Hot Prospect - Balbino Fuenmayor 3B, Lansing

Today's hot prospect is Balbino Fuenmayor, 3B for the Lansing squad. The Jays have had a hard time filling up the hot corner from within since Ed Sprague left the team. The Jays signed Balbino to a $1.5 million contract in hopes that he or Kevin Ahrens would be able to be that guy, but both had rough beginnings to their minors careers.

Balbino is 6'3", and has put on about 40 lbs since signing his contract with the Jays - he now sits at a hefty 235 lbs. The beginning to his 2009 season has been horrific, with his average sitting below the mendozza line. But he has recently gotten hot at the plate and has hit .344 over his last 10 games, with 2 doubles and a home run. If you wonder where Balbino's problems lie, look no further than his walks. He has only walked once, that's right once, in 118 ABs while striking out 1/3 of the time. So the fact that he has been able to hit .344 over the last 10 games is very encouraging and he may finally steal some time from Mark Sobolewski at 3B for Lansing. At his size, Balbino should be able to create some power, but thus far it's been scarce to say the least with only 3 homers.

Maybe this hot streak is the beginning for Balbino. I'll update at end of June on his progression.

Jays 5, Red Sox 3 - 2 down, 1 to go

Thanks to some stellar pitching and hot hitting, the Jays have been able to regain some momentum at home versus the Sox. The first of the two games scared me more than the second because the Jays had such a hard time picking up Tim's knuckleball the first time around and Janssen was getting his second start of the season, so rust was still a possibility. Well, the Jays didn't disappoint with 9 hits against Tim that ended up chasing him after only 4.2 innings. The big inning came in the middle of the 5th with a hitting barrage that forced Francona to pull his starter. Janssen, on the other hand, allowed more hits (11) but only gave up 3 runs. He lasted 7 strong innings and was helped out by shutout innings by League and Downs, who would do the very same in the second game for the Jays. 2 games played against the Sox, 2 holds by League, 2 saves for Downs. Which begs the question, what if today's game is tight? Who will get the save opportunity? 32,000 fans attended the game and made is a nice lively event (from what I could tell on TV).

The second game had the Jays Tallet taking on Penny. Tallet had issues throwing strikes early on, walking 4 batters, but settled in to allow only 3 hits over 7 innings for the win. He struck out 6 while allowing 3 earned runs. Penny allowed 10 hits, the Jays had 14 overall, and was let down by the usually dominant pen guys - Ramirez in particular. After a costly misplayed ball in the infield allowed the Jays to continue the 7th inning with 2 outs, the offense came through, taking Ramirez out on 3 hits and 2 runs allowed. The timing was perfect since it allowed Tallet to get the win, his 3rd of the season and much deserved.

Offensively during the 2 games, Lind finally got a HR after a cold stretch, Rolen carried the load with 2 doubles in the 1st game, and all Jays starters had at least a hit except Bautista who went hitless in the 2nd games and Millar who went hitless in the 1st game. For those wondering how well Snider is doing in AAA, he has a .298 average thus far with 1 double and no homers. Chances are he'll spend June in AAA since his power is nowhere to be seen and it seems his confidence is a bit shaky.

Note: Prospect Charles Huggins made his first start for Dunedin after a promotion and was knocked around pretty hard. He had a 1.57 era over 7 starts in Lansing, but gave up 8 earned runs in 5 innings after allowing 11 hits. One good point is that he only waked 2 and will get a chance to redeem himself in 5 days. Huggins is yet another lefty making his way up the minors ladder for the Jays.


Sick, just flat out sick.

How did the Jays lose this game 12 to 10 to the lowly Orioles? How can a pen that was so dominant in the past become fragile? Why is it that when the Jays bats fire, the arms fail? Why was Jesse Carlson kept in long enough for 5 runs to score? So many questions, so little time!

The truth is that this was actually 2 games, 1 with good pitching, one with good hitting and horrible pens. Either way, despite Scutaro and Hill's efforts to get the offense going including Hill's 12th home run of the season, the Jays lost their 9th in a row and now face a series versus the Red Sox. Great. I never expected it to get this ugly this quickly for the Jays. So, what kind of things can the Jays do to get better?
Well, here are a few possible Call Ups:

1- The Jays could call up SP Fabio Castro and put him in the pen for long relief, replacing the horrifying Shawn Camp.

2- The Jays could also call upon Jeremy Accardo who is wasting time dominating AAA and is clearly better than Brian Wolfe, who sports a hefty 5.68 ERA as a reliever!!! Send Wolf and Camp down, please. I get nervous every time they're call upon regardless of our lead. The pen upgrade would be huge. If not Fabio Castro because they want to keep him as a starter, then why not Daniel Farquhar who has been nearly flawless this season in HiA and AA.

3- call up Brad Emaus and give the infielders a break while he can start at 3 of the 4 infield positions and could also spell Lind as DH. You can get a good evaluation of what he can do and as far as I can tell he'd be a much better pinch hitter than Joe Inglett! If not Emaus, why not give 1B Brett Harper a try. Lyle Overbay has been as useless a 1B as Sean Casey used to be. Great D, very iffy bat. Harper has 10 HRs in AAA with a decent .294 average, what would it hurt to try him out in the bottom of the order?

4- JP Arencibia is someone who could light a fire under Barajas when needed, but this may not be the right time. I thought it would have been decent earlier on when many of the guys pitching for the Jays had already pitched to JP in the minors, but now that the older guys are returning, he may be better off waiting a while longer. However, he'll be ready when they call and has been one of the hottest minor league hitters in May as previously posted here.


Jays lose 8 straight....what now?

The season isn't going to get any easier for the Jays and they need to start winning again or they may dig themselves a hole they can't climb out of. The latest loss, the second to the lowly Orioles, brings the losing streak to 8. The Jays got 9 hits overall, 3 of them from Scutaro who got little help from the bats behind him. I, and every other non-depressed Jays fan out there, am trying to keep the faith and realize that losing streaks are part of the game. But it seems to me like a lot of the bats are either tired or simply slumping simultaneously. Whatever the case is, they need to wake up and snap out of it today!! If the Jays enter into a series versus the Red Sox without a win against the Orioles, we could be looking at 12 straight losses, which would be both embarrassing an disgraceful after such a great season start. Since there's nothing positive to look at over the past 8 games, here is what the Jays have to look forward to over the next 5:

Wed: Doc Halladay (8-1, 2.52) vs Rich Hill (1-0, 3.18) - hopefully this helps right the ship
Thur: Day off - if Doc gets the Jays a win, perhaps the break will help rejuvenate their spirit and get them some much needed rest before the Sox series
Fri: unknown vs Tim Wakefiled - please, someone teach the Jays how to hit a knuckelball!!
Sat: unknown vs Brad Penny - they need to knock this guy around
Sun: unknown vs Jon Lester - tough day ahead any time Lester takes the ball

Overall, if the Jays come out of the next 5 days with 2 or 3 wins it will go a long way to helping them recover. However, if they gets snuffed and win 1 or none, there could be some promotions/demotions coming up in a hurry!


RP Daniel Farquhar Promoted to AA

Daniel Farquhar was deemed ready for AA and has made one more step up the ladder with his first appearance in AA last night. The 22 year old has impressed immensely over the beginning of the season, with the following HiA stats:

17 IP, 10 HA, 1 ER, 11 BB, 23 Ks

In his first relief appearance in AA he threw 1 inning, allowed 1 hit, walked 1, struck out 1 with 0 runs allowed. Let's hope he continues to step up the ladder, he should be one hell of an addition to the pen at some point this season. Between Farquhar, Accardo, and Collins, the pen has lots of ammunition around to reload.


AL East Roundup: 18/05/09 - 24/05/09

Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

The Red Sox started the week three games out of first place, looking up at the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays had just won six out of their last eight games...then they came to Fenway. Tim Wakefield welcomed them with a dominating performance: eight innings giving up only five hits and one run - a homer to old pal Kevin Millar. Papelbon shut the door in the ninth, edging the Sox a game closer to the top. Wednesday night, the Beard of Wonder and Amazement returned to the line-up and had three of the Sox fifteen hits. Boston's offense exploded, seemingly inspired by Big Papi's first homer of the season. Jason Varitek had two dingers in the game (officially starting the "Captain is on the juice" talk), his second coming in the fifth - the first of four in that inning. Brad Penny pitched well, going six-and-two-thirds, before turning it over to the pen for mop-up. In the series finale, Jon Lester held the Jays down and the bats jumped on Toronto early, scoring three in the first. It would prove to be enough and the sweep was complete.

