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An unusual 3:05 start today as the Jays get to feast off Rick Helling. Escobar counters for the Jays, if he can pitch as well as he has recently (or even if he can't), the Jays would be a solid bet at -145. We'll see some home runs; Helling has given up 14 in 74 innings.
Okay, so you're the New Haven Ravens, and you've already got a star-studded lineup. Your outfield is John-Ford Griffin, Alexis Rios and Gabe Gross, and you've got Guillermo Quiroz behind the plate. You've received star pitching prospects Dustin McGowan, David Bush and Jordan DeJong from Dunedin, and signed free agent pitcher Juan Pena to close. What more do you need?

Well, how about a shortstop named Russ Adams? Yup -- the Jays promoted their 2002 first-round draft pick to the AA Eastern League last night, giving the Ravens an astounding five former first-rounders (Gross, Griffin, Rios, McGowan, Adams). We may be looking back on this team years from now as a future championship squad taking shape.
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In our June 10 interview with Keith Law, he didn't have much to say about the Jays' picks in the recently-completed amateur draft other than, "I could brag about all of them, but I think most teams would say the same about their own selections." This was understandable restraint, as cynics would jump on any raves that appeared self-congratulatory, but we thought you might enjoy an impartial expert opinion. Following the lead of our friend Aaron Gleeman, who invited Derek Welvang of The Prospect Report to discuss the Twins' draft on his blog, we are delighted to present the following insights to Batter's Box readers. Welvang modestly calls this "a brief (sometimes pretty much non-existent) description of all of the Jays picks this year, largely sans analysis," and promises a more analytical Jays feature "in the near to mid future" on his site. Derek, on behalf of the whole ZLC, thank you very much. We can't wait. -Kent

by Derek Welvang

Toronto had a great draft last year and a pretty good one this year. Really, my only serious qualm with what they did is with their first pick Aaron Hill. He's a good ballplayer, but I wouldn't have taken him at 13. They centered on college players (first 28 picks, if you count a JUCO guy) and pitchers (two-thirds of all selections, 11 of first 14). The first few hitters they took were performance guys with good plate discipline, followed by a mix of hitter types. As for pitchers, the stereotypical Toronto pitcher selection in this draft would be: a guy with a medium frame, who is either short or average in height, has average stuff and good control, and tends to hit batters (which is a proxy for either lack of control or, in this case, a willingness to pitch inside). Incidentally, this is a player type I like - physical enough so as not to preclude success, skilled enough to get outs.
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Not much has changed about the pitching matchup since last night's rainout. Doc dominated the Orioles last year, and tries to extend his club record to ten straight wins, on his way to a possible start in the All-Star game. Omar Daal has been hittable all year, allowing opponents a .323 average, and hasn't faced the #1 attack in the majors yet.

I'm still very optimistic about the Jays' chances, though I won't be surprised if it isn't a Halladay masterpiece; it's hard to say in advance how sharp he'll be after two extra days of rest. If you can trust the Internet forecast, there should be time to get this one in, but it does not look good for tomorrow afternoon's scheduled finale, with thunderstorms predicted for Baltimore overnight and in the morning. If that one is cancelled, the disruption to the Toronto rotation, which Carlos Tosca had set up all the way to the break, will be considerable. I'm guessing Doug Davis is in the bullpen tonight, and Mark Hendrickson will almost certainly be bumped in Montreal, at least back to Sunday. It's also possible that Doc (already the AL leader in IP) might make his next start on short rest. If he gets a comfortable lead tonight, and a quick hook, that may be the plan.

REVIEW: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups: A Complete Guide to the Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Players to Ever Grace the Major Leagues
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Fireside (June 2003)
Manufacturer's Price: $16 USD ($25 CAN)

By Mick Doherty

Here's a question about Rob Neyer's new book, ambitiously subtitled A Complete Guide to the Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Players to Ever Grace the Major Leagues. Should you buy it? If you're enough of a baseball fan to be reading Da Box, then here's the short answer: yes. Absolutely.

Now here's the question about Neyer's book: should you read it? In the traditional sense of the word, the short answer is "no." Absolutely not.

In fact, as I sit here writing this review of the most riveting -- that's not necessarily to say "best" -- baseball book to hit the market since The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, I have a startling confession to make. I haven't read it. Actually, in the standard sense, I haven't "read" James' book, either.
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Two games of note last night, as last season's AA Pitcher of the Year continued to struggle at AAA, while last year's best A-Ball pitcher made a crackling debut at AA. That's a lot of A's. Must be the Ricciardi-Beane connection.
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Game day. Players, coaches and reporters milled about the floor of the closed SkyDome, scattered here and there in conversation, observation and instruction. Men leaned on the batting cage, watched line drives sail to the outfield and chatted about the game. It was the afternoon of the Jays’ first interleague match against Pittsburgh, and the daily machinations of a major-league team -- which most fans rarely see -- were proceeding at their usual pace.

Third baseman Eric Hinske, rehabbing from wrist surgery, had his glove ready and was eager to take infield practice. But he was going to have to wait a little longer, because his defensive instructor, third-base coach Brian Butterfield, was taking the time to grant Batter’s Box the first of four exclusive interviews with the Blue Jays coaching staff.
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After erasing old whatsisname from one more line of the club record book with his ninth straight win, Harry Leroy Halladay should extend his streak tonight against a team he absolutely owns. How does 4-0 with an ERA of 0.93 sound? That's what Doc did to the Orioles last year, winning twice at Camden Yards and allowing just one earned run there in 14 IP. Batista has a lifetime .125 OBP against him, Conine .200, Gibbons .250, and so on. Some hot hitters may be about to cool off in Maryland.

