Richard Griffin’s Bullpen: Wounded Blue Jays looking to add another starting pitcher
VOLUME VIII, July 30, 2012
The Jays were believed to be looking for another starting pitcher for the rotation at the deadline, although they received good news on Sunday with Brandon Morrow (left oblique) tossing three shutout innings against the Charlotte Stone Crabs for Class-A Dunedin. He allowed three hits, with a walk and two strikeouts. Fellow right-hander Drew Hutchison has started to throw from flat ground, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to contribute as a starter before 2013.
The Jays already acquired LH J.A. Happ from the Astros, but still have not installed him in the rotation. He has pitched multiple innings in relief, although his role down the road with the Jays will be as a starting pitcher. He is available to fill in for Romero if the left-hander continues to struggle.
In the meantime, starting pitchers around baseball have been on the move in July. The Astros sent Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh. The Twins sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox. The Brewers sent Zack Greinke to the Angels. The Marlins sent Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers. The Rockies sent Jeremy Guthrie to the Royals for Sanchez. The Phils re-upped Cole Hamels to a huge extension and the Marlins remain with the most coveted deadline prize in Josh Johnson.
PREVIOUS BULLPEN EDITIONS:
The Jays had another up-and-down week on the field, losing the first two games of the homestand against the A’s then winning three in a row vs. the A’s (1) and the Tigers (2), before losing Sunday’s homestand and series finale to the Tigers by a score of 4-1.
Once again, Brett Cecil can take some positives out of the Sunday start, but the story is getting old. One bad pitch, two bad pitches, otherwise a really encouraging performance. There comes a time when you have to pitch well when your team has the lead or is tied. That has not been the case with Cecil. The 26-year-old southpaw has pitched just well enough to lose. In innings when the Jays are already trailing, Cecil has allowed just one earned run in 14-2/3 innings for a 0.61 ERA. When Cecil has been tied or ahead in games, he has allowed 27 earned runs in 30-1/3 innings for a 7.92 ERA.
As for Ricky Romero, he had a horrible time in a 16-0 loss to the A’s on Wednesday in a performance that he said was embarrassing. At 1-1/3 innings, allowing eight runs, with six walks, it was the shortest outing of his career. The Jays showed some real resilience coming back from that A’s debacle just 14 hours later for a 10-4 victory in a day-game series finale. The Jays have begun a 10-game, 11-day road trip to Seattle (3), Oakland (4) and Tampa Bay (3). It’s becoming redundant to call it a “crossroad” trip.
On the injury front, Jose Bautista clearly has a high tolerance for pain. Joey Bats went down in extreme pain on July 16 in New York with inflammation in his left wrist. As soon as the MRI showed no structural damage, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
On Saturday, before the manager even expected him to be able to start a program of coming back, Bautista took off the removable cast that encased his hand and had some dry swings with a (lighter) fungo bat, using the balsa-like bat to hit a few balls off a tee. He did it again on Sunday and will accompany the Jays on the road trip. The next step is to use a game bat for the tee work, then hit soft toss from coaches and finally to take live hitting on the field. He is eligible to return on Wednesday, but clearly will not be ready. The Jays are 6-5 in the 11 games Bautista has been disabled.
The Jays were devastated again on Wednesday when catcher J.P. Arencibia suffered a broken bone in his right hand. An A’s batter deflected a pitch from Beck over his catching glove and off of the exposed hand. There were runners on base, so he had his hand loosely on his lap while in the crouch in order to be ready to throw. It was a freak injury and he will be out for from 6-8 weeks. Gomes was already on the roster and will remain as the backup catcher, with Mathis getting the lion’s share of the innings. Arencibia flew home to Nashville where he will stay in shape on his own.
The Jays suffered a couple of strained backs during the week, Shortstop Yunel Escobar for three games and DH Adam Lind, for four games and counting. Escobar returned to the lineup on Saturday and slammed his seventh home run of the year, proving his back was back, but Lind’s problem is midback, with no sign that he will be able to return. He landed on the DL on Monday.