Friday night the abortion we call interleague play began as the Mets came to town. Johan Santana battled the Sox as Dice-K returned from the DL. The Dice-man was shaky, giving up four runs in just five innings. The floodgates were opened courtesy of Julio Lugo and his inability to turn a double play. The non-error led to two runs that never should have crossed the plate. Boston rallied in the bottom of the inning cutting the deficit to 4-3 but that was as close as they would come. Saturday night baseball in Fenway was outstanding...Josh Beckett was vintage, going eight strong and allowing just one unearned run. The stage was set for Papelbon in the ninth, but the ending didn't go as written. Paps gave up an instant-replay-confirmed homer giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. Two stellar defensive plays in the bottom of the inning sealed the win. The Sox would take no chances in Sunday's game, piling on 12 runs on 16 hits - including six doubles and a pair of three-run homers by Youk and Lowell.

The Blue Jays were swept by the Braves over the weekend, putting the Sox on top of the AL East by a half-game. The Red Sox start the week in Minnesota for four games, then head north-of-the-border to face the Jays next weekend.

Week's record: 4-2

Season record: 26-18

Injuries: None

This week: Mon - Thu @Minnesota; Fri - Sun @Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

Shhh, the Jays bats are sleeping. What started out as a very promising week with the end of a 4-game sweep over the White Sox fizzled into one major return to earth after 6 straight losses. The result has been the return of many younger players in exchange for familiar faces such as Casey Janssen and Joe Inglett. The Jays scored only 10 runs over the last 6 games of the week, a far cry from the performances they put up at the beginning of the season. However, when you delve into the numbers the situation is not as bad as it may seem. First, the Jays were getting on base very well with a decent amount of hits and walks. In the second and third games against the Sox, the Jays had 14 and 11 hits to go with 5 walks but only drove in 4 runs. The Jays were horrible in key hitting situations this week and it's something that they need if they are going to turn this around.

Overall, the Jays pitching did very well this week. Doc had another great start, but Cecil and Ray both showed their youth and inexperience in their starts while still showing their great overall potential. Now they know what has to get done and can work on it in AAA. Janssen and Romero have been called up to replace them, as well as Joe Inglett, who takes the roster spot of the ice cold Travis Snider. While I entirely agree with the demotion due to the lack of playing time Snider has gotten, I entirely disagree with the way he was being used by Cito. Snider should have hit ahead of Overbay and Barajas, just behind Rolen, and on a much more consistent basis. For a guy who has been called "the franchise" by most Jays players and is used to 100% playing time, sitting on the bench just doesn't seem right regardless of the troubles he may have.

If the Jays are going to turn it around this week they need continued success from their starting pitching with much better run support and better pen performances. Sunday's game provides the best example of an implosion of the Jays with 8 earned runs given up after a decent start by Scott Richmond. The Jays are still in a better position than most of us expected them to be in at this point. With 2 series against division rivals coming up, the Jays can regain their strut if they simply get some timely hitting and learn how to hit a knuckle ball.

Week's Record: 1-6

Season Record: 27-20

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder-hitting off tee), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm), Shaun Marcum (Elbow-resting), Dustin McGowan (Labrum-threw from 120 feet for the first time 23rd May).

This Week: Mon- Wed @Baltimore ; Fri - Sun BOSTON

New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

After a weekend of walk-offs, the Yanks were ready to keep on rolling. They wouldn't dispose of the Twins in a similar manner in their series finale on Monday, but rather hit them hard and early, plating six runs in the first off Glen Perkins, who hit the DL after the game with elbow inflammation. The Twins almost came back, but Phil Coke ultimately succeeded in his first ninth-inning save opportunity. For Yankees fans, perhaps the sweetest part of the game came when Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez went back to back, hopefully the first of many over the next eight years.

Entering the Baltimore series the Yankees had been winners in eight of their previous 10 games, and continued rolling. They decimated the Orioles in a three-game sweep, slamming seven homers in the effort. Adam Eaton got beaten so badly on Thursday that the Orioles released him on Friday*. The World Champion Phillies were next to come to town. Unfortunately, they are a bit better than the Orioles.

As expected, when the AL- and NL-leaders in home runs square off in a park tailor-made for lefties, balls will fly out of the park. That they did over the weekend, combining for 12 homers over the three games. These weren't just New Stadium Specials, though. Raul Ibanez, Jason Werth, and Mark Teixeira hit absolute bombs on Friday night, Teixeira's hitting the third deck, Ibanez's going halfway up the right field bleachers, and Werth's hitting the second deck in left. Rookie John Mayberry hit his first career homer on Saturday and Ibanez repeated, but the biggest homer of the game belonged to Alex Rodriguez, who forced one out the opposite way to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. After Robinson Cano singled and stole second, Charlie Manuel decided to pitch to Melky Cabrera, who repaid him with a walk-off single.

The series wouldn't end as well. The Yankees, trailing all game, tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn't plate a man in scoring position. Then, in the 10th, they put men on first and second with none out but couldn't muster a walk-off hit. That led to Brett Tomko's entrance, and the Phillies capitalized, with Carlos Ruiz yet again driving in a run. Just after Rob Neyer chastized Manuel for playing Ruiz regularly, he came through big time over the weekend.

* Yes, I know it wasn't that single start wasn't the cause of his release, but it's funny to think about it that way.

Week's record: 5-2

Season record: 25-19

Injuries: Brian Bruney (elbow, day to day)

This week: Mon - Wed @Texas; Fri - Sun @Cleveland

Tampa Bay Rays - Rise of the Rays

NOTE: Say hello to our new Rays contributor, Rise of the Rays.

The Rays have improved their record to .500 after going 5 and 3 this week. A pretty good week overall, taking 2 from Oakland and 2 from the Marlins as well as 1 from the Indians on Sunday. The Rays wasted a great start from James Shields on Monday, losing a 0-0 game in extras by 4 runs allowed by Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler, as the bullpen that is normally good blew it. The Rays got great starts from their 2 mediocre guys so far this year. Andy Sonnanstine had 2 great starts this week and Jeff Niemann had one against the Marlins. Sonnanstine, the Rays best hitting pitcher, got his wishes of wanting to hit this week, since he batted in three different games this week. He batted third last Sunday due to the lineup snafu, he batted on Friday because it was in an NL park, and he pinch-hit Saturday in the later parts of the game.

Jason Bartlett, who twisted his ankle in yesterday's game and will probably miss Monday's game, had a monsterous week this week, gathering 2 more homers to get to 7 and improving his average to .373 on the season. He also had 14 RBI's this week.

The most notable injury from the week has to be Aki. As said by Carlos Pena on Akinori Iwamura's presence: "We're going to miss him greatly even if it’s just one day. ... You can't replace Aki. He's Aki. There’s only one of him around."

The Rays will send him back to St. Pete to get a MRI, we hope this is not too serious. Aki is so important. The Rays also placed Troy Percival on the DL, whick is a relief for most Rays fans. They also placed Scott Kazmir on the DL for no other reason than he was struggling, since he came out and said he was not injured. The Rays are likely to get Pat Burrell back this week, which will give us a bat in the middle of the lineup.

This week, the Rays head to Cleveland to face the Indians who have our head after the benches clearing incident last week. They are a better team than their record show, so hopefully the Rays can take 2 of 4 with David Price, the Rays highly touted top prospect who got the final out in the ALCS for the Rays, getting the start tonight. The Rays then head home for three with the Twins this weekend, which could be a very tough series for the Rays. They will get their three best starters for that series, with James Shields, Price, and Matt Garza all going for the weekend.

Record: 23-23

Week's Record: 4-3

Injuries: Akinori Iwamura, who could be out for a while, Troy Percival, who is contemplating retirement, and Scott Kazmir, who is really not hurt, but needs to get things figured out.

This week: Mon - Thu @Cleveland; Fri - Sun MINNESOTA

Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

The Orioles go 2-4 for the week with most of the damage coming from an unholy ass kicking at the hands of the Yankee steamroller. New York swept Baltimore out of the new Yankee Stadium outscoring them 27-9 in the three game set.

Baltimore bounced back to take two out of three from the Nationals over the weekend but even Baltimore should be expected to win a series like that.

