Jays vs. Phillies - Reed Johnson memorial game
First day back and they hit me with this?
Reed Johnson's nine years in the Blue Jay organization ended this morning. The club released him. One minute he was there in his civvies saying goodbye, and then he was gone. He will receive a $546,000 (U.S.) cheque as a parting gift - one-sixth of his planned $3.275 million salary.
The winner in the left-field battle, Shannon Stewart, wasn't doing any crowing. He referred to Johnson as a "close" friend and seemed shocked that he'd been cut. Even GM J.P. Ricciardi seemed rattled by the decision.
"Today wasn't a fun day for me, telling that to somebody I personally like and professionally like," Ricciardi said.
But Johnson will find work quickly, most likely as a fourth outfielder on a National League club like the Padres. Here's wishing him all the best. He was one of the good ones and will be missed.
As I write, we've finished two innings in sunny Dunedin. It's 1-0 Phillies after a solo home run given up to Chase Utley by A.J. Burnett (Surely, not a curveball. Surely not!).
NOTE: Ricciardi let it slip this morning that Rule 5 pick-up Randy Wells has made this team. It's getting awfully crowded in that bullpen. Ricciardi wouldn't list off the people the final roll call, but right now it must stack up like this on Opening Day:
This is working under the (safe) assumption that B.J. Ryan starts the year on a rehabilitation assignment and that Armando Benitez needs a little more time in the gym before he makes a major league roster.
TOP OF THE FOURTH: Geoff Jenkins singles into left field. With a Phillie heading home, new part-time left-fielder Shannon Stewart comes up firing. His throw is about thirty feet short of the mark and twenty feet wide. This is what we have to look forward to.
TOP OF THE FIFTH: Oh, the humanity. Bases loaded and one out for the Phillies. Chris Snelling pops one into shallow left. More like deep short. Another brutal throw by Stewart and Shane Victorino slides in safe. 5-0 Philadelphia. Burnett threw 31 pitches that inning. We won't see him for his planned sixth frame, I will wager the house. (Okay, he comes out for the sixth. Who needs me to copy the keys?)
TOP OF THE SIXTH: You want some defence? John McDonald replaces David Eckstein at short and makes a simply stunning play on a Pedro Feliz grounder. Great running get, greater throw to first. Burnett stands for a long time with his hands on his hips silently admiring the best defensive shortstop in baseball (oh yeah, I said it).
After his 88th pitch - an RBI double - Burnett is pulled in favour of Brandon League. He gave up 6 runs, 8 hits, 1 HR in five and a third.
GAME OVER: Phillies romp 15-7. Afterward, Burnett revealed that he'd thrown his first curveball of the spring. That was the one Utley took over the wall in the first.
"I don't care who you are. That's funny," Burnett grinned afterward. Hey, at least he's not kicking over garbage cans after a Grapefruit League game.