On Saturday, Colby Rasmus drew his first start as a DH since joining the Jays last summer. In two games as Jays’ DH, Rasmus is 3-for-4 with a .750 batting average, with two homers and five RBIs. He had a great take on his experience and his uncomfortableness with the role.
“It was definitely weird at the beginning, but I just stayed focused and into the game, watching (Anibal Sanchez) pitch and what he was trying to do to the hitters,” Rasmus said. “I sat up on that top step, the sun was beating down a little bit so it kept me warm. I just stretched out a little bit and got up there and whacked it.”
The Jays will need a whole lot of whacking on this road trip.
The Jays just wrapped up a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers. The series presented an interesting comparison between the respective hearts of the two teams’ batting orders. The question is which power-hitting pair, when healthy, would you rather have batting 3-4 in your lineup, all factors considered?
Right-fielder Bautista was not available this weekend, but Jays fans know very well what he can do. Joey Bats has 27 homers and a .894 OPS. Meanwhile first baseman Edwin Encarnacion has emerged from the shadow of his teammate to post a .299 average, 28 homers, 72 RBIs and a .990 OPS to give the Jays a lethal power duo, one of the best in the AL. The two Jays have combined for 55 home runs and 137 RBIs, even with Bautista missing the last dozen games.
For the Tigers, it’s the more famous, more notorious pair, third baseman Miguel Cabrera and first baseman Prince Fielder, combining for 41 homers, 155 RBIs and a huge intimidation factor, much more than the Jays offer. Fielder has a .308 average and an .893 OPS, while Cabrera is .327 and .970.
There’s not much to choose from in this year’s statistics, or in the ages of the four players who would all seem to have plenty of years left in their prime. Bautista is 31-years-old, followed by Cabrera and Encarnacion at 29, while Fielder is the youngest of the quartet at 28.
But in terms of value for the money, there would seem to be no comparison at this point in time. The Tigers have a lot more money, and more of their available resources are committed to their two sluggers than the Jays, who locked up Bautista after his breakout year and have recently signed Encarnacion to an extension during his breakthrough as a middle-of-the-order power guy.
Here’s a breakdown of salary for the four players.
Bautista is earning $14 million for this season and is owed $56 million more through the 2016 season. The final year is a club option.
Encarnacion is earning $3.5 million in 2012. His extension was for three years guaranteed, plus a club option for 2016. The amount owing if they chose the option would be $37 million.
Cabrera is earning $21 million this season with the Tigers, with $65 million more guaranteed through the year 2015. Fielder, on the other hand, is in the first year of a nine-year deal. He is making $23 million this year and is owed another $191 million through 2020.
When the Tigers signed Fielder, it forced them to move Cabrera across the diamond to third base. At spring training when the move was being made, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski insisted that unlike the Jose Reyes/Hanley Ramirez debacle in Miami, Cabrera, some time near the end of last season, had already been asking about potentially moving to third base. That being said, the Tigers weakened themselves defensively at two positions from last year. In some subtle ways, it may be affecting the numbers of their ace and the best pitcher in the American League, Justin Verlander.
On the other hand, Encarnacion, who is not a very good defensive third baseman, has showed more athleticism and skill than Lind at first base, and a higher comfort level because he does not have to throw the ball, which is what hurt him at third base. Bautista in right field, has a superior arm and good baseball instincts. Both are better defenders than either Tiger.
The bottom line is that despite all the off-season angst about not making the necessary offer for Prince and not being willing to spend the money necessary to win, the Jays may be better off without him. There was a ground ball by Yan Gomes that Omar Infante charged in on, fielded and fired towards first base, just a little high. Fielder fanned on it and as the ball bounded off the stands, Gomes rounded too far and was caught in no man’s land in fair territory, trying to scramble back to the bag. The problem for the Tigers was that Fielder was moping about the original play, with his head down in foul territory and Gomes got back to first easily.
All things being equal: money, skills, firepower, instincts and athleticism, the Jays have the better 3-4 prospects, not necessarily for this season but moving forward to next year and beyond.
