On the road with ... the Tigers
Rooooaaad trip. First commute of the season across I-4 to Lakeland's gorgeous Joker Marchant Stadium. Owing to my great love of Florida drivers - possibly the worst on earth, excepting Quebeckers (in fact, most Florida drivers probably are Quebeckers) - I left the piloting up to the National Post's Jeremy Sandler. Left, Sandler! LEFT!
It's only ten o'clock, but the parking lot is a lot more crowded than I remember from last year. That may have something to do with Mssrs. Cabrera and Willis. And Rob MacLeod from the Globe is already fretting about the traffic heading home. He's not the only one.
The Jays bus should be pulling up momentarily. A few interesting things on tap from the understrength squad they're sending today (Aside: Here's a little puzzle for the initiated: Find the league mandated four starters in today's Jays line-up. After you get past one, disqualify yourself for cheating).
How will Jesse Litsch look in his first game setting? And how will Gustavo Chacin, who's fallen at least three spots in the pecking order since last spring, do following him? Will Ben Coats, a long-shot to crack the 25-man as a utility player, impress? Personally, I'll be watching Travis Snider with curiousity. His elbow's been bugging him this spring, but he'll get a chance to show us that big swing as today's starting DH.
Snider is an absolute tank of a kid - 5-foot-11, 245 pounds - the proverbial fire hydrant. He was talking about size and how so many of the kids his age in camp are trying to put on weight.
"They're saying 'I'm 185 and I can't gain a pound no matter how much I eat'. I tell them, 'Dude, I was 185 when I was 13," he laughed.
For all the talk in the scouting reports about how Snider will have to watch his weight, there isn't any jiggle on that frame right now. He's a very solid 245, which is downright scary.
P.S. Sandler has been peppering John Gibbons with his 'word of the day'. Yesterday: somnambulant. Today: well, apparently he doesn't know yet. "It's a very organic thing," Sandler insists. "Gibby has to ask me." Good Lord, Sandler. You should be concentrating on the ride home. It's only seven or so hours away.
Not being very good with words (obviously), I'm going with a song of the day. I like to start a game with some rally music on the old Bose headphones. Today, in order to kick things off on a pulsing electro beat, 'Genesis' by Justice. Call it my homage to Cadillac. And France.
P.P.S. Sandler has decided on his word of the day - obsequious. Gibbons apparently now wants the word emailed to him, rather than read out. Sandler, I think he's brushing you off, man. Vocabulary building is too important a subject to be trusted to the Internet. That's for sports.
End of the Second Inning - Jesse Litsch has given up four hits and four runs, including a two-run shot to Curtis Granderson. Considering this is the nearly full-strength Tigers line-up, two runs per inning seems fairly reasonable. MacLeod is still going on about the traffic. I've pointed him to our traffic link (above).
Top of the Third - Travis Snider's very first at-bat as a Toronto Blue Jay - a five-pitch walk. Detroit's Matt Mantel didn't throw anywhere near him. This kid is 20 years old and they're already scared of him.
Game over - Detroit 4 Toronto 1. Jesse Litsch rocked. Gustavo Chacin and David Purcey solid. Toronto's replacement killers line-up supplied only four hits. But tomorrow, Detroit's B-Team should be on hand at Dunedin ready to be taken advantage of by Roy Halladay.
However, the poor traffic outlook should have Sandler on his A-Game.