The Twitter chatter is already buzzing with lots of Jays intra-squad games news, so you know there’s a deep thirst for any baseball news as we near spring training game action. Here are some fo the highlights from the intra-squad game and some of what I’ve read and heard most recently:
- J. P. Arencibia apparently added 9 lbs of muscle this off season (power anyone?) and has been the beacon of the team in terms of earning respect through the highest of work ethics. He’s one of the first ones to show up, and one of the last to leave each and every day. To say that he’s taking nothing for granted would be accurate as can be at this point, and he’s showing exactly the kind of focus that a lot of scouts said he was missing at some points in his minors career. If results can present themselves on the field and at the plate, we should expect a great year from our catching duo in 2011. Gregor Chisholm provides us with some very nice insight into why we should all believe in Arencibia’s abilities and in how hard he’s working so far in spring training. Great read.
- Meanwhile, Zach Stewart showed why some people peg him as the likeliest candidate to land the 5th starter spot for the Jays in 2011. If it weren’t for a lack of options for some of the other pitchers, I might be inclined to agree with them. Stewart worked 2 perfect innings, striking out Jose Bautista and Adam Lind. In total, 18 of his 25 pitches were strikes an he had no problem hitting the bottom of the strike zone or moving his pitches around, as he also induced 4 ground outs (out of his 6 outs). If he dominates throughout the spring, it may be hard for the Jays to justify sending him back down to the minors, and this seems to be exactly his focus at this point. Now it’s up to Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski to respond accordingly. Let the competition begin!
- On the “oh-oh” side of things, Aaron Hill is already having leg issues and we haven’t seen any game action from him yet. To be honest, it’s a little worrisome, particularly when the Manager feels obliged to say that there’s nothing to worry about… Last season, it was a hamstring injury that was blamed for a lot of Hill’s struggles at the plate, most notably in his ability to make consistent contact. The power was still there, but he had a hard time adjusting to movement on pitches. This time around, it’s his left quad that is the issue. Since that’s the leg he needs to lock up in order to begin his hitting motion, it doesn’t bode well for his timing overall if this injury lingers through the season. Therefore, it’s a good thing that they kept him out of action and that they decided he may sit out of any action again today. Better to resolve the issue once and for all now than to have it linger. The Jays need a healthy Aaron Hill in 2011, so I certainly hope they get him as close to 100% as possible before the season begins.
- Frank Francisco is also having some minor issues related to fatigue. He still has plenty of time to get himself sorted out before the Jays need to worry about his arm. As a reliever, he doesn’t need a huge amount of time to get himself back up to speed.
- Now is the time for Darin Mastroianni to earn himself a bench role with the Jays, as Scott Podsednik will be slowed for at least 10-14 days before he can even run. Plantar fasciitis is to be blamed in this case, a very painful inflammation under the foot that he has received an injection for already. Kevin Youkilis has suffered from this ailment in the past, so we know that a player can recover from it and play at a high level. If Mastroianni can take advantage of the absence of Pods at this point and show the Jays that he can be a key asset on the bench, he could earn himself a shot to begin 2011 on the bench.
- Finally, with news of Adam Wainwright‘s injury making the rounds and causing some to wonder whether the Cardinals will “give up on 2011″ and decide to “blow it up” in St-Louis, I sit here and wonder how or if the Jays may get involved. The Padres made a very close attempt to making the playoffs in 2010 without an ace and with a generally unknown staff. The Cardinals still have a great top 2 with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia at the top, but recent comments from Carpenter (where he said he wouldn’t block a trade out of town) have left me wondering if Garcia won’t soon be on his own at the top of the Cardinals rotation. If Carpenter’s gone, what happens to Albert Pujols? Will he want to sign a 10-year deal with a team that just lost it’s ace and could lose Carpenter? If the Cards do hang on to Carpenter, they can still make a run at the NL Central in 2011. With Dave Duncan as the pitching coach, anything is possible in St-Louis. But, if they do look for a pitcher to add to their rotation, they may come towards Toronto, a place where Jesse Litsch, Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Richmond could all peak their interest in some way, shape, or form. I can’t help but wonder what the return would be for the Jays since the Cardinals system is so very shallow in terms of talent, so it makes such a move very unprobable not only because the Cards want to try to resolve things internally first, but also because they lack the minors talent to rebuild through acquisition. It seems extremely unlikely at this point that the Jays will get involved with the Cards in trade.
With “real” spring training game action set to begin this weekend, Saturday against the Tigers at 1:05 ET, we’re set to get some “real” information on who is playing at what level in 2011. It’s finally time to see what the 2011 Jays are shaping up to look like, to see who impresses and who disappoints, and to get the season going against other squads.
In short, it’s time for the Jays to bring it!