Just a couple of leftover notes from the spring as Opening Day approaches. Somebody in the weekly mailbag back in February asked for details about some of the Jays' top prospects. I said I would have to let him know what I thought after I came back from camp.
|DAVID COOPER/TORONTO STAR|
|Brian Jeroloman is shown in this Feb., 2008 file photo.|
In that light, I caught up with the studly catching prospect Brian Jeroloman outside the Jays visiting clubhouse in Bradenton. He was taking off his gear in the bullpen after the game that Doc had pitched seven stunning innings vs. the Pirates of Doc being Doc. After about the third inning of the game, for Halladay it was simply get the sign, rock and Doc. Halladay was clearly in mid-season form. I could have caught him.
Anyway, Jeroloman had made the trip as Rod Barajas' stuntman for the last four innings. Slated for New Hampshire, the rookie caught Halladay for the first time in his life (even in the bullpen) for three innings. I have talked to guys in situations like that where they were glassy eyed and goofy. Jeroloman was neither of those.
"Catching Doc makes a catcher's job easier," Jeroloman shrugged without looking up from removing his shinpads. "He's got electric stuff so that just makes my job 10 times easier. It's an awesome thing. Yeah, I'll remember I caught him, but hopefully I'll be out there catching him for a long time."
You've got to love the cockiness. It wasn't arrogance, which makes a difference. He knows he's got work to do. The 23-year-old Florida Gators product has had some chances to play in A games this spring and everything they have said about him is true. This guy gives great target. Catching Doc, with nobody on base he dragged his ass in the dirt, setting up low and gently framing every pitch with his body as he subtly anticipated the arrival point of Doc's every pitch. His throw backs between pitches were from the same ass-dragging stance allowing Halladay the time to to dictate his own rhythm.
Before the first pitch in the fifth, Halladay gave him a hard "come on out here rookie" gesture. I asked the kid if that was to tell him, "Listen rook. I'm calling my own game." Jeroloman laughed and said it was just to go over signs. Then he laughed again as he caught the implications. Smart kid for a Gator.
Jeroloman's bat is quick enough to catch up to a major-league fastball and pull it to the right side, but not yet smart enough to hit it really hard. That will come with time. He's behind J.P. Arencibia in pure offensive ability, but ahead of him in catching ability. In a few years, they may be able to complement each other in a mutual admiration tools-of-ignorance society.