With the end of the Grapefruit League season approaching, the Toronto Blue Jays are almost ready to start the season. With a few cuts left to be made, these next few games will be huge on deciding who will start the season in the big leagues.
When the Blue Jays start to play spring training games where the first pitch is at 6:07 p.m., it means the regular season is approaching quickly. On Monday evening, the Toronto Blue Jays squared up against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. In a game where the Blue Jays played brutal defense, it was all Phillies from the start. The Blue Jays ended up losing the game by a score of 7-1, with only four of those runs being earned. The team now sits with a 10-17-2 record in Grapefruit League action.
Right-handed pitcher Aaron Sanchez started the game and was looking to get back into game shape. The 24-year-old did not fair too well, going 3.1 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) off of five hits and three walks. Sanchez also registered two strikeouts in the outing.
As we all know, Sanchez is a lock to make the team. After leading the American League in ERA last season with a 3.00 earned run average, Sanchez has already been named the team’s fifth starter to start the 2017 season. While he did not pitch well today, Blue Jays fans should not worry about their young star.
After Sanchez left the game, the team followed the usual spring training format and pieced together the remainder of the game with various pitchers. Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, Joe Smith, J.P. Howell and Andrew Case all pitched to shutout performances (Biagini 0.2, the rest 1.0) out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays. The other pitcher to see action today was closer Roberto Osuna. The Mexican-born pitcher has missed the past few games due to back issues stemming from his mattress, but returned to the mound on Monday. Osuna went one inning, allowing 2 runs – however, none of those runs were earned.
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There are a few spots available on the 25-man roster, especially in the bullpen. Every player who pitched on Monday helped their chances of making the team, but ultimately some of them have to be cut. Due to options and age, Case will probably be optioned to AAA Buffalo, while Biagini, Grilli, Howell and (most likely) Smith will make the team.
While the pitching was not great today, it certainly wasn’t awful. It was the hitting that was the problem for the Blue Jays on Monday, as they were only able to muster up one run off of eight hits. One run is rarely enough to win you a game, so the team is going to have to build off of this rough performance.
While the team did not hit well, a few players were able to register hits. A major positive that can be taken from this game was that Justin Smoak was 2-3 with two doubles. Smoak has been brutal so far this spring, hitting an abysmal .196. However, if he can get hot going into the start of the season, the 1st base job will be his to lose.
Another bright spot at the plate for the Blue Jays was Canadian catcher Russell Martin. The defensive-minded backstop went 1-3 on the day, but he launched a solo homerun, collecting the team’s only run and RBI on the day.
The other Blue Jays to make a difference at the plate on Monday were Devon Travis (1-3), Josh Donaldson (0-1, 2 BB), Gregorio Petit (1-1), Jose Bautista (1-3, 2B), Shane Optiz (0-0, BB), Kevin Pillar (1-3) and Jake Elmore (1-1).
While a record means very little in spring league action, it is always good to stay competitive. With only a few games 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 Tuesday when they once again square up against the Philadelphia Phillies. The game will be played at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. First pitch is schedule for 6:35 p.m. EST.