A silver lining exists though as The Warehouse finally saw enough of Adam Eaton and released him after the he got lit up by the Yanks on Thursday. Thanks to the New York team for putting us O's fans out of our misery. Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson and Alfredo Simon were all in the starting rotation to begin the year. Now Eaton is released, Simon is out for the year (and didn't pitch well before he got hurt) and Hendrickson finds himself in the bullpen....for now. I never understood these guys in the rotation anyway, there were AAAA guys in the Oriole system who could have pitched just as well with a small chance to improve. Oh well, what's done is done.

Someone will have to be recalled from Norfolk to pitch on Tuesday and the club is tight lipped about the choice. The smart money is on journeyman Chris Waters or 25 year old Jason Berken, a Clemson product who is tearing up the International League.

LF Nolan Reimold has arrived in Baltimore ahead of schedule and is putting a stranglehold on the left field position. The .256/.293/.436 line he has posted so far is not altogether impressive but has been better than the combined efforts of Felix Pie and Lou Montanez and is fairly encouraging considering Reimold had not played a game above AA before this season.

RP Chris Ray was supposed to be wresting the closer spot back from George Sherrill by now. Instead, Ray took the loss in Sunday's game against Washington and now has an 10.12 ERA on the season. Sherrill, by contrast, has lowered his ERA to 2.89. Ray hasn't trusted his fastball since he came back from Tommy John surgery and looks to be optioned to Norfolk on Tuesday to work it out. Sherrill remains an excellent piece on trade bait for a contender come July.

Wieters Watch: Wieters has a .284/.359/.485 line for AAA Norfolk. I still predict we'll see him in mid-June barring injury to Gregg Zaun.

When your team is a loser for as many years as Baltimore has been, you look for great individual performances to get you through the year. Adam Jones is that guy this year. The rest of the AL can eat their hearts out as out 23 year old center fielder is hitting .359/.414/.654. 10 home runs in 38 games. Baltimore has many problems but we have a center fielder that the rest of the league can be envious of.

Week's Record: 2-4

Season Record: 18-26

Injuries: Koji Uehara (hamstring, day to day), Luke Scott (shoulder strain, 15-day DL), Dennis Sarfate (hand numbness, 15-day DL, out until July)

This Week: Mon-Wed TORONTO, Thu-Sun DETROIT


Hot Prospect: JP Arencibia, C AAA

The beginning to the season was unkind to JP, as he started it with a very slow .224 April, with no homers and struggles to make contact. Well, I'm glad to say that JP has made the proper adjustments and is now one of the hottest hitters in AAA.

Over the last 10 games, JP has the following line:

36 AB, .389 AVG, 5 doubles, 5 home runs, 14 RBI, 6 walks and only 6 SO.

His patience at the plate is up, his pitch recognition is up, and it has brought up his season totals to a respectable .252 average with 7 dingers.

One impressive aspect to JP's season has been his ability to hit left handed pitching, sporting a .296 avg versus lefties, but his power has mostly come against righties with 6 of his 7 home runs. So what does this mean? Well, specifically that whatever choices are made (lefty-righty) by opposing managers when JP comes to the plate, they are basically out-of-luck and can only decide whether to go up against his power or his average.

I'm not sure when JP will get the call to TO, but it could come as early as July if injuries occur, or as late as September when rosters expand. Either way it should happen this season.

Bring out the Brooms Part II!!

How sad was this series vs the Red Sox for the Jays offense? Very sad and discouraging after it had the same issues vs the Yankees.

If the pitching is going to be able to withstand the pressure it faces each time we face one of the mammoths, it needs support from the offense. Each of the three games against the Sox had the pitching holding its own until they realized that they were going to have to be perfect to win the game because the offense was nowhere to be seen. Hitters were not moving guys ahead, and they certainly didn't get many hits with RISP. I knew that this series would test the bats of the Jays, but I had no idea that it would get their bats so out of sync that runs would be non-existent.

The Jays had 11 hits in the last game of the series vs Jon Lester, yet they were only able to drive in one run. Situational hitting needs to get better during big games. Maybe that's the last hurdle for this team (hitting with RISP against the big teams - when the pressure is greatest), because they have everything else going for them. Only Lind didn't have a hit last night, and sure enough he left 6 runners on base. The game before that, both Lind and Rolen left 4 runners on base, but each had 1 hit in the game. And on Tuesday it was Rios's turn to leave 4 runners on base. These are the key ABs that the Jays were driving in for the majority of the season.

Now that the Red Sox have swept us and reminded the Jays of just how fragile a season can be, they head into Atlanta for the first interleague series of the season. Let's hope Doc gets us back on the right page and the bats come alive once again. But, if the Jays are going to make the playoffs, they NEED to beat the Red Sox and Yankees in the future, so they need to learn whatever it is they need to win to make it happen.


Bring out the Brooms!!

What a turnaround from losing 2 of 3 to the Yankees. The series against the White Sox makes a statement in many ways for both players and Jays fans.

First, the Jays pitchers established that if you are going to beat them, you'll have to get them on one of very few bad days, and in combination with a lackluster offense. Otherwise, you will lose the game. Let's see what we got from the starters over 4 games:

Bret Cecil, 6 IP, 6 HA, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO (followed by Carlson and Ryan for 3 IP of 0 ER)
Robert Ray, 8 IP, 3 HA, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO (followed by Downs for the Save)
Roy Halladay, 7 IP, 7 HA, 1 ER, 8 SO (followed by Frasor, Carlson, League for 2 SO IP)
Scott Richmond, 7 IP, 5 HA, 1 BB, 7 SO (followed by Carlson - 2ER- and Downs for Save#5)

Excellent pitching lines overall and if I had posted this before the season started, 90% of baseball fans would have said the same thing "yeah right!!!"

Offensively the stars were the usual suspects.
Scutaro went 6 for 14 with 3 doubles, 2 walks, and a stolen base
Hill went 6 for 14 with 2 home runs
Lind went 5 for 15 with 2 doubles and a home run

The attendance in TO over the series was adequate and predictably highest with Roy pitching:
17,241 Friday
21,759 Saturday
37,147 Sunday
24,206 Monday
Which averages out to be 25,088. Not too bad for end May attendance, but come on TO, we can do better when our team is in 1st place.

As the Jays enter their series against the Red Sox, we get to see whether they can withstand the stellar pitching that team provides consistently. We need all bats on deck, and that includes you Mr.Snider aka 0 for 5 over the weekend!!


Marco Scutaro aka "The Venezuelan Walker"

Many people I know thought Marco was Italian, which makes sense when you see his name and combine it with his easy going nature. However, the 33 yr old is from Venezuela and has earned his MLB starting gig the hard way.

He was signed in 1994 by the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent. In 2000, after spending 6 years in their minors system, Marco was shipped to the Brewers as "the player to be named later" in the deal that included Richie Sexson joining the crew and Bob Wickman joining Cleveland. He was waived in 2002 by the Brewers and picked up by the Mets, who promptly waived him in 2003 when he was claimed by the A's. He finally got a role with the A's and got the playing time he needed thanks to Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby's health troubles. I'm sure he owes them a debt of gratitude.

During his 4 years in Oakland, Marco never hit more than 9 Hrs, but in his defense he never got 500 ABs either. He was shipped all over the field, playing everything from 1B to 3B and his hitting seemed to suffer a bit as a result of the erratic playing time and the defensive juggling. His average was usually around .267 and stolen bases hovered around 5-7. More importantly, the most walks he ever accumulated in a season was 57 in 2008, after he was traded to the Blue Jays for 2 guys we'll never hear of again. (Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell)

His trade to Toronto was a blessing to his chances for success as he easily gained preference in the lineup over the defensive minded John MacDonald. At 33 yrs old, after a tumultuous career in the minors and in the bigs, Marco has helped the Jays attain a level nobody would have dared predict before the season started.

In only 154 ABs, Marco has already walked 33 times (leads the majors), has 5 HRs and 3 SBs, and sports a .286 batting AVG. His OBP of .411 is a huge reason for Aaron Hill's success and the huge RBI numbers he is putting up. If Marco was to keep up this pace, he would achieve 178 hits, 133 walks, 20 HR, 12 SBs, and 81 RBI. Not too shabby for a guy who didn't even have a starting role last season.

Marco has been a huge reason the Jays have been able to build a marginal lead in the AL East and will need to continue to perform at career high levels if the Jays have a chance of winning a pennant. Nay sayers all over the place, especially Yanks fans, are saying there's no way the Jays will keep this up. While I and many others are starting to believe that this scrappy bunch of Maple pushers are good enough to beat any team, any time this season and they don't give a hoot what others think.

Kudos to Marco, keep up the good work!!