MLB POWER RANKINGS — July 30
(Last Week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. New York Yankees (1)
This year may be Girardi’s best managing job
2. Cincinnati Reds (3)
Chapman numbers amazing in terms of swing-and-miss
3. Texas Rangers (2)
Still looking for starting pitching with Lewis out for year
4. Los Angeles Angels (7)
With Greinke added can’t seem to find spot in rotation for Santana
5. Washington Nationals (4)
Jayson Werth back in good health, see how that affects Nats
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (6)
There’s magic with Wandy on the banks of the Allegheny
7. San Francisco Giants (9)
Now have to worry about division again with revitalized Dodgers
8. Atlanta Braves (10)
Bullpen still deep, rotation still thin
9. Oakland A’s (8)
Who are these guys??
10. St. Louis Cardinals (16)
Starting to pull it together for second half run
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (15)
Hanley Ramirez nice addition in place of injured Gordon
12. Chicago White Sox (13)
Would this team be in first place under Ozzie?
13. Detroit Tigers (15)
Is the batting order deep enough after Jax, Miggy and Prince
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (22)
Starting to get ship in the desert righted, but likely too late
15. Baltimore Orioles (11)
Markakis back and providing life at the top of the order
16. Toronto Blue Jays (18)
Morrow eyeing mid-August return to rotation
17. Tampa Bay Rays (12)
Rays offence devil of time without Longoria
18. Cleveland Indians (17)
Another team that knows not if they are buyers or sellers
19. Boston Red Sox (14)
On the fifth day he rested. Every time. Crawford’s no saviour
20. New York Mets (19)
When Dickey was passed over for All-Star start, feel-good bubble burst
21. Philadelphia Phillies (21)
When will the “Fire Charlie” bleating begin
22. Miami Marlins (23)
When will the “Fire Ozzie” bleating begin
23. Milwaukee Brewers (20)
Fans remain loyal despite season-long struggles
24. San Diego Padres (28)
A team already preparing for next year and beyond
25. Seattle Mariners (24)
Ichiro gone ‘cause OB percentage not good enough? In that case M’s would have no one.
26. Chicago Cubs (26)
Twitter had Dempster already in Atlanta a week ago
27. Minnesota Twins (25)
Maybe GM Terry Ryan is second-guessing his own comeback
28. Kansas City Royals (27)
Billy Butler a KC legend after HR Derby snub. Rotation not good.
29. Colorado Rockies (29)
Jim Tracy wakes up every day and thanks God for the Astros
30. Houston Astros (30)
The one game they had a chance to win last week they called on CoCo to close
The return of former Jays’ centre-fielder Vernon Wells to the active list of the Angels is being greeted not with a drum roll, but with a rim shot. There are no at-bats out there for the $21 million man. Already the speedy Peter Bourjos, a talented defender, is being relegated by Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo. Wells can get some DH at bats with Kendrys Morales or fill in now and then for one of the regulars. But he hasn’t been very good in that role in the past. The Red Sox are beginning to not look like the Red Sox, a team that intimidated you with big names and a unique persona. Now, it seems, a month after dumping third baseman Kevin Youkilis on the White Sox, Bobby Valentine is trying hard to get RH Josh Beckett off the payroll via trade. Beckett is one of the biggest clutch post-season pitchers of his generation with big-time performances in ‘03 with the Marlins and ‘07 with the Red Sox.
The Rangers continue to look for another starting pitcher after the loss of RH Colby Lewis, a further setback by RH Neftali Feliz who felt more elbow discomfort in his fourth rehab start, and RH Roy Oswalt with old guy back issues after being off for a half year. RH Scott Feldman must be saying, “Hey Ron Washington, what about me?” Feldman won a fifth straight decision on Sunday and has not been guaranteed his next start by the skipper. By the way, centre-fielder Josh Hamilton is batting just .145 in July.
The White Sox for the moment are going to slide newly acquired RH Francisco Liriano into a six-man rotation. LH Chris Sale and RH Jose Quintana are young and need an innings limit and veteran RH Jake Peavy is still coming back from injury. Roberto (Fausto Carmona) Hernandez is making his second minor-league start while under his three-week suspension from baseball for identity fraud. The Indians are not sure when and who they might be calling up. The Tribe has been discussing trading centre-fielder Shin-Soo Choo for the right deal. Choo would be a boost for a playoff contender offensively, but his outfield play has been a little shaky. The Indians want a player they can control for at least three years.
