Griffin: Blue Jays notes Game 10
DUNEDIN, FLA.-The Jays were scheduled for a split squad, home and away against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. They beat the Braves 9-5 at home, with the game at Disney rained out in the bottom of the second. The Jays record is now 7-2-1.
Ricky Romero and Chad Jenkins allowed one run over the first six innings before Jason Frasor sprung a leak in the eighth, giving up three runs in his one inning of work. Kyle Drabek was the starter for the rained out game in Orlando.
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Ricky Romero made his second start and has now worked five shutout innings for the spring, a far different start than he had a year ago when frustration was evident.
“I feel comfortable, I feel great right now," Romero said. "I'm recovering really good. It's due to the work you put in in the off-season, the work you put in in spring training. Obviously it shows when you're out there, the hard work you've put in. I still have a lot of work to do. I wasn't happy with the way I controlled the inner-half of the plate. I felt like I left a lot of balls over the middle at times. It's just about work in progress."
Romero's new leadership is shining through even on days he does not pitch. On Saturday, it had been Dustin McGowan's turn against the Astros. All four of the other starters stayed in the dugout for his two innings of work. When he walked down the right field line to the clubhouse, after his two shutout frames, McGowan was flanked by Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Henderson Alvarez, a sort of Rat Pack in Blue. It was a nice touch.
“The progress he's been making has been tremendous, just watching him throw and watching his 'pens before games and stuff like that," Romero said. "His stuff is electric. When he gets out there like he was yesterday, just watching his stuff, it's pretty unbelievable. I couldn't be happier for him. He deserves it."
Romero was asked about the positive influence McGowan's comeback after three calendar years away from the major-league game has had on the others.
“It puts a lot of things in perspective," he explained. "We talk among ourselves about the stuff he's going through. It's crazy. For some guys that's the end of a career, going through all those surgeries, but he never gave up. It shows the heart he has. It's definitely going to be special when he takes the mound whenever he does in the season and we'll be right behind him."
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Manager John Farrell waxed eloquent about his third baseman after Brett Lawrie went 3-for-3 with a double and displayed some solid defence vs. the Braves.
"Jairo Asencio's got good stuff and the slider he hit off the right field wall, those are the things you don't see every day," Farrell said, shaking his head in wonder. "Again, in the second at-bat, he fights off a couple of tough pitches. He's down in the count and gets a pitch up in the zone for a basehit. And you see the speed. On a two-strike pitch, he just makes contact and can beat out an infield hit. It's pretty dynamic."
When Farrell was asked if the kid had a chance, he shot back tongue in cheek:
"A chance for what? Prime Minister?" Then continued...
“He's always had a lot of confidence. The fact that he's got just about a full year under his belt defensively at third base. I think the 150 at-bats last year went a long way in his belief that he can handle any kind of pitching he's going to see. Even in the second at-bat – that's the one that stands out the most. He's in an 0-2 count, guy makes a good pitch down and away and he's got the presence of mind to foul off a tough pitch and continue to battle. When he gets a mistake up in the plate, he hits a linedrive to left. As much as we were high on him a year ago, you see the maturity coming out at the plate and in the field."
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It was interesting Sunday that when it came time to replace Kelly Johnson at second base and Brett Lawrie at third, John Farrell called on the veteran Omar Vizquel at third and rookie Jonathan Diaz at second. An inning later, when Colby Rasmus left, it was Mike McCoy that went to centre field. Diaz has been earning more infield playing time.
“What maybe some of the games don't show is there's tremendous awareness, his in-game decisions are good, he can handle a bat," Farrell said. "I think at times, even at spring training last year maybe some opposing pirtchers take him for granted. I'm not saying it's a little guy with a big swing, but he can square a baseball up, he can do a lot of things on a baseball field and in many ways he's a defender – and I don't want to put him in John McDonald's category yet – but he's a very good defender and he's a good baseball player.”
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Finally, after a lot of talk that began last September, Edwin Encarnacion saw action in left field for the Jays against the Braves. It was his first outfield assignment in a Jays' uniform. Manager John Farrell suggested that Encarnacion will see a handful more games in the outfield so that they won't lose his bat in interleague games. Encarnacion has already showed he can play first base if Adam Lind gets a day off, but now he could possibly see action in the outfield in place of either lefthanded bat, Eric Thames or Travis Snider.
When the Jays travel to Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday to play the Canadian Junior Team on Canada Day at the ballpark, right fielder Jose Bautista, catcher J.P. Arencibia and Langley, B.C. native Brett Lawrie will lead the charge. Also expected to make the trip are Canadian outfielders Michael Crouse, Marcus Knecht and Dalton Pompey. Pitchers for the Jays on Tuesday will include Canadian righthanders Scott Richmond and Trystan Magnuson.
The JNT has been training in St. Pete for a week, playing daily games against top opposition. This is the second year the Jays have scheduled the juniors.