AL East Roundup: 5/11/09 through 5/17/09

Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

A dismal week for the Boston Red Sox on the west coast. Not only did they drop two-out-of-three to the Angels and Mariners, but the Sox were forced to bench David Ortiz after a horrendous appearance on Thursday. Papi went 0-for-7 with three K's and left an astounding 12 runners on base. After the game, Ortiz told reporters "Papi stinks."

Things started out OK in LA. Afetr being shut down for seven innings by Jered Weaver, the Sox got to the Angel bullpen in the 8th and 9th innings, capped by a run-scoring double off the bat of Captain Tek. The next night, "The Big A" continued to be a personal house of horrors for Tim Wakefield. Wake is 0-6 with a 9.3 ERA in his last six starts there. Wednesday was no different: Wakefield couldn't get out of the 5th inning, giving up seven earned. The Angels' Matt Palmer went the distance in the 8-4 rout. Thursday was one of the worst games of the 2009 season for the Red Sox bats. Brad Penny turned in a decent start and the bullpen was phenomenal, going scoreless innings before Manny Delcarmen gave up the game-winner in the 12th. The Red Sox had countless opportunities to steal a win, putting seven runners on in the last four frames but scoring none.

The next stop was Seattle and a chance to make the road trip a success. The Mariners were struggling, winning just once in their last ten games. But Jon Lester fell victim once again to "the bad inning" syndrome. After cruising through five, Lester melted in the 6th, giving up four earned, two on Ichiro's second homer of the game. The bullpen was again the highlight, shutting down the M's, but the Sox couldn't plate the tying run. Josh Beckett returned to a more Beckett-like form on Saturday, going seven strong and giving up just two earned runs. Bay cranked his 11th homer on the way to a 5-3 win. Sunday's attempt to grab a .500 record on the road trip went awry in the bottom of the 9th when a Nick Green error led to the winning run.

The bullpen remains the one constant strength for the Red Sox. Beckett's strong outing was a silver lining to the week's cloudy pattern: the return of the ace is much-needed. As is the return of the Beard. Youk's bat in the line-up might have been enough grab a couple more wins on this trip. Next week the Sox will battle the Jays, needing a sweep to tie for the lead in the East. Then the first bite of the shit sandwich that is interleague play against the Mets. Finally, the Sox spend Memorial Day weekend in the Homerdome battling the Twins and the Hefty bag. Can the three-day mental health break be enough to get Papi's bat on track? It better be.

Week's record: 2-4

Season record: 22-16

Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (15-day DL retroactive to May 5, oblique strain)

This week: Tue - Thu TORONTO; Fri - Sun NEW YORK METS

New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

After back-to-back sweeps at the hands of AL East opponents two weeks ago, the Yanks could have used a boost against the Jays last week. Unfortunately, the series began with Roy Halladay taking the mound for the birds. The Yanks hadn't beaten Halladay since Opening Day 2008, and Tuesday night would be no different. They mustered just one run off Doc, an A-Rod grounder through the hole that scored on of the scant runners they put in scoring position. This made the Yanks 3-7 over their previous 10.

As we've seen in at least on recent May, the Yankees then decided to go on a tear. They turned to Andy Pettitte, who has a history of stanching the Yanks' bleeding. That he did, though it wasn't the prettiest of starts. The difference was the offense, which was powered by Brett Gardner's first career home run. The Yanks recorded eight extra base hits in the game, chasing Jays starter Scott Richmond after just 1.2 IP. The next night, CC Sabathia was CC Sabathia, going eight innings and laying his own bridge to Mariano Rivera, who picked up his seventh save of the year and giving the Yanks a second straight series victory.

The weekend proved to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. After blowing several opportunities to close a 4-1 deficit against the Twins, Brett Gardner came through with his second career home run, this one an inside the parker that reignited the fans at Yankee Stadium Friday night. He then led off the bottom of the ninth, Yanks down 4-2, with a triple. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single to bring the Yanks within one. Then, with runners on second and third with two outs, Cito Gaston walked Robinson Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. With the crowd chanting "Mel-ky, Mel-ky," the center fielder lined a single to left center, plating the winning run.

After leading for most of Saturday's affair, the bullpen coughed up the lead late. But Mark Teixeira helped out, tying the game while registering his fourth hit of the day. This led to extra innings. With Teixeira on first after a walk to lead off the 11th, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate. Lefty Craig Breslow tried to sneak a slider inside, but A-Rod turned on it and deposited it into the left field stands for a second-straight walk-off. Sunday was more a pitcher's duel, with both A.J. Burnett and Kevin Slowey holding their opponents scoreless through sixth. Burnett allowed two in the top of the seventh, and Slowey allowed two in the bottom half. The score remained tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Johnny Damon hit a walk-off homer to right, giving the Yanks three straight victories in dramatic fashion.

Week's record: 5-1

Season record: 20-17

Injuries: None new


Tampa Bay Rays

NOTE: Looks like the Rays blogger bailed. Thankfully, we have a new one lined up for next week. Hopefully we've got the early-season kinks out and this will proceed as normal starting next week.

The week for the Rays began and ended with blunders related to Andy Sonnanstine. The first blunder was the pitcher himself, as he allowed seven runs over two innings on Tuesday, putting his team in poor position against the Orioles. Worst of all, O's stater Mark Hendrickson allowed five runs of his own in the second inning. Sonnanstine, who had allowed one in the first, matched Hendrickson's frame, handing the Orioles the lead right back. A final run in the third would comprise all the scoring for the game, and the O's won 7-5.

On Sunday, Joe Maddon had a brain fart when filling out his lineup card, penciling in both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria for third base. The intent was to DH Longoria, so when Zobrist took the field for the top of the first, Longoria and his DH spot were removed from the game. It's not an instance which arises often, but it put the Rays in a tough position, having to bat the pitcher third. Sonnanstine again didn't pitch particularly well, allowing five runs over 5.1 innings. He did aid his own cause, though, smacking an RBI double. The Rays overcame their handicap and took the game 7-5.

Sandwiched between the blunders was a 3-1 week which featured the Rays taking three of four from the reeling Indians. I wish I could go into greater detail, but I'd just be repeating the box scores. Thankfully, we'll have a real live Rays blogger next week to give us the proper insight. Until then, the results can do the talking.

Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

A week of treading water but we call that progress in Baltimore.

The Orioles gained splits in a two game set with the Rays and a four game series at Kansas City and with the injuries and the arms we were sending to the mound, we’ll take it.

Injury update: Luke Scott eventually had to go on the DL with an injury to his rotator cuff. Scott’s injury hurts in the short term but is giving a good opportunity to top prospect OF Nolan Reimold who was recalled from Norfolk. Reimold struggled in his first week but will be trotted out there everyday, at least until Scott gets healthy. (On a side note, since the departure of B.J. Surhoff, the Orioles were unable to find a left fielder who could even hit for league average for several years. It was pretty unforgivable. One of the reasons Baltimore fans love Scott is that he finally filled that need last season…but I digress.)

Adam Jones tweaked his hamstring legging out an infield hit and hasn’t played since Tuesday. Another big blow to the Oriole offense but helps to extend the Felix Pie experiment. Pie was terrible in April but has hit .286/.355/.536 in May, more than enough to buy him some time when everyone gets healthy.

Debuts: I’ve already talked about Reimold who hit .235/.235/.294 in his first week in the bigs. SP Rich Hill came off the DL to make his Oriole debut and go 5.2 IP, striking out 6 and scaterring 7 hits, giving up 2 earned and getting the win versus Kansas City. It speaks volumes about the Oriole pitching staff that Hill is a massive upgrade over many of our rotation candidates. Adam Eaton cannot be long for the rotation..we just need to find one more arm.

Living proof that hitting in between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis alone will not improve your bat: Cesar Izturis. Izturis is hitting .190 in the 2 spot. Manager Dave Trembley seems to like his basestealing ability at the top of the order but Izturis is a really bad choice to bat second. Melvin Mora would be a better choice until Jones returns.

Week's Record: 3-3

Season Record: 16-22

Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), DH/LF Luke Scott (strained shoulder, 15-day DL), CF Adam Jones (day to day, strained hamstring)

This Week: Tue-Thur @New York; Fri-Sun @Washington

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

Any week that has Doc Halladay pitching twice is a week Jays fans look forward to for good reason. Doc didn't disappoint while setting the tone against the Yankees against AJ, his old team mate and newest Blue Jay nemesis. Doc pitched a complete game gem against a somewhat diminished Yankee lineup that was missing Jeter, Swisher, and Posada, but still took care of business. He only needed 103 pitches to complete his outing. While Doc's performance was to be expected, the fact that Burnett was booed every single time he threw a strike and jeered more than Arod surprised many of us. While it is true that Burnett became just another player chasing the money he supposedly deserves in New York, he deserves to be made aware that he sold out.

