Griffin: Blue Jays notes Game 14
KISSIMMEE, FLA.-The Jays continued their impressive run this spring with a 6-3 victory over the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Thursday. The Jays have won nine in a row and are undefeated in their last 10. Their overall record stands at 11-2-1 with Friday's game scheduled for Dunedin against the Rays. Ricky Romero will be on the mound.
The Jays scored a pair of runs in each of the first two innings to take an early stranglehold on the game. Eric Thames and David Cooper singled to drive in runs in the first inning, while Travis Snider ripped a double down the right field line against lefthander Zach Duke in the second. Left fielder Jake Marisnick hit the game's only home run in the ninth, while right fielder Rajai Davis stole a pair of bases in the first. Dustin McGowan and Kyle Drabek each allowed an unearned run in his three innings of work.
NOTE: Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke sat in the stands with Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos, as his hockey team prepared to play the Lightning in Tampa later in the day. The Jays had no one from the GTA in the lineup either. But Crouse is a Port Moody, B.C. native.
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For Dustin McGowan, the mere fact last September of pitching in a regular-season major-league game after three calendar years on the Blue Jays' disabled list was a huge step, but it did not mean in his own mind that he was all the way back to doing normal things that other Jays' pitchers do. That McGowan return to normalcy is a gradual process.
After working three innings against the Astros on Thursday, allowing an unearned run on two hits and a walk, while striking out three, the 29-year-old took one of those "next steps" towards earning a spot in the Jays' five-man rotation.
On Monday, he actually threw a side session in the bullpen between starts. It was the first time he has been physically able to do that normally mundane between-start maintenance routine since July 5, 2008, three days prior to the start in which he was injured.
“It feels good, it's peace of mind," McGowan said. "That to me was as big a step as anything just because last year I was trying to get the arm to recover in between and now it's showing it's recovering, so it gives me a chance to throw sides and sharpen up on stuff. I'm sure there will be times where I skip one or two days here and there, but that will come later once I add more innings. Maybe I need a day where I don't throw a side, maybe I don't. Hopefully I don't, but we'll see.”
Both McGowan and his manager John Farrell agreed that their conversations no longer are prefaced with a "How are you?" greeting. That's the way the pitcher likes it.
“He says hi to me and goes about his business," McGowan said. "That's the way I want it. I don't need him asking me how I am every day. I'm just one of the guys that pitch every five days like the other guys. It's the same."
Farrell has been quietly confident all along in his rehabbing pitcher since seeing him throw on the side for the first time at the Mattick complex early in the spring. But he still sees daily progress each time out towards earning a rotation berth.
“He comes into camp unrestricted as far as any kinds of ailments that we're looking at or monitoring more than anyone else," Farrell said. "It's a matter of building up his pitches, building up the innings start by start. As we stated at the outset, he's right in line and mainstreamed with every other starter in camp.
“The conversation centres around what took place in the game, because he's not on the report every morning as far as the health update. It's just about getting him prepared mentally and physically for the start of the year. It's even more comforting when he's throwing 92-95 with the sink that he's thrown. He's passing every physical plateau. From his first bullpen in camp it's been very good, very consistent. There hasn't been a dropoff in stuff and I think that speaks to what he's done in the off-season and how he's physically responsible in the work sessions. It's been all positive.”
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Righthander Kyle Drabek has been linked to Dustin McGowan, working most times on the same day and many times in the same game as they compete for the same rotation spot. Drabek worked three solid innings on Thursday, allowing an unearned run, with a hit and a strikeout. His previous start was rained out after one inning five days ago vs. the Braves. This time he got his work in and was happy with his effort.
"My arm felt good," Drabek said. "We'll see how sore it is tomorrow but during the three innings it felt good. For me it's good to get three innings in and get on to the next start, hopefully get four."
Manager John Farrell and GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke to Drabek pre-camp as they did everyone else back in February. Farrell warns against assuming that Drabek will be at AAA-Las Vegas. He is happy with Drabek's improvement in demeanour and mechanics.
“I wouldn't say he's totally on the outside looking in, either," Farrell said. "The most encouraging thing is he's been able to take some of the work done pre-spring training and in the early phases of camp and taken them out to the mound. While we come into camp with somewhat of a pencilled in plan for everybody, that's somewhat subject to change. It depends what they do in between the lines and he's affecting it in a positive way."
Again, for Drabek, who has tended in the past to lose some composure when a call goes against him and also needs to maintain his straight line to the plate at the point of landing and delivering, spring training is all about showing the Jays he can move forward.
“Yes, and I'd say both are a work in progress," Farrell said. "I don't think it's by any means a finished product but the most important thing is that he is clear and understanding what the needs are. He's got a very clear plan on how to address both, now it's just a matter of going out there and doing it consistently."
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The Jays brought with them to face the Astros an impressive list of five young outfielders, all 25-years-of-age or less. Apart from Eric Thames and Travis Snider, the two men battling it out for the left field position, were Anthony Gose, Jake Marisnick and Canadian Michael Crouse. Manager John Farrell has included the two A-Lansing outfielders Marisnick and Crouse on many travel squads. impressed with their advanced skills and maturity.
"We haven't even tapped into the young arms, which is by design," Farrell said of some pitchers that played with the kid outfielders at Class-A in '11. "We don't want to rush young guys that were either teammates with those guys in Lansing or a level below them, but in addition to those guys, the overall group is not only growing in number but they're growing in maturity, both physically and the way they're performing on the field.
“One wave is very close and there's probably another wave another year and a half behind them. The next wave ir probably dominated more in position players. That's not to short-change Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire, Chad Beck, Chad Jenkins, but there's a lot of good position players in the system."
Marisnick homered in the ninth inning, while Thames and Snider each doubled and drove in runs. Gose was 2-for-4 with a bunt single towards first-baseman Carlos Lee.