Jays From the Couch brings you the latest Toronto Blue Jays news & links. This edition: pitching depth, catching and lots more!
With the season starting in less than a week, the story lines are flying. Let’s dive into the latest Toronto Blue Jays news and links!
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* As we get closer to Opening Day, you will start to hear how the Blue Jays’ roster will take shape. According to Shi Davidi, Mat Latos will NOT be on that roster when the club leaves Florida. And, apparently, he is OK with sticking with the club…for now. He will not exercise one of his opt-out options. He could have chosen to become a free agent, rather than accept his trip to Buffalo.
In all honesty, the Blue Jays cannot bank on a repeat of the health they saw in 2016. Perhaps Latos is thinking the same thing and will bide his time until he is called upon to replace an injured starter. Obviously, no one wishes this on the current starting five, but you have to expect injuries, rather than not.
In the same post, Davidi tells us that Bo Schultz will be headed to the DL with an elbow injury. While that may not have a dramatic impact on how the roster would have looked, it does remove one of the pieces in the competition for spots in the bullpen. You might recall that Schultz had previously had hip surgery, and now could be facing an elbow injury, which is never good.
With the way things are shaking down, it would appear that Mike Bolsinger indeed has an inside edge on starting the year with the club. This spring, the 29 yr old has thrown 11.2 innings and struck out 14. As well as his good showing, he offers the ability to go a couple innings and has no options remaining.
* By now, you may have heard that Marco Estrada will be the Blue Jays’ Opening Day starter, which really could have gone to any of the starting 5, except Aaron Sanchez, whose workload the club would like to ease for now. while starting pitching depth is a concern, the club has the advantage of having 5 starters who could take the ball to start the season and be A-OK. In fact, perhaps, this Blue Jays club highlights the rather meaningless value of being the Opening Day starter.
At Yahoo! Nick Ashbourne reminds us just how difficult it would be for the club to find that 6th starter should the need arise. You can’t just go out and get one like a carton of milk.
* Now, if they find themselves escaping the injury bug by the July Trade Deadline, or sooner, then ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle suggests they could be buyers, which would be a time to bolster the rotation. Now, Doolittle says that they are in need at the left field position, but should injury beset this team, look for them to address pitching first.
* Perhaps, one element that could help the pitching staff at large is their catchers framing the ball. It is certainly something that the Blue Jays are focusing on for their young catchers. Shi brings us another story, this time on Ken Huckaby, who is the organization’s catching co-ordinator, who is working on receiving, since he calls “framing” what carpenters do. He has some interesting things to say about the philosophy they’re trying to impart:
“The way they receive is a big point of emphasis for what we’re doing here with the catchers. We want them to catch the ball in a relaxed, strong position, but we’re not necessarily trying to manipulate the ball around the plate. We’re trying to catch it where it’s pitched and let the ball present itself. That’s the wording we’re using with our young catchers here.”
“Framing is a word you use for how you handle the ball around the edges of the zone and guys that are a little more advanced with their hands and hand-eye co-ordination can manipulate the ball in a way that’s really deceptive to the eye. But when you try to teach that to younger players, they’re not there yet with their hand-eye and their strength in the wrist, so it looks more like a pull into the zone, which you see a lot on TV with some of the younger catchers. Russell Martin is one of the best at taking that low pitch and turning it up with his wrist. But it’s really hard to teach that.”
This focus on catching will serve the club well since they are an organization that has young backstops like Mike Ohlman, Reese McGuire and even Max Pentecost steadily making their respective ways up the organizational ladder.
* Writing about the Vancouver Canadians, Rob Fai explains that the Blue Jays have built themselves an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their Minor League Operations staff. With Charlie Wilson, Eric Wedge, Ben Cherington and Gil Kim leading the way, the organization has a wealth of knowledge, experience and baseball minds upon which they can draw.
Fai explains that we are witnessing an emerging shift in culture for this organization: “The food is different and more thought out to meet today’s athletic dietary needs. The weight room is bigger and has an army of staff all at the beckon call of any player looking to compete, and the players themselves conduct themselves more business-minded. The music a little lower, the chatter a little less as the players take on this camp with a new-found sense of maturity knowing who is watching and what is at stake.”
We have heard many times that the Blue Jays are leading baseball in their approach to health and fitness. We are also hearing of the ‘buy-in’ from several players. But, it would really appear that there is a movement taking place that is impacting the daily operations of the players themselves. While we won’t rush out and draw direct comparisons to The Cardinals Way being printed in book form and handed out, it certainly is nice to see an extreme focus in every aspect of the game.
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