Archive for March, 2009

Surprise, surprise!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dustin McGowan has suffered a setback in his return from the surgery that ended his 2008 campaign. This corner has been saying for months not to expect the right-hander back by the all-star break, let alone May. It’s as simple as this: The Jays have, in Roy Halladay, one of the best starting pitchers in the game today and, barring any injuries to the ace, he’ll put up another fantastic season for Toronto. But that’s where the guarantees end.

No, 23-year-old Jesse Litsch cannot be counted on as a ‘sure thing’ in the No. 2 slot. He simply hasn’t been around long enough to warrant that kind of confidence. And after that, it’s a free-for-all. I’m not saying this is a failed season before it has even begun. But I’m saying that the reality is, the remaining starters in the Jays’ rotation is going to be a patchwork job. This is why it’s so important that Toronto finds gold in at least one of its ‘reclamation projects.’

One of those projects is Matt Clement, the 34-year-old right-hander who hasn’t started a big-league game since 2006 with the Boston Red Sox. Mr. Clement happened to be on the hill today. And how did he fare?

In his second official Grapefruit League start, Clement gave up just two hits to the Tampa Bay Rays. Both were doubles though, and he also walked three compared with a pair of strikeouts. The result was two earned runs over 4.0 innings of work, and Clement left the game with a 4-2 lead.

Including his three-inning relief appearance against Team USA, Clement’s numbers so far this spring look like this: 3.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 5 BB, 4 K. Not too shabby …

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Update …

Monday, March 9, 2009

Canada trailing 4-2 to Team Italy in the fifth. School has definitely got in the way over the last couple of days. The 500 Level will be back in full force soon, though. I swear! Stay tuned …

Reliving his 2006 heroics …

Friday, March 6, 2009

sternclappAdam Stern was the unquestioned hero for Team Canada against the U.S. during round-robin action at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The centre-fielder went 3-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run and 4 RBIs to lead Canada to an 8-6 win over the Americans. This winter I caught up with the London, ON native at his new indoor baseball facility — Centrefield Sports.

This is what Stern had to say about playing for his country …

“Every kid grows up wanting to play in the big leagues, there’s no question. But, when you’re sitting there — especially in a tournament like the WBC where it’s the best Canadian players, and you can say ‘listen, I’m one of the best 25 players in my country’, and put that uniform on, I mean there’s a lot of pride that goes into it.”

And this was his response when asked about Team Canada’s win over the U.S. …

We kind of had to pinch ourselves … we didn’t know what was going on. This is the biggest game that Canada has ever played in the history of baseball. It’s not just beating the U.S.A., it’s putting yourselves on the map as a baseball country. You gotta say, ‘listen, we did it,’ and no one is ever going to take that away from that team.”

Here’s hoping the Canadians bring some of that 2006 magic to Rogers Centre tomorrow afternoon …

WBC Eve …

Friday, March 6, 2009

We’ve heard all the complaints about the number of dropouts and no-shows for this year’s World Baseball Classic. But you know what? It doesn’t matter anymore. In less than 24 hours, Team Canada will take the field at Rogers Centre in front of 40,000+, and get the opportunity to defeat the U.S. on Canadian soil.

It’s been three years since the Canadians hung on for an 8-6 win over the U.S. in the first round at the inaugural WBC event. Adam Loewen got the start in 2006. This year that job will go to Mike Johnson —  a right-hander who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2001. No matter. If 2006 taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.

Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt knows what his team is up against. But he also knows they’re capable of winning.

“There are a lot of teams that — on paper — are better than us,” Whitt said in a recent MLB.com interview. But more importantly, said Whitt, “every player in there, every person on the coaching staff, we feel we can beat the U.S. on Saturday.”

Happy Birthday Brad Mills

Thursday, March 5, 2009

brad-millsLeft-hander Brad Mills gave himself an early birthday present on Wednesday afternoon by putting forth a solid showing against the U.S. team that will compete in the 2009 World Baseball Classic starting Saturday.

Mills, 24, allowed just one run and one hit over three innings of work against an all-star lineup of Americans that included Jimmy Rollins, Chipper Jones, David Wright, Adam Dunn and Ryan Braun. In fact, as The Star’s Morgan Campbell pointed out in his article today, Mills’ strikeout of Braun gave him six outs in a row to start the contest – one in which the Blue Jays ended up winning 6-5.

