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No, it's not a contractual clause, it's the latest Jays roster move. Scott Service has been released, and Kevin Cash has been called up to take his place. Carlos Tosca:

I expect to catch him at least two or three times a week, let him get his feet wet. There are some guys here that he's caught -- Hendrickson, Thurman, Towers. We're getting ready to play a ballclub that has a great deal of speed. Kevin's going to be part of our future, and basically we want to take a look at him.

The future is beginning to begin now.
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A guy with a 29.25 ERA against the Jays faces an emergency AAA callup. Two explosive lineups are licking their chops, and both bullpens could see plenty of action.

Josh Towers gets another chance in a big-league rotation; he must be grateful, after a brief and disappointing bullpen callup at the end of May. In 2001, the soft-tossing righty won six of his first seven decisions and AL rookie of the month honours in June. I don't know what happened in 2002, but he's been respectable for Syracuse this year (3.32 ERA in 132.2 IP, 20 BB. 76 K) and threw a complete game shutout in his latest, with J.P. Ricciardi in attendance.

The biggest step for a pitcher is psychological. If Josh sticks to the same game plan, doesn't try to throw everything too hard and isn't afraid to throw strikes, he'll have a chance to keep his team in the game. It won't require a a shutout; so far, the Jays have owned Colby Lewis, who didn't survive the third inning in back-to-back early May starts. Bobby Kielty gets another day off, so both Sparky and Cat are starting; Wilson's in for Myers.
Nice catch, Shane. In Tuscon's Arizona Daily Star , Chris Jackson profiles overnight success Jamie Vermilyea:

"I think, in all fairness, we never really know what we're going to get," said Blue Jays player development director Dick Scott.

Vermilyea says he learned to pitch down in the zone at his home field in college, altitude 5,000 feet. Scott likes that he throws five pitches for strikes. It's all good.
Can't believe we missed this, but many thanks to the shy, eagle-eyed lurker who passed it along. It's a reprint from Sympatico's "" of a piece by John Allemang of the Globe and Mail.

"You can't be a rigid thinker," says Gord Ash, who now works in the Milwaukee Brewers front office. "You have to be open to possibilities, you can't lock yourself in. These people who talk about thinking outside the box, you know what? They've just created another box. Look at the Toronto all-stars this year, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado, none of whom went to college.

"Read Moneyball," adds the departed Mr. Ash darkly. "There's a lot of self-promotion and ego going on."

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This week's ESPN The Magazine is chock full of Jays coverage. Carlos Delgado gets plenty of ink for both his on-field accomplishments and off-field views. Meanwhile, Roy Halladay gets a feature-length article discussing the Jays' stunning success in rebuilding his motion -- and in getting him back on track to be the ace he's uniquely capable of being.
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We're thrilled to lead off our major league player interviews with the Blue Jays' new leadoff hitter. Reed Johnson came almost literally out of nowhere this year. Beginning spring training in the minor league camp at 26, and unproven above AA ball, he was an unlikely candidate to have any impact in Toronto. Things have changed.

By the final week of the Grapefruit League campaign, none of the non-roster invitees signed as minor-league free agents had seized their opportunities to go north as the fourth outfielder. When Jayson Werth got hurt, the Jays needed someone to fill in for a couple of exhibition games, and Johnson was rewarded for his hard work. The impression he made that week earned him an early-season emergency callup, and he's never looked back since returning in May. When Shannon Stewart went on the DL, the hustling "dirtbag" rookie became a regular and again made the most of his chances, hitting .327 in June, with five home runs. Two of those came one memorable Sunday afternoon against the Cubs, when he became just the fourth player in history to lead off and end a game with a homer. In addition to his exploits at the plate, he's made spectacular defensive plays in left and right field, and is exciting to watch on the basepaths. We caught up with Reed in the dugout after a recent batting practice.
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Auburn won and Charleston split a twin-bill, but Syracuse, New Haven, and Pulaski all lost. If you know (without looking it up) who Endy Ozuna is and why he started for Charleston last night, you can take over this gig.
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Josh Towers will start tomorrow. Juan Acevedo was released, and Dan Reichert gets another chance. In the National Post, Cory Lidle admitted to John Lott that he's the latest Jay to have played in pain for too long, calling it "a bad decision":

"I could have had this taken care of a month and a half, two months ago," he said. "Yet I kept saying, 'Next time it'll be fine.' "

See all my previous rants about crossing the line between courage and foolishness.
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My cousin Joe and his nine-year-old son lost their home in Florida to a tornado Thursday. It's in the lower left of this front-page photo from the Palm Beach Post:

They're OK, and salvaged some possessions, so it could have been even worse. Neither was home when the storm hit -- nor was the guy next door, who had a neighbour's trailer land on his roof -- but they returned to find branches through the walls, part of the roof ripped off, both porches gone, the floor broken and the entire frame destroyed.