Back to the Jays week, I have to admit the Yankee pitching surprised me after the first game of the series. CC and Andy threw some very strong games supplemented by some stellar pen innings I had no idea the Yanks relievers could deliver. I expected the Jays hitters to have some struggles this season, but hoped they would come against other opponents. For the Jays, Richmond obviously looked shell shocked and definitely had no faith in his stuff for the first time this season. I'm not really sure why it happened, but I hope that he learns from the experience and works on his tenacity. His rough outing was followed by yet another surprising start by Tallet who held his own over 6 innings allowing only 2 runs. Either way, he wasn't beating CC and the Jays hitters took the 2 games off, leaving Richmond and Tallet to fend for themselves.

As the weekend series versus the White Sox started, the Jays has hungry hitters on the prowl and did they delivered enough to sweep the weekend. Friday's game had Bret Cecil throwing a great game to go along with 8 runs of support, resulting in Bret's second win in a row. Lind and Bautista delivered the two required RBIs in the 8th inning on Saturday in support of Robert Ray, who lasted 8 innings with no earned runs. Scott Downs got the save and seems to have a good hold on the role. And finally the Jays supported their Doc with another 8 run effort led by none other than Aaron Hill. I'd like to advertise for Aaron for very good reason. As we begin to vote for the All-Star game, I would suggest that Aaron's stats deserve to be compared to Utley's and Kinsler's to prove just how special he has been this season. I hope all voters will give him the thumbs up, he deserves it.

Week's Record: 4-2

Season Record: 26-14

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in AAA May 13th), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Mon CHICAGO; Tue-Thu @Boston; Fri-Sun @Atlanta


Jays Prospects Hot Sheet

LHP Fabio Castro AAA
Castro made his first start at AAA on April 30th and had a rough first start with 3 ER in 5.1 innings. Not a disaster, but not stellar either. Since then, however, hos stats are as impressive as any pitcher's in AAA. In his last 3 starts, Castro has thrown 21 innings without allowing a run, struck out 10, walked 5 and allowed 8 hits. His latest start against Memphis was his best of the 3 with 8 IP, 3 hits allowed, 2 BB, and 5 Ks. If this keeps up the Jays will be forced to give him a look to see if his hot start can translate to big league success.

LHP Marc Rzepczynski AA
Marc is now 6-2 on the season and only allowed more than 2 runs in a game once (his second start). He has 52 Ks to his 43 IP, but has allowed 41 hits which could lead to trouble once he gets promoted if he becomes "too hittable". He has lowered his walks per game as the season has progressed to 1 or 2 which is very encouraging and indicates that whatever the outcome, Marc is throwing strikes and trusting his stuff. He could get a look in AAA by July.

RP Daniel Farquhar A Dunedin
15 IP, 21 Ks, 9 hits, 9 BB, 6 saves, no blown saves, 1 ER for a 0.90 ERA. 'Nough said.

2B Brad Emaus AA
Brad belongs in AAA. Over his last 10 games he is hitting .333 with 13 hits, 5 doubles, 2 home runs, 7 RBIs, 6 walks, and only 6 Ks in 39 ABs. On the season he his hitting lefties especially well with a .357 AVG and a 1.116 OPS. He deserves to get a promotion to AAA.

1B Brian Dopirak AA
Brian has driven in 12 runs in the last 10 games with 3 home runs, 1 triple, an d4 doubles being part of his extra base hit onslaught. Like Emaus, he is hitting lefties very well with the same .357 AVG and 1.121 OPS. He also deserves a look in AAA.

LHP Brad Mills AAA
The Jays are loaded with great LHP in the minors and Mills is yet another. He has yet to allow more than 3 runs in a start and only allowed 2 or less in his last 3. He has 29 Ks over 38.2 IP, and has allowed 40 hits and 20 walks. Unfortunately for Mills, he has yet to get a win because like Johan Santana will tell you, you don't always get the offensive support you deserve.

Jays Transactions (Minors and Majors) - 1st half of May

Activated RP BJ Ryan to the active roster from the 15-day disabled list
Recalled RP Brian Wolfe to the Jays from AAA Las Vages

Sent RP Bill Purphy to AAA Las Vegas 51s

Promoted Ricky Romero to AAA Las Vegas 51s from AA New Hampshire
Promoted Casey Janssen to AA New Hampshire from A Dunedin
Promoted SS Luis Fernandez from GCL BLue Jays to A Dunedin
Promoted SS Bryan Kervin from Lansing to AA New Hampshire

Jays 8, CHW 3 - May 15th Recap

Bret Cecil, welcome to #3 on the pitching staff. What a beginning to a very young career this guys is having for the Jays. Pitching as confidently as Roy would have if it was his turn in the rotation, Bret settled the Jays in and allowed them to build a big lead of 8-0 before allowing his 3 runs over 6 hits and 2 walks. Aaron Hill continues to dominate with 3/4 night with his 10th home run of the season. At this pace, Aaron will be the first 2B to hit more than 30 HRs in a Jays uniform. Lind, Scutaro and Rolen all had 2 for 4 nights, and the Jays turned 2 double plays with no fielding errors. All-in-all a good rebound game after 2 painful losses to the Yanks. The win should help the Jays forget about that series and let them begin another run to end the month of May. Only Rios and Wells did not get a hit in this game, and BJ Ryan threw a perfect inning in his return to the bullpen. If he can be effective as he once was, the Jays pen will be very dominant.

Next Up: Robert Ray (0-1, 6.00 ERA) goes up against Bartolo Colon (2-3, 4.88)

Tor 2, NYY 8; Tor 2, NYY 3 - May 13th, 14th Recaps

I've been away for a couple so get ready for a blitz of posts, there's a ton to cover in Jays land.

That the Yankees held the Jays to 4 runs over the last 2 game of the 3-game series surprises me. Not because their pitching isn't great, CC is a top 10 pitcher and I'm pretty sure Pettitte knows how to pitch, but because the Jays didn't get to the bullpen like I thought they might. The Yanks have one of the worst pens in MLB, but Aceves and Albaladejo threw shutout innings on Wednesday and the Yanks only needed Mariano for 1 inning on Thursday. The key to the Jays this season has been getting a ton of base hits that chase the starter early on and allows the Jays to punish the pen. Not being able to do this against the Yanks is what resulted in losing 2 of 3 in my opinion.

Offensively, Rios was the only successful hitter against CC with 2 hits including a big knock, but the rest of the lineup was fairly ineffective. Rolen was the only guys really effective against Pettitte and the pen on Wednesday, but Scutaro did draw 2 walks to go with a hit, making his day effective at lead off. The Jays need all cylinders going when they face the Yanks, Sox and Rays if they stand a chance of winning the series, hopefully they will get it next time around.

Richmond fell under the spell of the Yanks in Wednesday's game, looking frightened on the mound and definitely didn't trust his stuff as he had during his other starts. What changed is beyond me, but he was afraid to throw it over the plate and Cito was forced to take him out after 1.2 innings, a very short leash for a patient manager. The pen gave up 3 runs, including 2 from Murphy who has since been demoted to AAA in favor of BJ Ryan. As much as you can blame Richmond for Wednesday's loss, the same can't be said for Tallet who looked great Thursday and gave the Jays a chance for 2 of 3. He allowed 2 runs in 6 innings, but Frasor and Carlson uncharacteristically gave up the winning run, Frasor getting the blown save, and Carlson the loss.

Up Next: Bret Cecil faces the CHW and John Danks.


Jays 5, NYY 1 - May 11th Recap

Over 43,000 strong made it to the game last night, and got more than their money's worth. I, and many other Jays fans, believed that this would be a defining game for our club since the only criticism of our team remaining was the fact that they were "untested" because they had yet to play the NYY - BOS - or TB. The theory being that they would crumble once they met these AL East beasts and go away to die in a corner. So, I decided to spend the night in the mostly respectful confines of the River Ave Blues blogging site, within the game chat, in order to get more out of the game and to be able to gauge how they feel about the Jays.

