Jays From the Couch brings you the latest Toronto Blue Jays news. This edition: Aaron Sanchez, Jerry Howarth and Aledmys Diaz
The Toronto Blue Jays are back, baby! Well, sort of. Pitchers and catchers (and others) reported for duty on their first official day back. Position players will trickle in in the coming days. As with the first day of Spring Training, there comes a stream of stories to follow. This morning, we have hits on Aaron Sanchez and his finger, Aledmys Diaz and his reaction to being traded to Toronto and reaction to the retirement of Jerry Howarth.
Oh, by the way, we dropped a little something this morning:
We're TWO WEEKS from our project coming to life!
That means we're about 5 days away from announcing.
— Jays From the Couch (@JaysFromCouch) February 14, 2018
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* To start with, Blue Jays manager, John Gibbons provided some storylines to watch this spring:
The bullpen sounds like an open competition, but on the first day of Spring Training, that is probably the thing a manager should say. Does that mean there really is a competition going on? That remains to be seen. The questions around Joe Biagini starting, or not, depend on whether the club picks up another viable rotation piece. That will have an impact on the relief corps. Then, of course, there is the matter of all of the new faces brought in on minor league deals.
Perhaps, the one that has the most upside, and chance to crack the big league roster is Jake Petricka, who has had success out of the bullpen. At 29, he has seen double digit saves and holds in the big leagues already and is looking to show he is back in form. Of course, this is Toronto and the injury bug does show itself and there is bound to be ample opportunity for others to grab a spot, if only for a brief stint.
Regarding Biagini starting, there is an interesting comment from Gibby on Prime Time Sports: “Our front office is looking at possibly signing another starter. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll probably go with Joe Biagini as the fifth starter.” So, it didn’t really need to be said, but he confirms that Ross Atkins is actively pursuing a starter. Of course, he also confirms that Biagini is a lock for a rotation spot if that doesn’t happen…
* Richard Griffin, writes in The Star that Luke Maile is not happy with his 2017 and is looking to become more of an offensive threat. The 27 year old catcher is described by Griffin as ’emerging as the front runner for the back up catching job’. While that might be a little inaccurate – who else was he battling for that job? Danny Jansen would be his stiffest competition and the organization would prefer to keep him getting everyday playing time – Maile’s comments on his chances for success next season are kind of funny, if not dead on: “I’m realistic, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for me to be an offensive threat. I mean I’m six-three and 225 pounds. I should be able to drive the ball fairly consistently.”
The guy is plenty big enough to drive the ball, yet last season he put up a wRC+ mark of ZERO. He had a line drive rate of just 9.5% and hit with hard contact just 21.9% of the time. So, if he plans on tapping into that 6’3″, 225 lbs body, he’ll need to make some adjustments.
* The full time catcher, Russell Martin, likes what he sees thus far from Aaron Sanchez, according to a tweet by Ben Nicholson-Smith. Apparently, the ball is coming out of the hand free and easy, which is a good start to the spring. TSN’s Scott Mitchell brings us a closer look at Sanchez and his readiness to start the season. Apparently, Sanchez feels good and says all he needed was time to rest. No one was as frustrated as he was, surely, but there was nothing he could do to speed his recovery. Take it from him: “All it was was time and time is time, you know? You can’t speed it up.” Pro athletes, man. They have a way of being precise in as few words as possible.
The part of the Mitchell piece that might grab your attention is where Sanchez says that the blister very well could find its way back this season. Of course, he also says that because he dealt with it all last year, he is better equipped to handle it if it does become an issue.
* At Sportsnet, we hear that Aledmys Diaz is happy he was traded and hopes it gives him a boost this season. When t he season ended in St Louis, he told the Cardinals that he would welcome a trade since they were not going to be giving him playing time. Obviously, if you don’t play well in St Louis, you don’t play, or you get shipped to AAA. So, when Diaz found out he was traded to Toronto, he was happy that he would possibly see more playing time.
But, this is where he might find disappointment. If Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis are healthy in 2018 (Yes, I know…), Yangervis Solarte appears set to be the infield depth. Now, they could carry an extra to provide more rest for Tulo, Travis or even Josh Donaldson. But, with so many outfield options in the fold, one has to wonder if Diaz finds himself in AAA to start the year. A good spring could go a long way to convincing management that an outfielder should be sent down (or traded) instead.
* At the Canadian Baseball Network, Jonathan Hodgson shares his personal letter to now retired Blue Jays radio man, Jerry Howarth. Hodgson shares his deep personal admiration for the legendary broadcaster in a letter that could have been written by just about anyone who knew Jerry. That is to take nothing away from Jonathan’s letter. In fact, it is more a testament to just how Howarth treated everyone he came in contact with.
On several occasions, Jerry spoke with Jays From the Couch’s Catherine Stem and was open and generous with his time. He has a way of making people feel important, which people remember and cherish.
Here I am on CTV News Channel trying to do justice to Jerry. Jays From the Couch owes Jerry a lot for his time, especially because he was willing to work with us on the project we’ll be announcing soon. Like always, Jerry was generous and giving. We wish him a long and happy retirement.
* Lastly, the Blue Jays will wear the patches shown below on their uniforms to honour the late Roy Halladay:
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 14, 2018
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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