O’s 2B Brian Roberts was out with concussion issues, came back and is now out for the season in need of hip surgery. The M’s enter a brave new world without Ichiro patrolling the outfield some where. It didn’t take long for GM Jack Zduriencik to go on TV and tell M’s fans that Ichiro had asked for the trade and ended up with the Yankees. The Royals went to Seattle and were swept in four games just as the Jays get to town facing a red-hit team.
The Reds on Sunday won their 11th game in a row behind the pitching of RH Mat Latos, a man quite heavily coveted by the Jays in the off-season. Whereas the Jays were offering prospects from the lower levels of the system that were still a few years away, the Pads insisted on prospects that were closer to being ready. On Monday, the Pads will activate RH Brad Boxberger, joining RH Edinson Volquez, C Yasmani Grandal and 1B Yonder Alonso meaning all four prospects they got from Cincinnati will be in the majors. The Pads shocked the baseball world last week by signing OF Carlos Quentin to a lucrative extension. This week they have re-upped closer Huston Street through 2015. Former Jays’ shortstop Marco Scutaro is back in the Bay Area after being traded to the Giants from the Rockies. He is a candidate to take over third base from Pablo Sandoval. Kung-Fu Panda went down with groin and hamstring issues after making a fabulous stretch at first base. Rockies left-fielder Carlos Gonzalez has a 28-game hit streak at Coors Field. That’s two shy of the franchise record set by Larry Walker. Staying with the Rockies they are an inexplicable 3-14 on Sundays this year and 9-33 on the Lord’s Day going back to the start of 2011. That’s a lot of miserable team charters at the end of series.
The Astros are awful and getting worse. The trade of third baseman Chris Johnson to the Diamondbacks is the fifth trade of a current major-leaguer since Carlos Lee was sent to the Marlins. That’s all it took for former Jays’ prospect Brett Wallace to get another chance with the ‘Stros. The Braves are obviously still looking for a veteran starter, but with RH Ben Sheets they may have overshot the mark. Sheets is 3-0, with a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings, but can that last? Sheets was a Brewers first round pick in ’99, the year the Rays picked Josh Hamilton and the Marlins took Josh Beckett to open the draft.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto can begin his baseball activities on Monday, but that doesn’t mean his return is imminent. Besides, the Reds have been the hottest team in baseball without him. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo slammed a walk-off homer on Sunday that he believes is the first such heroic hit for him at any level of baseball. He’s now batting .333 with seven homers. It will be tough for the Cubs to trade RH Matt Garza before the Tuesday deadline since he hasn’t been able to pitch for over a week with right biceps cramping. He might be back on the weekend vs. the Dodgers ... and Frankie Francisco pitched a shutout inning on a rehab assignment.
OK, so I’m a baby boomer still coming to grips with the new technologies of journalism — although, fo schizzle, I think I’m doing a better job of it than many others of my generation. But one of the biggest drawbacks of today’s social media in this age of instant access to information, is that it takes very little time, for example, from the moment one starts a baseball rumour, to the exact moment when one’s bosses send a note asking one to follow-up on said rumour because it was reported on Twitter by a reliable source, attributed to a reliable source. “Hey, wait a second. I just started that rumour.”
The point here is that shortstop Yunel Escobar is getting a bum rap with many of those “sources” that insist the Jays’ infielder is a disruptive influence in the clubhouse. I don’t know where it all stems from, but all these sources are south of the border and I believe it stems back to his reputation in the Atlanta Crackers, uhh, I mean Braves clubhouse. The point that is being made is that the Jays would be willing to trade Escobar because in addition to not posting the same numbers offensively that he did a year ago, he’s a bad influence in the clubhouse. That’s hooey. This is not to say that the 29-year-old will NOT be traded, but how the hell would these people know that, having not set foot in the Jays clubhouse this year? It’s an old prejudgment of Escobar. The Jays traded for him on July 14, 2010 and signed the Cuban to a nice comfortable three-year contract in 2011, coincidentally, while the team was playing an inter-league series in Atlanta. Maybe it was more than coincidence that the Jays trusted Escobar enough to give him two guaranteed years, plus two club options through 2015 for $5 million per year, and maybe Escobar agreed to the deal so it would be announced in the visitors dugout in Atlanta. Delicious irony for Escobar who was pretty much run out of town for being a selfish, moody, introvert, the same accusation that many Latin players, not comfortable in the English language, are stuck with.