What jumps out to me in both Campbell’s and Jordan Bastian’s pieces about Mills is just how composed the young man has remained in camp thus far – despite the fact that he may be competing for one of the rotation spots behind ace Roy Halladay and Jessie Litsch.

“I try to simplify it as much as I can,” said Mills following Wednesday’s win. “I’m a left-handed strike-thrower. That’s all there is to it and that’s all I think about when I’m out there, no matter who (I’m) facing.”

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the lefty possesses such a mature mental approach to the game despite the fact that he has never pitched above Double-A. After all, the 24-year-old holds a degree in civil engineering, which he obtained from the University of Arizona. In fact, he turned down the Jays’ original offer after being drafted in the 22nd round in 2006 so that he could finish his degree.

In 2007, the Blue Jays selected him again – this time in the 4th round – and he was sent to Class-A Auburn, where he went 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in just six games (18.0 IP). Last year the left-hander split time between Class-A Lansing, Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, combining to go 13-5 with a 1.95 ERA in 27 starts. He also posted an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio (159/52) during that span.

Mills is calm and focused on the mound, there’s no questioning that. He credits Andy Lopez, his coach in college.

“In college, my coach was big on the saying, ‘Don’t let the game get big,’” Mills told Bastian in an MLB.com interview. “That includes everything even off the field. If you start thinking about rotation spots, or this or that, the game’s gotten big, and that’s stuff you can’t control.

“If I just focus on working as hard as I can between starts and throwing strikes when I’m on the bump, then that’s all I can really do.”

So far it seems to be working. He’s already impressed manager Cito Gaston.

“He’s a tough kid (and) he has the right makeup for it,” said Gaston. “He doesn’t rattle out there at all.”

“I’ve seen him throw on the side. I just like his stuff. Stuff is important, but makeup is really important.”

While the jump from a short stint at Double-A in 2008 to the majors in 2009 seems unlikely, the Jays aren’t ruling it out. One thing’s for sure – Mills has thrown his name into the mix for the remaining rotation spots.

Check out a 2008 interview of Mills by the folks at Batter’s Box Interactive Magazine …

The real deal

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More and more, we are beginning to realize that outfielder Travis Snider is the real deal. Will he have his share of struggles against major-league pitching at different points during the 2009 campaign? Absolutely. But this guy is ready to be an everyday man in The Show.

On Wednesday against the American squad that will compete in this year’s World Baseball Classic, Snider went 3-for-3 with a run scored during a 6-5 Toronto win.

Glad to have you back …

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The feel good story of the day was definitely Corey Koskie returning to the diamond this afternoon in a Team Canada uniform in Dunedin, Florida. Most of the Jays’ beat guys ran a story on his return in today’s papers, which was nice to see.

For those unfamiliar with Koskie’s saga, the 35-year-old suffered a concussion in a game while with the Milwaukee Brewers on July 5, 2006, and he had yet to play since because of post-concussion syndrome — which included migraine headaches, nausea, and other social/anxiety issues.

Concussions can be nasty, indeed. Blue Jays fans are certainly well aware, as second baseman Aaron Hill missed significant time last year because of post-concussion symptoms. Koskie is simply happy to be out functioning normally again. And he’s looking to spread some awareness about some of the less talked about issues involving concussions in sport.

“This is more about what it represents to put on a Canadian uniform and I’m hoping my story can help others,” said Koskie in an interview with The Sun’s Bob Elliott. “I want to give some people hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Here’s a link to the full article.

As for the game this afternoon — a 6-4 Canada win over the Blue Jays — Koskie served as the DH and went 1-for-2 with a walk, a double and three runs scored.

Short stop is right …

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Jays lost out on landing shortstop Orlando Cabrera today, as the 34-year-old signed a one-year $4-million deal with the Oakland A’s. Fellow fantasy basketball player and friend Jay Basu suggested bringing Bobby Crosby over. I like it. In the meantime, check out the list of those players who’ve spent time (any time) at the shortstop position since Alex Gonzalez was the full-time guy there (154 games) in 2001 …

John McDonaldcrosby
Marco Scutaro
David Eckstein
Aaron Hill
Troy Glaus
Royce Clayton
Howie Clark
Ray Olmedo
Russ Adams
Jason Smith
Luis Figueroa
Frank Menechino
Chris Gomez
Chris Woodward
Dave Berg
Mike Bordick
Felipe Lopez
Jorge Velandia
Joe Inglett

I think I got everybody.