, alongside such luminaries as Brent Lillibridge, Omar Quintanilla, and Darin “Pat” Mastroianni.

Tonight, Izturis hits second again, and will play at second base. And, amazingly, it actually makes sense.

No, it’s maybe not the ideal lineup for John Gibbons to trot out there, but Maicer so far has ten hits in 24 plate appearances, with a pair of walks. If he wants to ride the hot hand, especially with a left-hander on the mound, I can live with that.

That sort of hitting from Izturis obviously, obviously won’t continue — nor will the hot streak Bonifacio is on to start the season, which we will never speak of again — but just as important, Maicer has looked comfortable on the turf, as well. Or, at the very least, he appears to have more range than the Ted Rogers statue, which isn’t something I’d have been quite ready to concede last season.

Shit, per FanGraphs he’s already been worth +0.4 WAR this season — a 2.5 win swing over 2013 already! Which… obviously the numbers don’t work that way, but whatever, it’s just nice to see something resembling the guy that the Jays thought they were getting last year — a phrase that, at least for the time being, you could copy-and-paste into posts about Melky Cabrera, Brandon Morrow, their starting catcher, Brett Lawrie, R.A. Dic– shit, the Astros are a hell of an early-season tonic, aren’t they?

Scuttlebutt

Part of me doesn’t want to pick on R.A. Dickey too much, because he’s a fascinating character and can be a tremendous pitcher when he’s on, but he just makes it so fucking easy sometimes. This week, not only is the I must pitch indoors thing a little bit odd, but according to a piece from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, we need not worry about why Dickey was bad on Opening Day way back in that shitty month of March, because Dickey had a dead arm! The fuck??? “Every pitcher goes through a little bit of a dead-arm period at some point. Hopefully it happens in spring when you’re getting ready,” he said. “Unfortunately for me it happened the week of opening day and the week before that when I pitched against the Yankees.” But… but… but he felt healthy all spring! He was just exercising his arm against the Yankees and the results didn’t matter! Just… stop… talking. Please.

Blue Jays Bat Boy nails the Josh Zeid/sunscreen issue in a tweet: “Astros bullpen pitchers spraying on sunscreen indoors because you can never be too careful from the bright blue seats.”

Great stuff from @bluejaysart, who are ready for a sweep — as is Adam Lind’s beard, apparently.

J.A. Happ starts tonight for Buffalo. Ben Wagner tweets that he says he wants to get up to 100 pitches, which totally sounds like great long-term news for the Bisons rotation. *COUGH*

TV: Sportsnet

Next game: Tomorrow, 7:05 PM ET, @ Baltimore

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 Maicer Izturis (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Edwin Encarnacion (R)
DH Dioner Navarro (S)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
C Josh Thole (L)
SS Jonathan Diaz (R)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Houston Astros

CF Dexter Fowler (S)
RF Alex Pressley (L)
C Jason Castro (L)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
DH Chris Carter (R)
1B Marc Krauss (L)
3B Matt Dominguez (R)
LF Robbie Grossman (S)
SS Jonathan Villar (S)

LHP Dallas Keuchel

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Phil, given your strict forcemeats-and-cheese regimen, the only real surprise is you’re not dead already.

In the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin does a nice job countering my whining yesterday by highlighting the stability that being under Rogers’ thumb brings to the Jays, at least in relation to the mess the Astros are in. Doesn’t mean that the owners couldn’t be far more generous to the club — and to the brand — but at least, he suggests, it’s not all bad.

Elsewhere at the Star, Brendan Kennedy wonders — like the rest of us — why the Jays didn’t use their replay challenge last night when Ryan Goins was picked off in the sixth inning. The basic answer: while MLB confirms that every team has access to all the feeds, the Jays may not have seen quickly enough the particular slo-motion one necessary. Here’s a tip: turn on the fucking TV feed.

Steve Delabar makes light of the knock that sent him out of last night’s game, via tweet.

Per a team release, the Jays have created an award for the organization’s employee of the year, named after Howard Starkman, an employee from day one who officially retires tomorrow and is the first recipient of the honour.

Great stuff from Blue Jays Plus, as they get some public sector scouting on Aaron Sanchez, and come away impressed with the continued improvements from the Jays’ top prospect.

Blue Jays Plus also has a GIF of Astros reliever Josh Zeid spraying something (sunscreen) on his arms last night before entering the ballgame. From Drew today, who is at the park: “Astros pitchers talking about the Zeid sunscreen thing from last night. Happily as you might imagine.”

Something we may or may not follow all year is the progress of Yankees expensive Japanese import, Masahiro Tanaka. Jorge Arangure of the New York Times looks at his latest start — another up-and-down outing, which resulted in a no-decision, but showed a lot of promise.

More Yankee content? Sure — and one I’m pretty sure I linked to already — but I think you’ll enjoy Getting Blanked on Derek Jeter’s problematic defence a second time.

A trio of posts from Sportsnet, as we hear about Dioner Navarro’s puzzlement over the defensive shifts he’s seen, Erik Kratz’s family first ways, and Pete Walker’s opinions on Dustin McGowan. Or, at least, that’s what the titles say. Hey, and here are two more, both from Benny Fresh, who looks at Neil Wagner’s long day, and Brandon Morrow’s dominant start (or at least his dominant start to a start).

A pair from the Toronto Sun, as Bob Elliott looks at the praise being given Dioner Navarro so far, while Mike Rutsey gets quotes from John Gibbons on Brett Lawrie, after the third baseman finally drove a ball last night the way we all know he’s capable.

Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s takes a look at this year’s loaded version of the Lansing Lugnuts.

In case you somehow missed it earlier in the week — and because there’s not a whole lot Jays-related to talk about today — Dan LeBatard on Yasiel Puig is money in the bank. It’s at ESPN.com.

More from around the league, this time by way of the outstanding Baseball Think Factory, as they send us to the Baltimore Sun to read about O’s outfielder Adam Jones and his hilariously awesomely hate-filled feelings for dopes who run onto the field.

Great stuff from Parkes for something called theScore.com, as he looks at how baseball treats children as commodities, and how we’re all along for the ride.

Podcast tomorrow. For reals. Plus I also had a good long Jays chat with the guys at East Coast Bias, which will hopefully be up tomorrow as well!

Lastly, via tweet, Tallboys announces their lineup for Pitch Talks #2, which will feature Dan Shulman — Dan Shulman! — along with Dave Bidini, Mike Wilner, and the internet’s own Meredith Rogers!