Riding with the Wind, ’14: Spring Training News

There’s nothing major to report, just a few tidbits here and there as the Blue Jays continue to prepare for the season opener in a few weeks.  RA Dickey will pitch the opener, as the Jays open the season with a 4-game set against the Rays in Tampa.  The Yankees will then come to Toronto for a 3-game set for the Jays home opener.  In an interesting turn of events, Brandon Morrow, who has a $13MM club option for 2015, has been slated as the #5 starter for the Jays this season.  It’s conceivable that the Jays merely want him to pitch in Toronto against the NYY but, given his past success against the Rays, it’s not a pareticularly compelling argument.  So launches what http://www.fangraphs.com has determined is the 3rd most difficult schedule in all of MLB…against the 2 inter-divisional rivals that give them the greatest trouble historically.

According to Bluebird Banter (from a tweet by Gregor Chisolm), the Jays have optioned pitchers Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, and Chad Jenkins to AAA Buffalo.  None of the three had been terribly impressive in Spring Training, though that’s not Jenkins’ modus operandi anyways.  Jenkins is the one pitcher who makes me furrow my eyebrows.  There’s very little notable, or even noticeable, about him but he continues to get hitters out somehow.  That said, the well-documented logjam that the Jays have in terms of MLB-calibre pitching forces their hand somewhat.  These guys all had options left–though Drabek is out of options after 2014–so they were sent to Buffalo.  Because they had options remaining, they would had to have had a brilliant camp to stick with the Jays.

Gregor Chisholm reports that RA Dickey pitched in the Jays’ minor league camp to take the next step of preparation.  He pitched well, but that’s hardly important.  What is important is that RA pitched 7.2 innings and threw 100 pitches.  He continues to feel good as he stretches himself out during Spring Training.  Blue Jays’ fans recall the neck/upper back muscle pain he experienced last season, contributing to a slow start for RA and, consequently, a slow start by the Jays.

One of the players in the spotlight this ST has been Ryan Goins.  I think I speak for most fans when I say we don’t expect him to play like Roberto Alomar, however the starting job is his to lose.  The question is, ‘how has been performing?’  Defensively he’s been solid although there have been a few errors sprinkled here and there.  His range is good, turning the DP is good, etc.  He’s no 2B version of Ozzie Smith but he’s more than merely passable.  Offensively, however, is the major question mark.  Presently he’s put up a .171/.237/.171 slash line in ST, making his detractors say, ‘see, see–he can’t hit!’  Maybe their right, and maybe he won’t.  A couple of caveats apply, though: he’s pressing, adjusting to a new hitting coach, it’s ST, and the SS is small.  How much rope do I give him?  Well, enough to either hog-tie the position or fashion his own noose, I suppose.

So the Jays continue their inexorable march toward the 2014 regular season, with the opener a mere 15 days away from today.  I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about this season after their performance in 2013 and their inactivity in the off season.  There has been a lot of promise and expectations that have gone unfulfilled, and the so-called 3-year window hasn’t been extended.  Mixed messages have been sent ot the fans, notably: (1) we need starting pitching, only to fail in that goal (to this point); and (2) the players attempting to lure Ervin Santana to Toronto, only to fail in their attempt and then turn around and say it wasn’t that important anyways.  I’m in “wait-and-see” mode.

Wes Kepstro

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