As I suspected, there was very little support for the cause that the Jays may actually be for real. Some NYY fans did point out how old their team plays, something I've been saying for a long time, and that AJ, Arod, and Tex should be playing much better than they are. They definitely would have played better with Jeter and Posada in the lineup. However, this game wasn't about them. It was about whether or not the Jays would show up, change, or play with a different swagger because they faced the Yankees. They didn't change, they definitely had a swagger - a professional one - and they definitely showed up.

Sure their offense took a while to get going, waiting until the 4th inning to put up runs, but the important part is that once they got the opportunity to score runs, they did. The took AJ on a 30 pitch inning ride and drop him off in the dugout. AJ's outing, and season thus far, was reminiscent of his first TO years after signing a big contract with us. He did enough to not get booed, but not enough to make his contract worth the investment. He delivered 7.2 IP and allowed the Jays to score right around their season average of 5 runs, and struck out 3. Roy, on the other hand, had a complete game 5 hitter with 1 run allowed and 5 Ks. He lowered his ERA to 2.95 on the season, and is putting the pressure on Greinke and co. to keep pitching as they are if they really want the Cy.

The offensive player of the game for the Jays was veteran Scott Rolen who had the key double in the 4th to make it a 2-0 game, and added 2 more hits on the night. His average now sits at .319, dwarfed only by the one of .357 held by Aaron Hill, who added a HR in the 8th inning.

All-in-all it was a great night. I enjoyed this game more than any other this season even while it was tied. I was on the edge of my seat through the 6th inning and hope it continues tomorrow. I sadly will not be able to make it onto RAB again to blog during the game, but I'll make it there Thursday whether we win or lose tonight!

Tonight's matchup: The Jays go up against Andy Pettitte (2-1, 4.38) with rookie Scott Richmond (4-1, 3.29) taking the ball.


AL East Roundup: 5/4/09 through 5/10/09

Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

Despite a powerless Papi and the Beard of Mayhem on the bench, the Red Sox managed to grab five wins against the Yankees, Cleveland and Tampa. Monday night the Sox treated Phil Hughes like the new guy on the cell block, scoring in each of the first four innings in their first meeting in the new Yankee Stadium Jason Bay's two-run shot in the seventh would prove to be the margin of victory after a Yankee comeback. It was more of the same against Joba on Tuesday, with Bay crushing a three-run job in the first. Joba, true to form, would drill Bay later in the game but the Sox went on to a 7-3 win and a two-game sweep.

The Sox were unable to muster any offense against Carl Pavano, coming off a four-year, injury-plagued tour with the Yankees. Justin Masterson pitched OK until the wheels fell off in the seventh and the Sox went down without much of a fight 7-3. The next night was a bit different. The first 12 batters in the sixth inning not only reached base, they scored, capped by Jason Bay's three-run homer. The Sox went on to win a laugher 13-3 behind Tim Wakefield and the bats.

The weekend series against the Rays was a see-saw battle. The Sox sent "Big Game" James Shields to the dugout (where he promptly whipped out a can of whoop-ass on the water jug) on yet another Jason Bay three-run home run. The Rays would seek vengeance on Saturday, running away with a 14-5 blowout. In Sunday's finale, ESPN commentators bumbled their way through a dramatic Red Sox win. The Sox took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Papi and (who else?) Jason Bay. Papelbon put two runners on in the ninth before striking out Pena, Upton and Crawford to end it.

Week's record: 5-2

Season record: 20-12

Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (day to day, back), Dustin Pedroia (day to day, groin)

This week: Tue-Thu @Anaheim; Fri - Sun @Seattle

New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

This was a week to forget in Yankeeland. With two two-game sets against division rivals Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees needed a few strong performances so they could manage a split. That they did not get. Phil Hughes had some issues on Monday and let the game get a bit out of hand. Then on Tuesday Joba Chamberlain allowed four runs in the first before deciding that he can take these guys. His 12 strikeouts energized the crowd, but they were not enough to overcome the Red Sox, who are now 5-0 against the Yankees this season.

The Rays followed the Sox into town, and while the games were a bit closer, the Yanks still came up short. Johnny Damon did all he could to give the Yanks a win, but in both games the team found a way to lose. The last game was the most painful, with the Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria going back to back off Mariano Rivera, the first time a duo had achieved the feat against Mo in his career. All the sudden, the Yankees who had managed two of three from the Angels were in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

CC Sabathia changed that Friday night, going all nine innings in a 4-0 victory over the Orioles. He did it in dramatic fashion, allowing the first two runners to reach in the ninth before striking out the side to seal the victory. Alex Rodriguez, on the first pitch he's seen since last September, hit a three-run shot in the first to give Sabathia all the support he'd need. The euphoric feeling wouldn't last long, though, as Phil Hughes melted down in the second inning of Saturday's game, giving the Orioles an insurmountable lead.

On Sunday Joba Chamberlain started out in a similar fashion to Tuesday, allowing three runs in the first. Again he settled down, keeping the Orioles scoreless for the next five innings, which put Johnny Damon in a position to win the game for the Yanks. Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined for the final nine outs, and the Yanks went home with their first series win in a week.

Week record: 2-5

Season record: 15-16

Injuries: Jorge Posada (15-day DL, hamstring); Jose Molina (15-day DL, hamstring)

This week: Tue-Thu @Toronto; Fri-Sun MINNESOTA

Tampa Bay Rays - Mike Axisa

NOTE: The regular Rays contributor bailed this week. Hopefully he comes back next week. Huge thanks to Mike for filling in.

The week started off with Scott Kazmir walking Brian Roberts and Adam Jones before giving up a three run homer to Nick Markakis in the top of the first inning of Monday's game, but luckily for the Rays that wasn't a sign of what the rest of the week had in store. They split the two game set with Baltimore thanks to the late inning heroics of (who else?) Evan Longoria on Tuesday, but more on him later. The defending AL Champs then rolled into the Bronx and swept their first series at the New Yankee Stadium. Andy Sonnanstine turned in his best start of the year before Carlos Pena hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth inning on Wednesday, then Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria secured the win on Thursday with back-to-back homers off Mariano Rivera in the 9th.

Tampa then headed north to Boston, dropping game one of the three game series because of a five-run sixth inning in which Jason Bay and JD Drew clubbed three-run and two-run homers, respectively. The Boys in Some Sorta Blue took the screws to John Lester on Saturday, hitting him up for eight runs in just four and a third innings on their way to a 14-5 romp. Noted Red Sox killer Matt Garza took the mound in the rubber game of the series on Sunday night, throwing seven innings of three-run ball before giving way to the bullpen. Brian Shouse allowed a leadoff double to The Artist Formerly Known As David Ortiz before Dan Wheeler gave up the go-ahead hit to Jason Bay. Jonathan Papelbon made it interesting in the ninth, but Tampa wasn't able to pull out another win.

Back to Longoria, who's smokin' hot bat was the story of the week. The Long Beach State Dirtbag hit .333-.375-.889 in the seven games, smacking four homers and driving in 14 runs. He leads all of baseball in doubles (15), RBI (44), SLG (.748), and WAR (2.9), and is second in OPS (1.158) and third in homers (11). Longoria also leads all third baseman with a 7.4 UZR, and has established himself as one of the five best players on the planet.

Week's record: 4-3

Season record: 15-8

Injuries: No new injuries, but backup catcher Shawn Riggins had his rehab assignment cut short and will have his barking right shoulder looked at by Dr. James Andrews this week

This week: Tues-Weds @Baltimore; Thurs-Sun CLEVELAND

Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

After going 0-6 the previous week, the Orioles showed signs of life splitting a two-game set at Tampa, beating the Twins twice in their two game visit to Camden Yards and coming tantalizingly close to taking the Yankee series in Baltimore this weekend. Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough to win on Friday but C.C. Sabathia kept the Oriole bats at bay. Koji Uehara left the game with a 3-1 lead on Sunday that the bullpen frittered away capped by a three-run homer to Johnny Damon.

Speaking of Uehara, he has now had five straight quality starts. Unfortunately, the Orioles haven't won a single one of those games. Uehara had been better than expected to this point but is becoming a hard luck loser far too often.

Veteran utility man and malcontent Ryan Freel came off the DL and was promptly shipped to the Cubs for AAA filler OF Joey Gathright. I imagine that Andy MacPhail was delighted to find any team who would assume even a portion of Freel's $4 million salary. Freel was redundant on this team and he was chirping to the press of unhappiness with his playing time. He had to go.