This has nothing to do with baseball, except that they're both huge fans. My thoughts and prayers are with Sammy and Dugout Joe.
Now that I've stuck an Erasure tune in many of your heads .... ESPN's Page 2 has an article about the most underrated athletes of all time. Among baseball players, Stan Musial, Arky Vaughn and Lefty Grove receive prominent mention. "Underrated" is a tricky term, of course, since everyone has a slightly different definition. Underrated by whom? Fans, media, other players? But hey, most of the fun baseball debates usually involve the phrase "that depends on your definition of..."

Anyway, this made me think: who's the most underrated Blue Jay of all time? Everyone is allowed two nominees at most, one pitcher and one hitter. Your reasons can range from the sentimental to the sabrmetric, but you have to provide those reasons.

Here are my nominees:
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In a town where too many baseball columnists find it easier to bash the GM than to understand what he's accomplished, it's refreshing to read an unbiased article. Larry Millson of the Globe and Mail calls the Jays "a team experiencing growing pains as they try to regain contending status" in a balanced review of a .500 club. Says J.P., who knows the market better than most:

"We're never going to get pitching unless we develop and draft our own. That's the biggest void in our organization."

He's right, as usual. The previous regime would have thrown three year deals at Omar Daal and Ismael Valdes, perpetuating the mediocrity. Ricciardi acquired one-year rentals with no strings attached, which he will do again this winter. Perhaps the stopgaps will work out better than Lidle, Sturtze, Creek and Tam; if so, the illusion of contending could last even longer in '04, but it's still a transition year. Two great drafts have created a deep talent pool of minor-league arms, though it will be 2005 before any of them has a real impact on a big-league pennant race. By then, the system will be self-replenishing; in the meantime, fans have to be patient.
There are few players whose 2003 development is being watched more closely by management than Corey Thurman. The 2002 Rule 5 pick from Kansas City pitched effectively enough last season, mostly in low-pressure relief outings, then spent most of the current season polishing his craft as a starter in Syracuse. In his first start following his most recent (and hopefully final) callup, last time in Anaheim, was a solid effort to defeat the nosediving World Champions; tonight, though, his work is cut out for him. Into Skydome come the Texas Rangers, a team that treats the Jays' home field like its own personal BP cage.
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The Rangers come into town swinging some heavy lumber, aided considerably by a top four in their batting order as dangerous as any in the American League. It's audition time for the Rangers, both in the bullpen and in the outfield, as John Hart continues to replenish Texas' farm system. One position that won't see an audition this season, though, is designated hitter; Rafael Palmeiro vetoed another trade last night and will likely not be swayed before the end of the month.

Texas comes in with nine rookies on their roster, including an All-Star third baseman, a fleet-footed centrefielder who was a stone-handed minor-league middle infielder as recently as six weeks ago, and a starting pitcher who quotes Major League. It'll be an interesting test for Corey Thurman tonight, who's himself auditioning for a starting job for next season.

Lots of good stuff this week. Enjoy the series!

On to the Advance Scout!
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The bats were booming in the minors last night, as this post-Farm Report review of the Jays' top prospects reveals, but there were also some marvellous pitching performances, in what may be the first time this season every farm team came away victorious (including two doubleheader sweeps).
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Rich Harden is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in four big-league starts. A's teammate Mark Mulder says, "he's got way better stuff... than what I have," and opponents are similarly impressed:

"He's got multiple strikeout pitches, that's a sign of a true horse," (A.J.) Hinch says. "He doesn't need a whole heck of a lot of help if he pitches like he did tonight."

It's amazing that a 21-year-old from Vancouver Island, hardly a hotbed of competitive baseball, has come this far, this fast. Harden won't remain unbeaten forever, but he has the talent and the confidence to be a star. Jeremy Sandler of the National Post profiles the rookie sensation.