The GM Alex Anthopoulos likes Escobar. He tells the story of walking in the clubhouse after midnight with just two players left after a home game — Escobar and Edwin Encarnacion — talking baseball. He sat down with them and they discussed the Jays and life for a couple of more hours. Less than a month later, Edwin signed a three-year guaranteed deal for $29 million with a club option. The manager John Farrell also denied in no uncertain terms the notion that Escobar is a disruptive influence. The Jays clubhouse is perfect for Escobar, with a heavy Latin influence, led by Jose Bautista, and he already told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, when A’s rumours were hot and heavy, that he did not want to leave. Like I said, it does not mean that Yunel won’t be traded, but it won’t be for those reasons. It would be a baseball decision. There is room next year for both Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria.
THIS WEEK IN BASEBALL HISTORY
8/4/83 During Yankees batting practice at Exhibition Stadium, Dave Winfield, intentionally or not, threw a baseball that struck and killed an innocent seagull as it blithely hopped about the outfield. After the game, the outfielder was stunned to be charged by the OPP for cruelty to animals and held on $500 bail. Charges were dropped the next day. Needless to say, Winfield is not on the seagull Hall-of-Fame ... 7/30/59 Rookie Willie McCovey debuted with four hits, including two triples for the Giants in a 7-2 win over the Phillies ... 7/30/78 the Expos beat the pathetic Braves 19-0 banging out 28 hits in Atlanta. The Expos hit eight home runs, including four in the fourth inning — two of those by Andre Dawson ... 7/31/54 Braves first-baseman Joe Adcock hit four homers and a double in a 15-7 win over the Dodgers, setting a MLB record 18 total bases ... 7/31/62 There’s nothing new under the sun. On this date commissioner Ford Frick presented a plea for interleague baseball that was turned down by NL owners who didn’t want to lower themselves ... 7/31/81 The strike ends, with teams having seven days to prepare for a second half that will determine a playoff spot. It leads to the Expos winning the second-half division title, beating the Phillies in five games in a division series and losing in five games to the Dodgers in their only trip to the post-season ever. Roast in hell, Rick Monday ... 8/1/41 Yankees starter Lefty Gomez walks 11 over St. Louis Browns in a complete-game shutout ... 8/1/72 Padres first baseman Nate Colbert slugs five homers and drives in 13 in a doubleheader vs. the Braves.
Coincidentally, Colbert said he was at Sportsman’s Park in 1954 as an 8-year-old to see Stan Musial homer five times in a DH for the Cardinals ... 8/1/78 The 44-game hit streak of Pete Rose comes to an end vs. the Braves. The emotional Reds’ star gets royally pissed at reliever Gene Garber who faces him with two outs in the ninth and refuses to challenge him by throwing him anything close to a strike. Rose strikes out anyway. Rose apparently does spell team with an I ... 8/2/21 A jury finds eight members of the White Sox not guilty of purposely throwing games in the 1919 World Series. As the infamous Black Sox players celebrate the decision, commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis is preparing to announce a lifetime ban for all eight, including Shoeless Joe Jackson ... 8/2/79 Yankees catcher Thurman Munson dies on an off-day in Canton, Ohio flying his own small plane. The stunned Yankees honoured the 32-year-old gamer before a packed house at Yankee Stadium the next night ... 8/4/82 The Mets trade outfielder Joel Youngblood to the Expos right after a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. With a single at Wrigley already under his belt, Youngblood catches a flight to Philadelphia scrambles into uniform, enters the game in the fourth and bangs out another single. It is the first time a player has recorded a hit for two teams in two cities on the same day. Above and beyond the call of duty, Expos equipment manager John Silverman sends a uniform and letters over to the home of the visiting clubhouse manager at Veterans Stadium where his wife sews Youngblood’s name on the jersey in time for him to play. Not imperative, but very professional ... 8/5/21 Pittsburgh radio station KDKA broadcasts the first MLB game on radio with announcer Harold Arlin doing it all. In the 8-5 Bucs win over the Phillies, the first pitch was thrown by RH Hal Carlson to third baseman Goldie Rapp. Arlin is reported to have paved the way for Jays’ broadcaster Jerry Howarth with this famous call: “Welcome to Forbes Field, where all the seats are gold, except for the black ones.”… 8/5/84 Jays’ Cliff Johnson smacks career pinch-hit homer No. 19 setting an MLB record.
