Rule 5 favours Jays

What do George Bell, Kelly Gruber and Jason Smith have in common? Though they came from different organizations, all three players were acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the Major League Rule 5 Draft, an event held annually at the Baseball Winter Meetings. Dating back to 1977, Toronto has selected 28 players in total at the Rule 5 Draft, an initiative originally put in place to prevent teams from keeping major-league calibre players in the minors when they could be playing in the big leagues with another club.

Kelly_gruber_1 While the most notable Rule 5 pick ever was Roberto Clemente, Toronto’s selection of Bell and Gruber rank as two of the most successful picks in the history of the draft. Both went on to enjoy excellent careers with the Blue Jays, earning two All-Star trips apiece during their nine seasons in Toronto. On August 13, 2001, both players were named to the Blue Jays’ 25th Anniversary All-Star Team.

Aside from Bell and Gruber, other notable Rule 5 pickups by the Blue Jays include: Willie Upshaw (1977), Jim Acker (1982) and Manny (Manuel — depending on who’s asking) Lee (1984).

The most recent Blue Jay to have success after being acquired in the December draft was Aquilino Lopez, who was plucked from the Mariners in 2002. The right-handed reliever went on to post a 3.42 ERA in 72 appearances for Toronto in 2003, leading the team with 14 saves.

Historically speaking, the Rule 5 Draft has indeed been kind to the Blue Jays. Now it’s left to Jason Smith to carry the torch …

With Daisuke Matsuzaka’s media entourage on hand at the Rogers Centre Tuesday night, the right-hander holds the Blue Jays to a pair of runs on just three hits in 6.0 innings, while striking out 10 … However, counterpart Gustavo Chacin fares better on this night, giving up a single run in 6.2 frames to lead Toronto to the series-opening win in front of a very respectable 42,162 … There are no gyroball sightings on Tuesday — unless they were the numerous balls that Matsuzaka threw in the fourth inning that led to Frank Thomas walking home for the eventual winning run … Jays (8-5) – Sox, tomorrow — 7:07 pm …

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