AL East Leaders Tighten Up


The Jays kicked off their 9 games versus the Rays and Yankees with a very well earned win. Everything the Jays did was done professionally. Whether it was Brandon Morrow snagging a dribbler to turn a double play, Jose Molina picking off Sean Rodriguez at 1B to stop the first “could have been a rally”, or Cito Gaston playing who’s pitching to who with Joe Maddon from the 7th on, the Jays seemed to have an answer for anything the Rays threw at them. I have to admit the game seemed to be slipping away a little in the 9th, but that’s what makes a closer like Kevin Gregg so valuable – he gets your team out of jams, including his own. I still can’t figure out why the Cubs didn’t want to sign him.

Some other points to the game for the Jays include the fact that Fred Lewis is absolutely loving being a Jay and is turning into one of the best doubles machine in all of MLB. He’s proving to be the perfect fit at the top of the lineup. Adam Lind is getting semi-hot, hitting his 8th HR of the season. I know it pales in comparison to Alex Gonzalez‘s 11 and Jose Bautista‘s 16, but you and I both know the bell curve should settle up in the long run! Scott Downs tried to give the Rays a chance to pull out a late innings win but Camp bailed him out of it. It has been a while since Downs had a dominating outing and his trade value must be hurting as a result.

The absolute best news for the Jays is that Brandon Morrow is learning how to pitch. He wasn’t out there trying to get 27 Ks. Instead, he played around with his velocity and pitched to contact – a great recipe that had him giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings of work. I saw him throw 4-5 pitches at under 97 MPH in a row – no fastballs, which is quite the anomaly for him. He did use the fastball a few times to get some key strikes, but it became 10 times more effective because hitters were never looking for it. The one thing I wondered was whether it was Jose Molina that was calling the game, or whether the game plan was from Brandon and the pitching coach.  I think Molina probably had a lot to do with it and he may now be Brandon’s and Shaun’s Marcum’s favorite backstop. If Brandon can repeat this through June and July, there’s no telling what the Jays can do in the AL East. Jeff Blair put it best in his most recent article that states:

"Speaking of which: did the Blue Jays kidnap Halladay some time between Sunday and Monday and put him in Brandon Morrow’s jersey? Morrow has the best pure stuff on the Blue Jays, but he relied on ground balls and good defence Monday, implementing a slide-step that clearly surprised the Rays base runners and using a reworked delivery, keeping his glove at the waist out of the stretch. It would be nice if Morrow remembered to tip his cap the next time he gets a standing ovation, even if it is only from 11,355 fans. But if this kid gets it … oh my."

Well said Jeff, well said.

The Yankees are thanking the Jays for allowing them to grab a full game on them, but have to be wondering if the Jays are for real. The Yankees now sit 2.5 games back from the Rays while the Jays are 3.5 games back. If both the Yankees and the Jays win tonight, the AL East will boast 3 teams that have winning percentages over .600. Talk about an elite division – and that’s without the hot Red Sox.

Brian Tallet is making a return to the rotation, coming off the DL to face the might Rays (chalk up a loss here) – inexplicably I might add, the Jays have no need for Tallet in the rotation and have better options in AAA and AA. They have sent Josh Roenicke heading to AAA to allow for the move, making their pen a little weaker as a result. I still don’t understand Toronto’s love affair with Tallet as a starter as I see his value as a long reliever being much greater and better for the team’s chances of winning. Here’s to hoping it pans out, but I’m not holding my breath!

In “unrelated” news, Kyle Drabek threw an 8 inning shutout game against the Yankees AA affiliate – Trenton. He only allowed 4 hits, 1 walk, and struck out 4 in the contest. Whether its AAA or MLB, Kyle deserves a promotion. He has a 2.87 ERA over his last 10 games and has only allowed more than 2 runs once over his last 8. The Jays promoted Brett Cecil out of AAA last season after a very short stint there, so I have to think they’re ready to do the same with Kyle. A rotation that includes Kyle instead of Brian makes a whole lot of sense to me, but the Jays are most likely keeping that spot for Jesse Litsch who is making the next start for AAA Las Vegas. He allowed 3 runs his last time out over 6 IP and could be ready to return the next time Tallet’s turn is up. So, if Tallet gets lit up as expected, Jesse could return to the Jays. Plan accordingly in fantasy circles!

Extra Curricular Happenings – Information

  • Jim Callis’s newest mock draft has him coming to his sense and placing the Jays in a big money spending position. He has them marked down for selecting “one of the draft’s toughest signs” in Austin Wilson – which makes total sense to me. Alex Anthopolous is committed to building from within with the highest rated talent on board. Good stuff Jim, I like that you’re putting the JP Ricciardi era behind you with the rest of us!
  • JP Arencibia made Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet this week after hitting .393/.379/.786 (11-for-28), 2 HR, 5 2B, 8 RBIs, 4 R, 0 BB, 6 SO. Great stuff from the Jays AAA catcher, but unlucky for him that the Jays are so happy with John Buck and Jose Molina behind the plate. It’ll most likely take an injury for him to see playing time in 2010. He should be in line to take Buck’s place in 2011.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria is turning some heads in HiA and is proving to be a more than adequate SS defensively. He’s also holding his own offensively and getting better as time goes on. In his last 10 games, Adeiny is hitting .302 with 8 extra base hits (5 doubles and 3 triples). He isn’t walking nearly enough yet as he has 1 walk to his 9 SOs over that span, but he’ll get better the more ABs he gets. Scouts have been especially impressed with his strength that comes from his wiry body.