Birthdays this week: Clint Hurdle 55, Ellis Valentine 58, Doug Rader 68, Casey Stengel 122, Steve Sinclair 41, Tim Wakefield 46, Bombo Rivera 60, Troy Glaus 36, Roger Clemens 50, John Farrell 50, Cleon Jones 70, Dallas Green 78, John Olerud 44, Rick Bosetti 59.
JAYS MINOR LEAGUE ROUNDUP
Triple-A Las Vegas (62-46) lost 13-6 to Salt Lake on Sunday. RH Scott Richmond allowed 3 earned runs in 6 innings and his ERA is 6.20. First baseman David Cooper was not in the lineup, he will replace Adam Lind in Seattle. Left fielder Eric Thames was 3-for-5 with a homer. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria saw his average drop to .313. Double-A New Hampshire (42-67) lost 3-2 to Altoona on Sunday. Catcher Koby Clemens was 2-for-3 with a homer and a stolen base. RH Chad Jenkins tossed 7-1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 7 hits, with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 4.96. Sam Dyson (1-2) was the loser in relief. First baseman Mike McDade is hitting .275 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs ... Class-A Dunedin (17-20) beat Charlotte 8-2 on Sunday. RH Brandon Morrow made his first start since being injured on June 11. RH Sean Nolin was the winner in relief (2.2 IP; 0H; 0R; 0ER; 1BB; 2SO). Left-fielder Kevin Pillar is batting .347. Third baseman Kevin Ahrens homered and is batting .256 ... Class-A Lansing (22-13) beat South Bend 11-10 on Sunday. Chris Peters was 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and is batting .333. LH Justin Nicolino, RH Noah Syndergaard and RH Aaron Sanchez are a combined 22-7.
Class-A Vancouver (25-19) lost 11-6 to Everett on Sunday. RH Marcus Stroman is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA. Centrefielder Dalton Pompey is hitting .294 with 3 steals ... Class-A Bluefield (14-17) lost 8-7 to Greeneville on Sunday. Canadian RH Tom Robson is 0-2, with a 4.09 ERA despite no walks in 11 innings. LH Daniel Norris is 1-1, with a 4.87 ERA.
ONE FOR THE ROAD:
On a personal level, I had a successful Jays’ homestand in terms of won-lost record. The only two games I missed were a 16-0 loss against the A’s and the 4-1 loss Sunday against the Tigers. I missed Sunday’s game flying out to Seattle, staying just off Pioneer Square at a Courtyard. The best part of this 10-game, 11-day road trip, one that will be tough to top is that my daughter Shannon drove down from Victoria B.C., with her friend Lisa, to spend Monday night with me in Seattle. They are spending the summer as counsellors at a camp for disadvantaged and challenged children. We went to lunch at a place called Elysian Field near Safeco, named after the Long Island park where baseball was reported to have been invented by Alexander Cartwright. On the Sunday flight out, in the hour before landing in Seattle, I stared out the airplane window in total awe at Mt. Rainier, the only thing from horizon to horizon that reached above the layer of clouds that seems to constantly envelop the Pacific Northwest. My favourite baseball moment came on Saturday with the Jr. Jays running the bases, as they do every home Saturday. The steady procession of young children around the bases lasted as long as it took to write a column, but there was one three-year-old that was worth the price of admission. As he rounded second and headed for third, the kid lost first one sandal off his feet, then the other. When the lad finally realized his kicks were gone, he stopped in his tracks, looked down at his feet in disbelief, raised his hands in the air on either side, looked side-to-side in a panic and started to cry. That’s classic.