Spring Training Opener – Blue Jays Recap

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The Jays finally opened spring training Tuesday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Unfortunately, the Jays fell to the Pirates 8-7, officially starting the season in the loss column.

In a game where a good start was ideal, bottom of the rotation candidate Aaron Sanchez was unremarkable to say the least. But it’s not like he was brutal either. His first inning was plagued by a two-out error by Josh Donaldson, creating the opportunity for a Pedro Alvarez three-run home run.

Unlucky as that was, Sanchez wasn’t much better in the 2nd inning, surrendering a two-run double by Jaff Decker. Sanchez concluded the day with a less than impressive line of 1.1 IP, 5R (2 ER), 4 hits, a walk and no strikeouts on 36 pitches.

He gave way to Cory Burns who limited the damage in his two outs recorded before handing the ball off to Marco Estrada to start the third inning. In the inning Estrada made only one mistake, leaving the ball up to Jung Ho Sang who ripped a solo home run to right center field making it 6-0.

In the home half of the inning, the Jays finally responded with their first hit of the game as Kevin Pillar capitalized on a leadoff walk to Maicer Izturis for a two-run home run to make it 6-2. Dalton Pompey followed his center field competitor’s lead with a single up the middle, followed by a stolen base where he would have eventually landed anyways due to a Jose Reyes walk. Pompey eventually came around to score on a ground out to third by Jose Bautista.

Estrada returned to the mound and continued what was a strong outing, allowing only a two-out single before giving way to Steve Delabar in the fifth inning.

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At that point, defensive substitutions were also made bringing in Ryan Goins at shortstop and Devon Travis at second. Unfortunately, neither were able to prevent the seventh Pirates run from plating as the sunny Florida sky prevented Pompey from getting a good read on a fly ball which landed just inside the left field foul line, scoring Starling Marte.

Delabar did recover in his only inning of work, recording a strikeout and a walk in the frame. The Jays were able to chip away at the Pirates lead with a Daric Barton single, driving in Anthony Alford to make it 7-4.

Kyle Drabek took over in the 6th inning and surrendered a quick solo home run but all and all handled himself admirably throughout the rest of the inning. Wilton Lopez followed Drabek with a flawless 1-2-3 inning before giving way to 20 year-old Miguel Castro. Castro worked around a single in the 8th, providing Jays fans much to look forward to in the not so distant future.

Josh Thole proved he can be more than R.A Dickey’s caddy in his outing, going 2-for-2 and driving in a pair of runs with an 8th inning single to make it 8-6. Gregory Infante took over in the 9th and battled to keep the Pirates off the board with help from catcher A.J Jiminez who caught a Pirates runner trying to steal second in the top of the 9th inning.

Mitch Nay closed the gap to one run in the 9th with an RBI single but that would be as close as the Jays came, falling by a final score 8-7.

The subjectively awarded player of the game has to go to Goins despite being unable to lay down a irrational sacrifice bunt in a completely meaningless game. He concluded his day going 2-for-3 with two hard singles in the game. While the spring training statistics are indicative of next to nothing, it was a positive sight to see Goins lay off pitches that weren’t his to hit, forcing pitchers to give in and deliver him something he can drive as he did in his second bat with a hard single to center field. This will be Goins’ biggest need of improvement as he struck out 21.8 % in the majors last season while walking only 2.6 % of his at-bats. If those figures plateau to near league average, second base may just be his position to lose.

Tomorrow the Jays will again face-off against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the back-half of a home-and-home with sophomore Marcus Stroman getting the start on the bump. First pitch is set for 1:05 EST.

Next: What are the key Blue Jays roster battles?