Entering Sunday’s spring league game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Toronto Blue Jays were sitting with a poor record of 6-14-1. With only 14 Grapefruit League games remaining, the team was hoping to get back in the win column and build confidence before entering the 2017 season.
While a team’s record isn’t the most important statistic to look at when evaluating a spring league season, it still gives fans and Blue Jays brass a good idea of if the team is off to a hot start. For the players, a win builds confidence. In a game that saw constant lead changes, the Blue Jays ended up tying with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The final score was 11-11, and the game was played at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. The team now sits with a 6-14-2 record in Grapefruit League action.
Right-handed pitcher Mike Bolsinger started the game and was looking to improve his chances of making the team. The 29-year-old went 2.2 shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out four batters and walking none.
Bolsinger entered spring as someone who the team thought may earn a spot in the bullpen, and has done his part to earn a spot. Today’s performance definitely helped cement his spot, as he is now sporting a 3.12 ERA so far this spring after appearing as both a reliever and starter.
After Bolsinger left the game, the team followed the usual spring training format and pieced together the remainder of the game with various pitchers. Joe Biagini, Dominic Leone, and Brett Oberholtzer all allowed zero earned runs (Biagini 0.2, Leone 1.0, Oberholtzer 0.2) out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays. Three pitchers who did not help their stock today were right-handers Lucas Harrell, Casey Lawrence and left-hander Matt Dermody. While Harrell has been a long shot to make the team since day one, he pretty well ended all chances of making the team today, allowing four earned runs over 0.2 innings.
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Lawrence and Dermody, on the other hand, have pitched very well this March. While both started as a long shot to make the team, they have opened the eyes of many people, including manager John Gibbons. In an important outing for both, they did not bring their best stuff, allowing a combined seven runs over 3.1 innings (Lawrence 2.1, four runs, Dermody 1.0, three runs). While both are still definitely in the mix to make the team out of the bullpen, today’s performance did not help their chances.
On a positive note, Biagini has been lights out so far this spring for the team. Sporting a 1.08 ERA, the awkward right-hander is proving he is not just a one season wonder. If Biagini can become the reliever the team needs him to be, they have successfully built a bridge to closer Roberto Osuna.
While the pitching was not great today, the offense definitely pulled their weight. The Blue Jays raked today, scoring 11 runs off 14 hits and five walks. While it ultimately was not enough to win the game, the bats single-handedly kept the team in it, and the players should be able to build off this performance.
At the plate, there were a few players who really stood out today. Jake Elmore continued his great play, going 1-3 with a double and three RBIs. Elmore is hitting .290 this spring and is, at the very least, providing an abundance of infield depth for the team. Another player who had a great game was Steve Pearce. The 1B/OF went 2-3 on the day while collecting two RBIs. With question marks at both first base and left field, Pearce hitting well is a great sign for the Blue Jays.
The other Blue Jays to make a difference offensively were Ezequiel Carrera (1-2, HR, BB, RBI), Rowdy Tellez (1-2), Gregorio Petit (2-3, 2B), Jason Leblebijian (0-2, 2 BB, 1 RBI), J.B. Woodman (1-1, 3B, BB, 2 RBI), Darrell Ceciliani (1-3), D.J. Davis (1-2, 2 RBI), Mike Ohlman (0-2, BB), Jose Tabata (1-3, 2B), Derrick Loveless (1-1, 2B), Jon Berti (1-3), Matt Dean (1-1).
While record means nothing in spring league action, it is always good to stay competitive. With less than half a month left to prepare for the 2017 regular season, the team must find a way to build off each and every game.
The Blue Jays will be looking to get back in the win column on Monday when they square up against the Minnesota Twins. The game will be played at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. First pitch is schedule for 1:07 p.m.