OF Luke Scott injured his shoulder diving back to first on a pickoff throw and looks to be headed to the DL, a significant blow to the Oriole offense. It does allow for the very interesting move of calling up top outfield prospect Nolan Reimold (.381/.479/.711, 8 HR at AAA Norfolk) and starting him everyday. It will also allow the Felix Pie experiment to continue and for the club to get a longer look at Lou Montanez. The three of them could rotate LF/DH duties with Reimold working everyday. Baltimore is going nowhere this year. We might as well see if Reimold's bat will translate to the majors, if Pie can hit his way out of a wet paper bag and if Montanez has any value as a fourth outfielder in the majors.

Looking back at Norfolk, C Matt Wieters has raised his average above .300 and is finally starting to stroke some extra base hits with 4 doubles in the last five games. SP Rich Hill made his third rehab start for Norfolk today lowering his ERA to 1.35 with 14 strikeout in 13.1 innings. Look for Hill to show up in Baltimore later this week.

Week's Record: 4-3

Season Record: 13-19

Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), Rich Hill (elbow, 15-day DL, out until mid-May)

This Week: Tue-Wed TAMPA; Thur-Sun @Kansas City

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

In terms of series, the Jays split the 2-game series with LAA and CLE, and each time they came up with at least one 10+ run game. The 3-game series against Oakland series was a won the Jays (2-1). There was nothing particularly different about this week for the Jays, as they put up 45 runs during the week for a 6.5 run per game average. This average was achieved despite the Jays meeting their match in Jered Weaver, and I'm sure other teams will pour over his outing to see how he was able to 3 hit this offense while allowing only 1 run in a complete game gem.

Throughout the week, the key to their offensive effectiveness continued to be hitting throughout the lineup. Each day or night it seemed that all except maybe 1 or 2 guys were getting their hits, and most of them with men on base. Lind, Overbay, and Hill had really strong weeks, while Snider went 2 for 4 four times this week to help out his average. Overall, the offense continued to clobber opposing pitching and was supplemented by very effective pitching.

The bullpen, however, had a horrible start to the week, with Camp, League, and Carlson allowing 3 runs a piece. Rookie Bret Cecil turned in two excellent outings and may have forced Cito to give him another look instead of calling up the now healthy Casey Janssen. He threw 6 innings with 1 ER and 6 Ks in his first outing against a very good CLE lineup, and followed it up with an 8 inning game with 5 hits allowed, no earned runs, 2 walks and 6 Ks.

Most notable for the Jays this week was how efficiently the starting pitching was able to pitch. Monday and Tuesday's outings by the pen must have really scared the starters into lasting longer into the games, because from then on they went over 7 innings with only 1 ER four times, with only Robert Ray lasting 6.1 innings. What did this mean for the suddenly unconfident pen? Well, from Wednesday to Sunday they pitched a total of 6.2 innings, with only 68 pitches thrown by 5 guys. So as we head into the following week, we have a fresh pen, extremely confident starting pitching, 3 more starters ready to return when needed (Romero, Purcey, and Janssen), and an offense that just seems to keep clicking.

Week's Record: 4-3

Season Record: 22-12

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in Single A May 8th), BJ Ryan (Throwing in HiA Dunedin), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Tue-Thu NEW YORK; Fri-Sun CHICAGO


Jays 6, OAK 4 - May 9th 2009

Pitching: Brian Tallet continues to impress and will make things difficult for Cito once the DL Jays return. He threw a 7 inning 2 hitter yesterday with 7 Ks and only 2 walks. The bullpen is now so fresh that they may have to go down to AAA to get some work in!!! Carlson shut out the A's in the 8th, but Downs did make things interesting in the ninth by allowing 3 runs on 5 hits and a walk.

Offense: Rios and Chavez were the only Jays without a hit. Overbay smacked his 5th homer of the season and Snider continued to heat up with a solid double and a 2 for 4 day. Another significant point for the Jays was that they stole 2 bases (Bautista and Wells), not exactly the strong suite of their lineup. The fact that they are now running as well as hitting is significant and encouraging for Wells especially. The D stepped up with 2 double plays turned and no errors.

Extra Note: The attendance was only slightly above 15,000, not exactly a booming crowd for a Saturday game.

Next up: Bret Cecil (1-0) gets to fight for his rotation spot possibly for the last time before going back to AAA, against Dallas Braden (3-3, 2.50).

Prospect Profile - 1B Brian Dopirak

1B Brian Dopirak had been released by the Chicago Cubs only a year after being the minor league player of the year before he signed with the Jays. At 6'4" 230 lbs, Brian has strength and enough power to be a prominent 1B in MLB. He recently stated that he is grateful for the second chance, stating that "Every time I step on the field, whether it's raining, or I'm getting beat or having a bad day, I'm grateful to be wearing a Blue Jays uniform."This kind of team loyalty is exactly what the Jays want, and need if they're going to compete against the Rays, Yanks, and Sox.

His stats thus far in 2009 in AA (he may be sent to AAA soon enough) are,

113 AB, .327 AVG, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 7 HR, 26 RBIs, .619 SLG, 1.013 OPS.

Whether he gets a taste of the big leagues or not, it is evident that the Jays have so very useful potential in AA in Mr.Dopirak. At 26 he is still young and learning to hit and is just starting to approach that hitter's wonderland of 26-29 yrs old where many careers are defined. Hopefully he gets a shot to prove what he can do and the Jays would love for him to develop into a solid #3-6 hitter.


Updated Jays Pitching Depth

In order to maintain some sort of order of what's going on in Blue Jays pitching land, I will attempt to classify the CURRENT rankings of the entire depth in Blue Jays pitching from MAJ to LoA in the order they would be called on, with the DL guys off the top 5 or at the bottom depending on the length of injury.

1- RHP Roy Halladay
2- RHP Scott Richmond
3- LHP Bret Cecil
4- RHP Robert Ray
5- LHP Brian Tallet
6- LHP David Purcey(DL- pitching in Las Vegas)
7- RHP Casey Janssen (DL - pitching in Dunedin)
8- LHP Ricky Romero (DL- not pitching yet)
9- RHP Jesse Litsch (DL-not pitching yet)
10- RHP Wade Miller
11- LHP Brad Mills
12- LHP Davis Romero
13- LHP Fabio Castro
14- RHP Dick Hayhurst
15- LHP Brian Burres
16- LHP Luis Perez
17- LHP Marc Rzepczynski
18- RHP Brandon Magee
19- RHP Henderson Alvarez
20- RHP Randy Boone
21- LHP Charles Huggins
22- RHP Reidier Gonzalez
23- LHP Ryan Page
24- LHP John Anderson
25- RHP Andrew Liebel
26- RHP Marcus Walden
27- RHP Kenny Rodriguez
28- RHP Jonas Cuotto
29- RHP Ryan Koch
30- RHP Josh Wells
Long Term DL - RHP Shaun Marcum
Long Term DL - RHP Dustin McGowan

One thing I notice in the Jays pitching depth is that just a bit more are righties. Other than that, I see a ton of strength once most of the pitchers on the DL return healthy. The top 10 are very strong (with Tallet surprising everyone, for now) and I'm not sure which one of Romero-Litsch-Janssen-Purcey will be left in AAA, but as it stands one will be left out when all are healthy. Out of the guys who are carrying the load now, Cecil and Ray will return to AAA and Tallet to the pen with a ton of confidence. So what happens when Marcum returns? And next year when McGowan returns and Cecil is ready for the MLB?

The Jays have a very promissing pitching future on their hands and their AA/A staffs are very strong as well. The guys all of the way down to #20 are close to ready and could do well if called upon. Any baseball manager will tell you that you can never have too much pitching, but the Jays do have a lot of it with lots of spare parts to throw in when necessary. The young guys are getting experience early, learning what's needed to perform at a high level, and the Jays are still winning with them in the game. I know you can't evaluate and compare all MLB pitching staffs and depth charts effectively because nobody can agree on the value of all players, if any, but I do think the Jays are in the top 10. Hopefully they can use it effectively and get us another pennant or/and campionships.

Manny gets 50 games

Arod returns, Manny leaves, either way these two guys just can't stay out of the news. I can't figure out if they're baseball players or marketing addicts. The whole substance issue is frustrating and unforgiving. Sure, Manny loses some marks on his rep and gets to put on weight while on holiday, but the real losers here are Dodger fans who depended on Manny to anchor their lineup. Now they have to scramble and come up with a way to stay effective on offense without the guy that seemed to save the franchise last year and helped them break a record for home wins this season. Does that record now get an asterisk beside it? Just a thought.

