Griffin: Blue Jays notes Game 13
DUNEDIN, FLA.-The Blue Jays on Wednesday at the stadium formerly known as Grant Field defeated the Yankees 7-5 to run their impressive Grapefruit League record to 10-2-1. The Jays travel to Kissimmee on Thursday to play the Astros with Dustin McGowan the starter.
The Jays' 21-year-old Venezuelan righthander Henderson Alvarez pitched three innings, allowing one run on four hits, with no walks and three strikeouts. Countryman Freddy Garcia started for the Yankees, but was knocked out of the game on a hot comebacker off his right hand by left fielder Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth.
He works quick, he throws strikes, he changes speeds," manager John Farrell described his young starter. "He's got very good stuff. That's a pretty good combination for a consistent major-league pitcher. He's picked up where he left off a year ago.
“He's got three very good pitches. He's got the ability to get very good major league hitters out inside the strike zone. He doesn't require a big league hitter to chase out of the zone. He's got the ability to get two outs with one pitch, with a heavy sinking fastball. More than anything it's the continued execution of those three pitches. He's got late action in the strike zone and the ability to get the best hitters in baseball out.”
Encarnacion was 3-for-3 with two homers and three RBIs to lead the way offensively. Third baseman Brett Lawrie stroked a double and a triple, stealing a base while raising his batting average to .591 and his slugging average to .955. Designated-hitter J.P. Arencibia also homered for the second time this spring, both against the Yankees.
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The starting left fielder against the Yankees for the first time in a Blue Jays' uniform was Edwin Encarnacion. The Jays' regular DH has never played the outfield in the regular season, but was making his third appearance in left this this spring.
In the second inning Encarnacion loped towards left-centre chasing a high pop by Alex Rodriguez and had to make a last-second late stab reaching out to his left to make the grab. In the bottom of the inning, the 29-year-old turned on a Freddy Garcia fastball and crushed it over the trees behind the left-centre field fence. Leading off the fourth, he knocked Garcia from the game, woth a scorched one-hopper off his right hand. Garcia was driven back to Tampa for precautionary x-rays before the game had ended. He finished off a great performance with a secnd home run, this one off the scoreboard in left-centre field in the fifth. He has a 4.000 OPS as a left fielder.
“It's the first opportunity to see him in a starting role," manager John Farrell explained. "Which in spring training, whether it's coming off the bench or whether it's getting innings right out of the chute, they're looked upon equally. The fact that Travis Snider and Eric Thames both got four at-bats yeterday this is a day down for them. When we've gotten to a point at this stage of spring training where a guy's got four at-bats, he's got the next day off. So I wouldn't read anything into both of them not being in the lineup and Edwin being in left. Both Thames and Snider will be back in the lineup at Kissimmee."
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The battle between Eric Thames and Travis Snider for left field remains intriguing. Snider is batting .304 in eight games, with three homers and 10 RBIs, while Thames is at .286 with a homer and four RBIs. Thames is the incumbent.
“Ongoing," manager John Farrell said when asked to update the left field tussle. "There's been no conclusion. Certainly we're at the midway point of games here in camp. The one thing that we have stated previously and continue to state is that Eric Thames finished last year as our left fielder. And yet there is a competition going on at spring training, so while we look at what takes place in camp, we also include what took place a year ago.That's not to draw a separation, that's to continue to state everything that will be factored into this."
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Another area that requires close scrutiny in the second half of the Grapefruit League scheduled is the seventh and final relief spot, left slightly murkier with the injury to Jesse Litsch. Realistic candidates include Joel Carreno, Aaron Laffey and Luis Perez.
“Luis Perez has been outstanding," manager John Farrell said, asked for his most pleasant surprise. "He's pitched with a lot of determination, he's pitched with a lot of conviction and his stuff has shown that. I think his slider in this camp has been better than any time last year and he's also understanding his approach, how to attack righthanders with more regularity. It's something he had a little bit of a diffiuculty with last year."
As for Carreno, the righthander came up last year and made an immediate impression in Farrell in the month of September. Little has been discussed of him this spring. Carreno worked two innings against the Yankees but was let down by the defence allowing three runs following a Chris Woodward error on a double-play grounder.
“A multi-inning reliever at a minimum," was Farrell's comment when asked to explain where the 25-year-old Dominican fit in. "He's in competition for one of the slots as a multi-inning reliever that we've got a couple of guys targeted for.
"If he doesn't break camp with us it's likely that he goes back to the minor leagues and starts, to give us an option in a starting role if the need arises. But the one thing about Joel is he pitched very well for us last year. He's had an outstanding minor league career. He's performed and excelled at every level he's pitched at, so while the public talk hasn't been equal to maybe some others, internally Joel is very much in the conversation."
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Prior to the morning workout, the Jays announced that shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, righthander Trystan Magnuson and outfielder Moises Sierra, a trio of 40-man roster players were optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Manager John Farrell discussed his impressions of Hechavarria in his second major-league camp.
“Rght now he's on his development path over at the minor-league complex," Farrell said of the 22-year-old Cuban. "I think the next time we see him might be during the regular season, whether that's this year or next year remains to be seen.
“He has made not only a very good impression but a sizeable improvement over a year ago. Increased bat speed, increased strength, but the one thing that stands out probably the most is his overall approach at the plate. We've seen a number of at-bats in spring training here where he's got down in the count 0-2. He's not chased pitches out of the zone. He's stayed with his plan. Just a very exciting young player."