Blue Jays Rumour Roundup – March 31, 2012

Here is a weekend edition of Blue Jays rumours as well as a few interesting tidbits around the AL East as well.

-Another spring training victory today for the Blue Jays, defeating the Philles 8-5.  Yahoo sports has a piece on 2012 Spring Training winners and losers and had this to say about the Jays so far this spring:

The Toronto Blue Jays are 23-5 this spring, by far the best record in Florida or Arizona. They have the best winning percentage of any team since 1997. After a 2-2 start, the Blue Jays won 10 in a row. Then they lost two split-squad games in one day before embarking on another 10-game winning streak. They got beat Friday, and the clubhouse joke is that it’s the only thing that kept them from a berth in the Final Four.

 “Winning means we are prepared and playing well, not just the big-league guys but the minor-league guys who played the second half of these games,” said right fielder Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays’ best player. “But the wins don’t count. We all know that.”

 The Jays’ minor-league talent is ranked No. 5 overall by Baseball America. General manager Alex Anthopoulos is beginning his third year, and he’s already restocked the farm system with solid prospects through trades and the MLB draft. Toronto’s stockpile of young pitchers is especially impressive.

 Third baseman Brett Lawrie, one of the best young hitters in the game and already a fixture in the lineup, is batting .545 this spring. Yet not all of Toronto’s spring performers are spring chickens: Omar Vizquel, a 24-year veteran who will turn 45 in April, made the team in an infield utility role after batting .452.

Whether 23-5 or 5-23, the Jays would still be pegged to finish fourth in the highly competitive American League East division. They’ve been baseball’s best fourth-place team each of the past four years, which might even exceed a Grapefruit League title in the pantheon of useless accomplishments.

 But two 10-game winning streaks do make the Jays unmistakable spring winners in our accounting.

-Adam Lind expects to be back in the lineup for the Blue Jays tomorrow (Sunday, April 1)

“He’s feeling better, he’s pain free,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “He’ll take some ground balls, he’ll take BP on the field, so we’re hopeful he’s back in the lineup [Sunday].”

– The much discussed Blue Jays starting rotation has not yet officially been announced by manager John Farrell:

“Probably before we get on the plane to get out of here,” Farrell said after being asked when an announcement could be expected. “We’ve got the last starts to make that further evaluation. We’re still evaluating.”

Despite Farrell’s claims, the rotation does appear relatively set with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek as the most likely starting five.

The only question mark is Drabek, who in theory could still lose out to Aaron Laffey despite the lefty having surrendered nine earned runs in his final 10 innings of work this spring.

Toronto only needs a fifth starter once prior to April 21 because of three off-days during the first 12 days of the season. In the past, Farrell has opted to give his starters an extra day of rest whenever possible. But in this case, there would be too much time off if the club went with more than four starters in certain situations.

Some unsettling news for an AL East rival the New York Yankees as they have placed newly acquired starting pitcher Michael Pineda on the 15-day DL to start the season with right shoulder stiffness.

The Yankees said they were relieved to find no structural damage for the big Dominican, who had been struggling all spring to regain the zip on his fastball.

“It’s great news, for what your biggest concerns are,” New York manager Joe Girardi told reporters at the Yankees’ spring training camp in Tampa, Florida.

“It just needs a little rest. He’ll get treatment and then we’ll see how long until he picks up a ball. We’ll be a little conservative.”

-More bad news on the injury front for another AL East team as the Tampa Bay Rays will start the season without their starting centre fielder BJ Upton.  Upton collided with fellow outfielder Desmond Jennings and injured his back, although the injury is not considered serious he is not eligible to return until April 9, 2012.

To add depth the Rays have acquired outfielder Kyle Hudson from the Rangers for future considerations, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Texas signed him to a minor league deal back in January.

The 25-year-old hit .296/.375/.336 line with 41 stolen bases in 485 minor league plate appearances last season.

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