Griffin: Blue Jays notes Game 20
SARASOTA, FLA.-The Blue Jays are proving hard to beat at spring training. On Wednesday, they scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Orioles 6-3. The Jays ran their Grapefruit League record to 15-4-1. The club record for wins at spring training is 21 in 1989 under manager Jimy Williams. The Jays won 16 Grapefruit League games last year in John Farrell's first season. They host the Phillies on Thursday.
Righthander Kyle Drabek has been working on his mechanics and in improving his temperament this spring, two flaws that have held him back from establishing himself in the majors. He has improved in both each outing. On Wednesday he went 3-1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
“He reached his pitch count of 65, so I thought it was important to get him out there for a fourth time up and down," Farrell said of taking him out during an inning. "He'll continue to work deeper into games as he builds up his workload. I thought today was encouraging. Things could have gotten a little hairy for him in the first, but he kept things under control. He keeps continuing to put the balls on the ground and that's encouraging."
In the first, after an infield hit and a one-out walk, Ben Francisco came up throwing on a base hit. Catcher J.P. Arencibia seemed to have a tag play at the plate, but stepped out front and gunned a throw to third looking for the out there. Drabek maintained his composure and got a chopper back to the mound and a broken bat flyball to end the threat.
“Even if the manager does, I'm pretty sure the player won't," Drabek laughed when asked if sometimes he thinks the manager may be asking players to mess up just to test him. “Definitely, that's where some of the groundballs came in. I was able to get 'em with the two-seamer and get out of the inning."
Drabek remains relaistic about his chances of breaking camp and heading north with the major-league team.
“It's not up to me," he said. "I'm still working on staying on my line and not rushing, slowing the game down. It's a good point right now, so we'll see. It's just fighting for a job again, same as last year. I've got to be able to go out there and make my pitches.”
The Jays toed the game on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Diaz and won it on a surprise bunt single by Anthony Gose that was not scored a single. He laid one down and there was nobody covering first and Yan Gomes scored ahead of the backhand flip.
“I think sometimes people might take his physical stature a little for granted," Farrell said of Diaz, fast becoming one of his favourites. "He's got the ability to square a baseball up. He makes a diving play a game it seems like. He's a very good baseball player."
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Eric Thames played in Fort Myers on Tuesday night and stayed at the hotel in Sarasota overnight. But when he reported to the ballpark with tightness in his right calf left over from the Red Sox game, manager John Farrell erred on the side of caution.
“He's had that in the past," Farrell said. "First time, day after a night. I didn't want to press it on him. He came in for some treatment today and even the trainers said he was good to go. I just felt it wasn't the right move to make."
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During the game, righthander Rick Vandenhurk, the big Dutchman who drilled Yunel Escobar in the elbow ending his season last year, was summoned from the Jays' dugout and notified that he had been selected in waivers by the Indians. The Jays had been trying to sneak him through waivers so they could outright him to AAA-Las Vegas and clear a 40-man roster spot for later this spring if they add a non-roster player to the opening day squad.
“I had conversations with the Indians when the Orioles designated me," Vandenhurk explained in his delightful Dutch-tinged accent. "When I took my free agency, I also did talk to Cleveland. They were very interested, so I'm not really surprised. I thought with the Blue Jays it would be a good opportunity for me. I think if I had maybe a different spring training you put yourself in a better situation. Not a great spring, so it's as simple as that."
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The Brazilian-born, Miami educated utility man, Yan Gomes was a key player in the Wednesday game, making his first start at third base in place of the injured Brett Lawrie. He was 2-for-4 with a double, raising his average to .474. He made two nice plays going to his left, drawing a long conversation on the field from an admiring Omar Vizquel. He was at Double-A last year as Travis D'Arnaud's backup and may see that again.
“He has done himself a world of good in this camp, both in terms of the way he receives, the way he blocks balls, the way he can throw from behind the plate and he's not played a whole lot of third base," manager John Farrell said. "We felt like the work he's done both at third base and at first in early work, we gave him a run at it today and he made a couple of nice plays and he's not afraid when he steps in the box."
Gomes knows his limitations in terms of personal expectations.
“I kind of start as a backup, I just have to be able to compete whenever I'm called upon," Gomes said. "I kind of started playing a lot of different positions, like today I'm playing third, just to show my value that I can play every other position. That can give me more at bats and give me more value."
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Third baseman Brett Lawrie had a fifth consecutive day off and will likely have two more before returning to the lineup on Saturday. He had tightness in his left groin, but, as Farrell like to say with regard to minor injuries, the Jays are E.O.T.S.O.C.