Jays From the Couch brings you the latest Toronto Blue Jays news & notes. This edition: the health of some key figures looks promising.
The Toronto Blue Jays are playing baseball again and everything is starting to feel right with the world. As Wade and I discussed on Ep153 of the JFtC Radio podcast, there is something about Spring Training that feels like a bit of normal returning. There’s so much to be excited about. Like, you know, the fact that you can PRE-ORDER a copy of the Jays From the Couch Guide to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays on Amazon!
Shameless self promotion aside, it is so good to have baseball back again. The boys are back in action, Ezequiel Carrera has been DFA’d, Devon Travis seems to be healthy as well as a few other key figures for this team. Today, we look at some of the latest rumblings in Blue Jays Land that have mostly to do with health, but there is a little bit more as well. Check it out:
* At the Toronto Sun, Steve Buffery tells us that Steve Pearce is happy to be in Spring Training and happy to be healthy. Pearce, who just became a father for the second time as his baby boy was born at the end of January. As such, Pearce is happy to get out of the house and away from changing diapers and babysitting as he finds the challenge of fatherhood so much greater than major league baseball. Same, Steve. Same.
But, another reason that Pearce is happy is that he is finally healthy. He spent all of 2017, his first season in Toronto, dealing with injuries. Before he even got to Dunedin last year, he was trying to recover from shoulder surgery. Then his calf acted up, then it was his back. So, arguably, Blue Jays fans never really got a good look at a healthy Steve Pearce, something that he says he is ready to unleash. Take his word for it: “I started behind the eight ball last year. I had the elbow surgery the prior season, and I only got to play in a handful of games. I missed the first half of spring training. I was trying to prove what I could do, but at the same time I wasn’t ready and I just did my best. I tried as hard as I could. But I made up for it and it’s a whole different year. I’m going into the year healthy.”
Let’s be clear. A full season of Pearce could go a long way to providing the Blue Jays with a boost at the plate. Before signing in Toronto, he was coming off season of 115, 161, 93, and 136 wRC+. 2017 saw just 99 in 92 games. How he fits in to the Blue Jays outfield plans remains to be seen, though he isn’t exactly the first option in that regard. Maybe something can be figured out to keep his bat in the lineup and his glove out of left field.
*At Blue Jay Hunter, Ian Hunter provides a bit of fun in the form of a “Best Shape of Their Lives Tracker”. Obviously, the cliche has become players arriving in Spring Training going on and on about how great they feel. But, Ian sums up just how the overall health of the team looks. Apparently, Russell Martin has put on muscle, so fire up those Russell the Muscle tweets. Devon Travis has also come to camp a little stronger looking, at least according to John Gibbons.
But, the popular thing seems to be Blue Jays losing weight over the offseason. Kendrys Morales has lost 12 pounds, which is not likely to have an impact on his ‘double play waiting to happen’ speed. It is weird to hear that Kevin Pillar has lost 15 pounds. I mean, he wasn’t exactly overweight. But, as another new dad, it is not unlikely that his new baby girl kept him busy and he may have missed a meal or two.
The bigger story is that Joe Biagini has completely trimmed down. Now, it is said that he lost 10 pounds, but if that is all it is, that would be shocking. He looks like he has dropped more than that. What will be interesting is whether this weight loss will impact his performance this season. Will it impact his delivery? His stamina? We’ll see. Though, if it is just 10 lbs (it can’t be), then maybe it will have no impact on things.
*At Jays Droppings, Ryan DiFranceso gets excited, and rightfully so, about words Pete Walker has about Aaron Sanchez‘ health. Ryan brings up an excellent point: adding a healthy Sanchez is like a team picking up an ace in the offseason, which is something no one in the AL East has done this winter. I don’t think it is possible to overstate just how squarely this season’s hopes rest on the shoulders…uh, finger…of Aaron Sanchez.
*At BP Toronto, Richard Lee-Sam explores the September struggles of Justin Smoak and whether we should be worried. Richard breaks down Smoak’s final 31 games and it shows that Smoak was making bad contact and his launch angle increased by a lot. That is not a good recipe for success. Perhaps, that points to an increased effort in home running. Some positive from this sample is that Smoak’s plate discipline didn’t change. And, that is the real take away. Because more than the power numbers, etc what was most impressive about Smoak’s season was the approach at the plate. His discipline was much improved, which led to the other numbers being better.
*At CBS Sports, Alex Axisa tells us that Jose Bautista is interested in playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. In all honesty, and there is no evidence to support this, but back in October, I was talking to some friends and I said that Bautista would end up playing for the Rays. It seems like a guy with some power potential who can be had on a cheap deal is kind of their thing. And, at the time, Jose looked to be hard pressed for his next contract.
Axisa gives reasoning why this might actually make sense: “There are several reasons playing for the Rays figures to appeal to Bautista. For starters, he lives in Tampa and playing near home is always a plus. Secondly, the Rays are an AL East team like the Blue Jays, so Bautista would get to return to Toronto a few times this season and get a hero’s welcome. And third, the Rays have an opening at DH, giving Bautista a chance to stay in the lineup without subjecting his legs to the Tropicana Field turf.”
The part about returning to a hero’s welcome in Toronto is likely a 100% safe bet. And, if Jose is looking to show the world that he is seeing better and can still perform, the AL East might be a great place to do that. Here’s hoping for something good for him!
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.