There's no Shannon Stewart sighting yet, but "Ty" Johnson should be leading off anyway, after his magnificent Sunday, becoming the fourth hitter in 110 years to hit a leadoff HR and a walkoff in the same game. Dave Berg may also be less than 100% healthy, or his "occasional starter" status has been downgraded; Bordick's at 3B again and the O-Dog never rests. The Jays hitters, who held their own against Cubs starters Carlos Tosca called "animals," should enjoy the southpaw stylings of Omar Daal (opponents' AVG .323) for as long as he lasts, then get into a Baltimore bullpen that has a 7.23 ERA over its last 10 games, and has walked 53 batters in its last 121 innings. This could be fun.
We're finally here, Gentle Readers: The first three of nineteen -- count 'em, 19 -- games with our divisional opponent, the Orioles. Their hitting might cause a problem or two for the shakier members of the Jays' staff, but Baltimore's rotation might make the Toronto brain trust a little more forgiving in their critiques of the unbalanced schedule.

Offensively, the O's have surprised. The Flanagan/Beattie Franken-GM have preached patience at the plate, and most Orioles not named Deivi have responded. According to Peter Gammons, the Orioles gave up on Sarge's son because Gary Jr. wouldn't buy into the new philosophy.

And then there's Melvin Mora. There have been naysayers posting here at the Box, but I stand by the following: Mora has played like an All-Star, he will be an All-Star, and he should be an All-Star. Yeah, I was probably also one of the guys who guffawed when some "sucker" wound up with him in the 19th round of the rotisserie draft. But all Mora's done is work counts, rip line drives all over the field (and even out of the park on occasion), and supply reliable defence no matter where he's played.

But the Orioles have surrendered some serious hit totals, mostly from the starting staff; Oriole hurlers have been tagged to the tune of .280 by opposing hitters -- and they have yet to face the Jays!

Memorial Stadium and its "Oriole Magic" did in Toronto clubs time and again in the '80s, but Camden Yards has been one of the Jays' favourite opposition venues since it opened. Ponson will be a challenge in the shadows of Thursday's 3:00 matinee, but starts by Halladay and Escobar similar to what they've shown recently should get the Jays' road trip off to a flying start.

On to the Advance Scout!

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It's not quite the SI Cover Jinx (or, as Josh Phelps can attest, the Baseball Prospectus Cover Jinx), but getting noticed by Peter Gammons isn't always such a great thing. Pete has a tendency to highlight a team or player just after they've peaked, so the Jays had best hold on tight. Pete's latest column doesn't tell us much new, but it does have these two observations:

"We'll be prepared for whatever direction needs to be taken in another month," said Ricciardi. "Either way, this franchise has moved forward. If we can stay in it, the excitement and interest in the club will hasten our return to the days when the Jays were the No. 1 show in this town."

One hundred percent spot on. And then there's this beauty, which should be the talk of the local sports press for a few days:

Curt Schilling called a Toronto coach to tell him he'd like going to the Jays, but while Jerry Colangelo has to clean up his books this offseason, whether or not he'd trade Schilling (one GM rumor is to Atlanta) in July with Randy Johnson also coming back is questionable.

If you can unscramble the twisted grammar, there's a vintage Gammons trade rumour there for you. Take note: 99% of Pete's rumours are as sturdy and reliable as cheesecloth. This one, I think, will prove no exception.
Rosie DiManno of the Star is an acquired taste, and some people never acquire it. Personally, I find her work insightful and satisfying up until the point she gets self-conscious about her subject, which happens about half the time with baseball. But this is a fine piece on the Father's Day sleepover at the Dome on Saturday and Sunday. I wasn't there, of course, and I get borderline homicidal if I'm kept awake late at night anyway, but I'd be interested in hearing about the experience from anyone who did.
Many of Mike's fellow owners endorsed the Moffatt Plan of beating Snellville 11-1 last week, but something happened -- they played the games. The Gashouse Gorillas, still on fire, melted down the Reykjavik Fish Candy 8-3 to move 42 games over .500 and extend their lead to a dozen over my Toronto Walrus. Seems like every week, I win my match, only to lose ground in the standings. I'm not complaining; edging AGF 7-5, while Baird Brain and Billie's Bashers suffered rare defeats, gives me a bit of a cushion in second. Both Mebion Glyndwr and Red Mosquitos are charging into contention, with five teams now bunched within 2.5 games of third in the race to make the championship playoff round.
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The latest Baseball Prospectus Week In Quotes features this little gem from Roger Clemens, stating why he plans on going into the Hall of Fame with a Yankees cap:

"I became a Hall of Famer here... If I'd have listened to people there [in Boston], then I'd have been done. Not people. One person that evaluated my skills and he didn't take the time to get to know me."

Have the years 1997 and 1998 been completely erased from Clemens' memory?
Much better notes than mine are available, you know. Also, check out the Score Bard's main page for his "The Chat Wrap of J. Morgan Prufrock", possibly his greatest poem to date.
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An excellent series concludes this afternoon. I'm against interleague play for well-documented reasons, but I also dislike football scores, so this has been entertaining. Yesterday was the first time in over two weeks the Jays were held below five runs; an offensive explosion may be imminent. Shawn Estes is not as intimidating as Wood or Prior, and Cory Lidle, back on his regular routine, is due for a really good start.

It's the platoon lineup, except for Dave Berg, as O-Dog deserves to be in there every day now and lefty-killer Mike Bordick plays third. J-Zone (on Sportsnet right now for those with Canadian cable) has a Catalanotto feature and a look inside the Jays' "war room" on draft day.