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Edgardo Alfonzo on playing second base while Ray Durham is on the shelf:

"The manager knows I played there before and he says I have to do it. I'm not going to say I feel very good. I just feel all right. I don't really feel comfortable there. I played third base the last few years. But if I have to do it for the team, I have to do it."
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Okay, I don't know how I managed to double-post the minor-league baseball thread, nor can I seem to get rid of it. So, since I can't find anything to replace it, it's open-mike day again! First topic to catch hold rules the roost.
How often is Charleston the scene of the biggest game of the night in Toronto's minor leagues? About as often as Roy Halladay loses. But the much-maligned Alley-Cats received one of the best pitching performances of the entire year from an unlikely source, complementing a night of solid pitching for the Jays' farm teams.
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We haven't mentioned it specifically, but it's time we drew attention to our brand new logo. We've been thinking for awhile that Batter's Box needed a strong image, not just to make the site look better but to help establish our presence in the growing field of online baseball sources (not to mention the possibility of caps and T-shirts. Seriously. If you'd be interested in one, make an entry below and we'll see if there's enough critical mass).

Anyway, special thanks go to the designer and artist who brought us our new logo: Tony Delitala of Mississauga, Ontario, and Stephen MacEachern of Toronto. These two very talented individuals bring their skills to my magazine every issue (readers of National see Steve's work in Doug Mah's back-page column, and Tony's work throughout the publication), and they gave us their time and talents entirely free of charge. In turn, I'd like to recommend their work to anyone who needs excellent graphic design or illustrations; write me for contact info and recommendations. Sincere gratitude from all of us at Da Box!
Nobody really expected Corey Thurman to throw six shutout innings in his first start of the year. Few anticipated that in his next outing, he would give up three homers to the first seven batters and fail to get out of the first inning. The safest prediction tonight is that he'll be in the middle of those extremes. I believe Corey has to pitch "backwards" to be effective. Forget about get-ahead fastballs, like the ones Teixeira and Nix put into orbit. Start guys off with the changeup, mix in the slider, then when they're leaning forward, looking for more off-speed stuff, sneak the heater by them, or get them to foul it off. He can go back to his best weapon -- that devastating change -- for an out pitch.

Ryan Franklin makes his first start ever against the Jays, but he's been horrible in five relief appearances, with a 13.06 ERA in 10.1 IP. He's coming off a shellacking by the Yankees, though only three of the eight runs he allowed were earned. I like the Toronto lineup, except for the absence of Josh Phelps. Greg Myers is the DH, with Kevin Cash, who knows Thurman well, behind the plate. Cash was overanxious the other night; he needs to relax and take a pitch once in a while. Reed Johnson leads off in RF, Cat's hitting seventh in left, which means Bobby Kielty, slumping from the left side, is available as a pinch-hitter. SS Mike Bordick, in the 6-hole, tries to extend his hit streak to 20 games.

After almost a two week absence from the Star, Richard Griffin has returned with the surprising "news" that Carlos Tosca hasn't given up on making the playoffs.

"I haven't come to that conclusion yet," Tosca said, wryly. "We're still in that little box (in the newspaper) that says 'wild-card' and we've been playing about as bad as a team can play for six or seven weeks and we're still in that box.

"I know that we have another run (of victories) in us. We're up against it, but stranger things have happened in this game."

Not many, says Griffin, who points out that if either the A's or Red Sox play .500 the rest of the way, the Jays would have to go 32-12 to beat them.
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One of the things I enjoy most about baseball is that it can be played well by a variety of different people, and in a variety of different ways. Every baseball player has his own set of strengths and weaknesses, and his own approach to getting the job done. Also, some players develop a unique on-field relationship with the fans who pay to watch them.
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You've seen him on TV, heard him on the radio, and watched him transform the Toronto Blue Jays into one of the most exciting young ballclubs in the American League. Now, here's your chance to ask him about the team.

That's right -- Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi will give an exclusive interview to Batter's Box next week. And we're only going to ask him the questions that you -- our readers and contributors -- suggest. Post your question in this thread, and we'll automatically include it for consideration when we're choosing the final slate of queries for the interview. Make sure you attach your name to your post -- when we publish the interview transcript, we'll be giving credit to every reader who suggests a selected question.
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I admit it's a pet peeve. I'm not just whining about the obvious (and gutless) terrible calls at critical times that have cost the Jays games in St. Louis, Boston and Tampa this year; the quality of umpiring in the majors is atrocious.

In a Houston Chronicle column, John P. Lopez blames MLB, and Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker agrees:

"...Major League Baseball has not made a commitment to a recruiting program and a development program for the umpires. Consequently, we continue to have umpires promoted to the major-league level that in many instances aren't qualified and aren't prepared."