I'm seriously not certain whether my life as a baseball fan would be emptier or fuller if the Arod and Manny sagas didn't exist. I'm sure there would be something else to focus on, but would it be as divisive, controversial, and ethically challenging? I doubt it. Regardless, I think that way too much of American and Canadian time, money, and effort is spent on reporting what these 2 morons do, should do, can't do, might have done, should be doing, ect.. ect.. There is so much wasted talent...I wish a guy like Eckstein could reach into their bodies and pull out half of their talent and size, then we'd have one hell of a ball player on our hands that would be worth covering with all of this effort, time, and money.

The Affiliates - 3,4,5,6 May AA, AAA Recaps

New Hampshire 4, Binghamton 3
New Hampshire 8, New Britain 3
New Hampshire 0, New Britain 2
New Hampshire 3, New Britain 5
New Hampshire 12, New Britain 0
- NH starting pitching continued their strong season with only 13 runs allowed over 5 games. The offense really took some frustration out on NB in the 7th May game to go along with an outstanding start by Brandon Magee, who was pitching in his second game since being called up from Dunedin. He only struck out one, but lasted 5.1, allowed only one run, and only 3 hits. Luis Perez also had a strong game on the 6th, lasting 6 innings with 4 hits allowed and two earned runs. However, he was outpitched by Devries who then had Delaney and Slama shut the door behind him for NB. Randy Boon won his 3rd game of the season after going 5innings, striking out 5.

Las Vegas 2, Salt Lake 4
Las Vegas 2, Fresno 10
Las Vegas 8, Fresno 6
Las Vegas 9, Fresno 5
- Las Vegas had two slow games, and two very effective offensive games. However, in all starts the relievers had questionable to horrible outings. Sadly, the one great start was from Burres who may eventually get another shot in the bigs if he keeps pitching 7 innings of one run ball with 6 Ks. Harper and Ruiz have led the offense while JP Arencibia smacked his 2nd homer of the season, let's hope there's more where that came from. Fabio Castro had the most impressive start with 7 strong innings of 2 hit ball and 3 SO in only his second start at the AAA level. He is doing more than enough to put himself in contention for MLB starts if needed. David Purcey also had a good outing with 6.1 IP and 2 runs allowed.

Tor 13, LAA 1 - May 6th Recap

Jays and Dodgers sitting in a tree, M - A - S - H - I - N - G !!! Wow, both these teams are putting up impressive stats as they both scored over 10 runs yet again. For the Jays, their 5th game of 12 runs or more broke their total for all of last season, when they scored 12 or more runs only 4 times. It's a pretty good indicator of just how much better the offense has been this season than it was last season.

Pitching: Roy for 8, Camp for 1, an obvious choice when you have a 12 run lead! Typical Doc outing, 8 IP, 6 hits, 6 Ks, 2 BB, only 1 ER, which now lowers his era to 3.26. Not Greinke territory, but we'll see where they both end up in September. On the LAA side, it was almost like they were conceding the win, with a very ugly outing by Ortega and most of their relievers, but we'll take it!

Offense: Everyone got a hit, Hill continued to dominate with another 3 hit night including his 7th home run of the season, and Snider had another important 2 for 4 outing. Wells and Overbay also added a dinger each, and the squad now has 4 hitters with an average over .315. Adam Lind chipped in with 2 doubles, Wells and Overbay with 3 RBIs a piece.

Next up: Robert Ray (0-0, 4.76) will try to make it 3 in a row against Jered Weaver (2-1, 3.13). This game should be a better indicator of what kind of stuff Ray really has, more to follow after the game!


Jays 10, CLE 6 - May 5th Recap

Pitching: Outstanding, our pitching depth is now one deeper with Bret Cecil joining the ranks of "those who can perform". What an outing for the youngster. He threw 6 innings of one-run ball, allowing 6 hits and no walks. He threw 96 pitches, 61 of them for strikes, and the key to his outing was his changeup which kept Cleveland hitters off balance the entire game. So I guess Cecil was just messing with us when he had mediocre starts in the minors at the beginning of the year. On the sour side, Carlson and Frasor had the second ugly pen outing in as many days, allowing 4 runs between the two of them. Thankfully, Downs was able to come in and throw 1.2 innings to shut them down to end the game. Let's hope someone in the pen is fresh, because right now I only count Camp and League for the next game, not that it matters with Doc being next in line!!

Offense: Adam Lind was the star offensively for the Jays, with a 3 for 4 day that had him hit a HR and total 5 RBI. However, the most encouraging sign was Snider's 2 for 4 day in his 9-hole location. While he did commit a fielding error, the fact that Snider is back to hitting, however small a sample, must be a great relief to Gaston. As usual the offense was a gang effort, with all Jays hitters getting at least 1 hit and Rolen chipping in with a HR of his own.

Next up: Roy Halladay (5-1, 3.68) will attempt to make this win the beginning of a streak when he goes up against Anthony Ortega (0-1, 5.56).


Jays 7, CLE 9 - May 4th Recap

Pitching: Is Cito getting cocky about the Jays bullpen staff? That's the only reason I can think of that he would ask League to stay in the game in the 8th and 9th innings, instead of bringing in the fresh Frasor as he did in the 10th. League has thrown well, don't get me wrong, but when you're facing a lineup like Cleveland's you can't really take many chances in a 1-run game. As it is, League went on to allow 3 runs, which the Jays offense quickly matched in the same inning to take it to extras. Starter Brian Tallet had a nice rebound game throwing 7 innings while allowing 3 runs and should have had the win. Camp gave up 3 runs in the 12th inning to give the Jays the loss.

Offense: Aaron Hill and Scott Rolen had an error a piece, what is going on with these guys? It seems to me they are in the error column pretty often these days. Mainly due to the extended innings, the Jays offense did have 5 guys with 2 hits, whith Rolen, Lind, and Millar getting a double each, the only multi-base hits the Jays could muster. Snider continued to slump, getting replaced by Kevin Millar after 3 ABs, and his average now sits at .219, not what most of us had envisioned when he started the season. Overall it's this type of loss that hurts most, but I do believe the Jays do have "give up" in their vocabulary. They came back to tie it, and fought very hard to win it in extras. I'm sure this loss was just a bump in the road.

Next up: Bret Cecil (0-0) gets his first ever MLB start against CLE's Anthony Reyes (1-0, 7.58).


Lineup Review

I was listening to Home Plate on XM Radio when they talked about the Jays for a good chunk of time and was struck by the confidence they had in the lineup's ability to continue to produce at the levels it has thus far. They even suggested it could get better, and here's part of the reasons why they are so confident.

The offensive stats this season for the Jays are as follows:
1. A Hill
2. A Rios
3. V Wells
4. A Lind
5. M Scutaro
6. S Rolen
7. R Barajas
8. T Snider
9. L Overbay
10. J Bautista
11. K Millar
12. M Barrett
13. R Chavez
14. J McDonald

Now, the first thing I notice when I see this list is how short it is. Only the top 11 guys are getting steady ABs and this allows them to get and stay in a rhythm that was non-existent last season. In 2008, 16 guys had over 100 ABs, making it hard for the lineup to get in a rhythm. Injuries had a lot to do with it, but Gibbons juggled the lineup like he was a clown at a carnival which didn't help matters at all.

With Cito at the helm, all of the guys are comfortable with where they hit in the lineup, know their roles, and have proven to be able to make adjustments to match the pitching they face. As Lind and Snider gain maturity, it is only a matter of time before they hit for more power and higher average, making this lineup a scary one to face in June-July and beyond.

Another reason this lineup is potent is the middle infield pop. Few teams have matched the Jays in middle infield offensive production this season. While Hill starts to get his feet underneath him defensively, he is now talked about as a top 4 second baseman in MLB.

Rios has also started to heat up and Barajas has been outstanding this season to say the least. While it is unlikely the Jays will go the entire season without injuries, they also have the depth required to plug up any holes. Millar, and especially Bautista, have such flexibility in their roles and the Jays also have great options for the MI in the minors in Brad Emaus and Joe Inglett, and also in the OF with Jason Lane. Nobody is hoping for injuries, but these guys can perform well enough to ensure the offense stays productive all year long.

Snider-Wells-Rios is an OF that is starting to make me feel very good about the Jays chances for this year and for future years. Although Wells is way too expensive next year and beyond, the total cost of the OF will be tolerable since Rios and Snider cost much less. Fans can finally relax and enjoy the first dose of steady offensive production since the mid-90s.