The Blue Jays will enter their 5th contest of the 2015 Spring Training schedule against the Phillies at 1:05pm ET. You can tune in on MLBTV. The lineup has been posted and it leads to a few interesting questions. Now, this post should come with the caveat that it is very early in Spring Training and it would be a fool’s errand to read too much into names on a lineup card. With that said, let’s do it anyway.
Today’s contest will see Mark Buehrle take the mound for his first start of the year. Unlike yesterday’s start by R.A. Dickey, there won’t be much drama surrounding Buehrle’s outing. It is the quintessential “pitcher getting in his work” type of outing. At this point in his career, it is not like the soon to be 36 yr old will be looking to add a new pitch to his repertoire. Rather, he’ll just be looking to get in his work and call it a day. So, if you plan on tuning in, you might want to make sure you’re on time. Given his pace of work, you could miss some Buehrle action if you’re not on time.
While there may not be any questions about the starter, there are certainly some that pop up about the rest of the lineup. Here’s what comes to my mind:
Where is Edwin Encarnacion?
Today’s lineup features Daric Barton starting at first base. OK, so maybe Edwin is DHing today. Nope. That honor goes to Justin Smoak. In fact, since the Blue Jays have started games this spring, Edwin has a total of 2 plate appearances with a walk and a strike out. Those came on Tuesdays 8-7 loss to the Pirates. * He had a few at bats yesterday and struck out once while leaving 3 on base. Try as I might, I can’t find a reason for his seeming limited play thus far. It could be nothing. It could be the club preferring to keep the server of chicken wings at their home complex.
Toronto Blue Jays
Or, it could be more about giving the guys on the fringe a good look. The Blue Jays know what they’re going to get from Encarnacion. But, with the likes of Barton and Smoak, it would behoove the club to put them in as many different situations as possible in an attempt to add clarity to the evolving situation at first base.
What does today’s lineup say about the second base situation?
Today, Ryan Goins will get the start at short stop while Devon Travis will man second. Since the team started playing games this spring, Travis has seen action in all contests and accumulated 11 plate appearances. It would appear that the Blue Jays really want to give him a long look and see if he is really ready to crack the big league roster. Doing so this early in the spring will allow them plenty of time to make a decision. If it is decided that he is not ready, they will still have lots of time to work out other guys at the position. And, as stated before, this competition is “wide open” so there are several options that need to be considered.
To go along with this, Ryan Goins is getting the nod at SS. In fact, he is splitting his time between 2B and SS. So, what does this mean? IS the team not interested in exploring Goins at 2B? Are they giving him reps at his natural position for a reason? To me, this implies that they know what they’re getting with him. They are not trying to experiment with him anymore. Does that mean they have decided his future? They know his defensive capabilities, but his good start to the spring (.429 avg thus far) might come as a surprise. Can he continue this?
Is Jose OK?
Jose Bautista will miss his second contest of the spring. Should we be concerned? Most of us would not be able to go from 4 months off and jump into game action without some sort of muscle stiffness. Taking him out of the lineup now will save them potential issues when games start to mean something. So, it isn’t a surprise that the Blue Jays will proceed cautiously with their superstar. This will give Kevin Pillar the start in RF. After hitting a HR in his first spring game, Pillar will look to continue to push his presence on the club and make it hard for them to decide to leave him in AAA.
Again, it should be noted that this is just the 5th game of Spring Training. Games do not matter. As such, neither do the lineup cards. Except, with questions around specific parts of this lineup being hashed out over the course of the spring, these questions become a bit more meaningful. There could be something to these questions. Or, there could be nothing. Have your say below!
* Updated info on Encarnacion after I overlooked his play on Friday.