MLB's "solution" -- the controversial QuesTec system -- may actually be responsible for increasing the umps' collective incompetence and arrogance. Hunsicker says it "...leads to heightened emotion and potential conflicts between managers and umpires, players and umpires." The recent incident in Houston with an overmatched subsititute ump is referred to as the "Kent-Williams mix-up." Hey, don't blame me!
To attach any importance to this game for the Blue Jays in the standings, you have to be concerned with things like staying above .500, or holding off those pesky Orioles for third place in the division. However, it's always a big event when Roy Halladay starts, and if there's as much entertainment tonight as there was last night, I suggest you stay awake.

Doc could become the first 17-game winner in the majors, and an .850 win percentage, while it may not prove his superiority to Loiaza, Mulder and Hudson, would keep his Cy Young candidacy very much alive in the minds of the voters, not to mention the hearts of Jays fans. He's 2-2 against Seattle in his career with a 3.25 ERA; even better (1-1, 2.16) at Safeco, where the Mariners have hit .191 against him. Five days ago, he got stronger as the game progressed, going the distance against the D-Rays.

Freddy Garcia isn't having much fun this year, with that 9-12 record and 5.45 ERA, and is just 4-3, 5.68 in his career against the Blue Jays, who have hit him at a .285 clip over the years. He's 0-4, with a ridiculous 11.39 ERA, since the break, and the whole league has hit him like Ted Williams (.388) during that stretch. His latest wasn't quite that bad, as he lost 3-0 to Cleveland, giving up six hits in 6.1 innings. He and the Mariners will be feeling more pressure than the Jays, who have nothing to lose.
The Star reports that Naming rights for the Skydome are up for sale again.

In 1999 the price was apparently $5 million (US) now it is $3.9 million (currency not specified - lets guess at US again). This still seems wildly excessive given that Air Canada 'only' pay $2 million (CAD) for rights to the ACC and that " the general populous will likely continue to call it the SkyDome".

Maybe Sportsco haven't heard about the dot.bomb phenomenon and think there's still some VC money burning holes in some pockets.
Peter Gammons is back with an interesting piece on all the young pitchers making an impact throughout baseball. This is in line with an opinion I first floated a couple of years ago, that the pendulum is swinging back from its 1998 extreme and that pitching is in ascendance again. Try to find an article about corked baseballs anywhere in 2005.

Anyway, for our purposes, there are two points in the article worth mentioning. The first is Gammons' belief, I think accurate, that between the surplus of cheap young hurlers and the plethora of free-agent busts last year (not to mention fiscal conservatism generally), the upcoming free-agent pitching market will be depressed and top talent can be acquired less expensively than before. That's good news for Toronto, for '05 if not for next year. And here's the second:

"I think everywhere you go throughout baseball, the two organizations you hear people talking about are the Indians and Blue Jays," one assistant GM said. "It's talent, but it's also pitching. They've both got a lot of really good arms on the way."
As mentioned in the Advance Scout thread, Mark Hendrickson will have a large rooting section in Seattle, but he's the underdog in a pitching matchup with Joel Piniero. Lurch was pretty good last time out, and Piniero stumbled against Cleveland after an 8-0, 1.91 stretch, so there's a glimmer of hope.

The Jays need a win tonight to return to .500, and get off to a good start in a stretch of 14 straight games against the best in the West. Kevin Cash, who caught Hendrickson in AAA several times, is in the lineup; the Mariners like to run, so we might see the cannon fired. Greg Myers is the DH, as Carlos Tosca wants to load up with lefty bats against the tough righty.
The young fellows over at Sports Blotter have a good discussion of the AL Cy Young race today, but more importantly if you scroll down to "Quick Hits" for August 10, Sean has a report on yesterday's New Haven game versus the New Britain Rock Cats.

Apparently at least one scout really likes Dave Gassner, and both Rios and Quiroz are doing "excellent jobs looking at pitches and prolonging at bats". Now THAT is what I like to hear.

Incidentally, one transaction that escaped my notice is that New Haven have brought in former Jay Anthony Sanders. Welcome back to the organization!
Taking a stranglehold on second with an 8-4 win over the Sub-Urban Shockers, Baird Brain moved within 8.5 games of first place Gashouse Gorillas, who lost 9-2 to the Eastern Shore Birds. My Toronto Walrus is now six games farther back in third, after falling 8-4 to the Moscow Rats, and fourth place Billies Bashers missed an opportunity to close the gap between us, dropping a 7-4 decision to the K-Town Mashers.

With just three weeks left to determine playoff seedings, it's wide open. Nation Builders beat Geoffs Grumpy Group 6-5 to remain in fifth place, now by a more comfortable 3.5 games. Still holding on to the sixth (and last) spot in the championship bracket despite a 7-4 loss to the Chatsworth Halos, Mebion Glyndwr has a 1.5 game lead on the charging Birds, followed by five more teams grouped within three games. Expect some close photo-finishes. No less than TEN teams are within eight games of playing for the T-shirt, yet three of them won't even make the consolation playoffs.
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