Everything Blue Jays

For Toronto Blue Jays fans

Not much has ch…

Not much has changed since this blog’s last post in December and yet many Toronto Blue Jays fans are pleased with the off-season results.

And why shouldn’t they be happy?

With two exceptions, everyone seems to be ready to pick up where they left off last season. The exceptions are pitcher Brett Cecil who seems to have lost some velocity on his pitches. The other exception is outfielder Travis Snider. No one is really saying much about either of these baseball players but it is safe to say that since they will not be making the trip north here with the rest of the club, they need to work out something to the approval of Manger John Farrell.

You have to give the manager credit; he provides strong indicators when a player is not performing to the standards set by the organization.

The rest of the team appears ready to contend. While Adam Lind continues to nurse a sore back at times, his performance at the plate and on defence was fantastic. Second baseman Kelly Johnson may not make everyone forget infielder John MacDonald’s superb defence; he showed he belongs with the club. Yunel Escobar is criticized for not running hard enough to first on hits into the infield but his overall production at the plate and in the field makes him a genuine threat to turn the game around.

What more can anyone say of Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie? They provide so much entertainment value that no one wants to miss their at-bats. Colby Rasmus is still drawing some scrutiny but Eric Thames has worked hard to earn his starting role and appears ready to contribute to victories on offence and defence.

It is hard to believe that catcher J.P. Arencibia was a rookie last year. He seems to have embraced the role as the starting catcher and become one of the stalwarts of this club. His numbers may not impress everyone but he is as much a leader and a part of the club’s organization as anyone.

It may be premature but I am going to dust off a word that will be applied to the Toronto Blue Jays – premium. Blue Jays fans are looking at a core of what marketing people love to term a premium baseball team. We are all familiar with weekend games where ticket prices rise whenever New York or Boston come to town. Toronto is building toward that designation with the kind of talent up and down the lineup.

We have all seen how many American League teams have improved over the off season. Toronto is no different. The club boasts a proven closer in Sergio Santos, a setup man in Francisco Cordero and countless relief men to take over if something doesn’t go right for starters Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek. Joel Carreno will be the fifth starter for now.

Considering the kind of relief the team can count on through the season, the organization can get away with a four-man rotation with the opposition facing a righty/lefty rotation and a relief corps ready to close it out. This would keep the pitchers loose and still allow them to close out their share of complete games. Pitch counts aside, the starters will only grow stronger by logging five to seven strong innings give way to the rest closers – especially early in the season.

Congratulations to the Blue Jays for acknowledging all the work by starting pitcher Dustin McGowan, who starts the season on the disabled list. He was recently rewarded with a new contract and should prove valuable as the team’s number three man in the rotation.

The pitcher who impressed the most last season was reliever Carlos Villanueva who started 13 games for the Jays last year and did everything the club asked of him. His hand has bothered him recently but should that prove to be something he can manage, he will be a fine reliever for the Jays again this season.

Right now, the team is saying that many of the minor league players are ready to take the step up to the bigs should any of the relievers or starters fail to perform. However, the way Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen pitched last year, it will be tough to ignore their experience in tight situations.

Not all the experts are picking this year’s edition of the Toronto Blue Jays to earn a playoff spot. However, what this team provides is a legitimate opportunity to contend. The whole team including batting coach Dwayne Murphy, pitching coach Bruce Walton and bench coach Don Wakamatsu all provide the expertise the Jays need to make it to the next level of achievement.

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