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The Blue Jays jumped all over Kevin Millwood with a five-run first and never looked back as they walloped a Cleveland split squad 12-9 in a game that was more one-sided than the score might indicate. The boxscore is available here.

In the discussion following yesterday's Game Report, there was speculation that perhaps Gabe Gross is bearing down early in spring training to show that the plan mooted by the team to send him to Syracuse to begin the year would be a mistake. If there's a fire lit under Gross, it certainly continued to burn yesterday as he pulled a Millwood fastball to right center for a first-inning home run that capped the inning. The homer was his third of the spring in six trips to the plate; later in the second inning against David Riske, Gross worked the count taking pitches for Alex Rios to steal second, then worked a walk after fouling off a number of pitches, displaying the kind of tough, tenacious at-bats that the Jays say they are looking for this season.

We'll get back to Gross later. Having spotted Miguel Batista a five-run lead, the Jays sat back somewhat. El Artista didn't disappoint in his two-inning stint, with a strikeout of Alex Cora, several softly-hit outs (he had to get seven outs as John MacDonald bobbled a grounder for an error in the first) and no hits. Following Batista from the bullpen, ladies and gentlemen, your 2005 Syracuse SkyChiefs. Chad Gaudin pitched two innings, giving the Indians their first run in the fourth. Ryan Glynn was better in the fifth, and got a nice two-out strikeout of Coco Crisp with a runner looming on third. The rest of the Syracuse pen, though, was forgettable. Having surrendered just three hits to the Indians through five innings, the Jays gave up twelve in the last four innings. At least the pen was symmetrical - perhaps in an effort to forestall any blame - as Burnside, Nannini, Perkins, and Matt Whiteside each surrendered three hits in an inning of work apiece.

In the interim, though, with your 2005 Syracuse SkyChiefs having largely taken over in the field as well as on the mound, the Jays found it in them to plate some more runs. Four came in the eighth, as Cleveland's hot young relief prospect Fernando Cabrera came in to face the Jays and fell apart. Anton French walked and then, in a valiant, aggressive and frankly fresh piece of baserunning, went first-to-third on a bouncer into left field by Guillermo Quiroz. Cue the sound of Cabrera falling to pieces - Justin Singleton walked to load the bases, Raul Tablado walked, Bryant Nelson let Cabrera off the hook by popping out on a 2-0 pitch, but then Alex Rios pulled a liner to left centre to score two runs. Eric Wedge (or his managerial designate; the Cleveland broadcasters never got around to telling us who was manning the Tribe dugout) had seen enough and Jake Robbins came in from the bullpen. Robbins gave up a further RBI single to Julius Matos but retired the side.

This is worthy of comment, because it reflects (indirectly) something about John Gibbons, his coaching staff, and the ethos of this Blue Jays club. In the bottom of that very inning, the eighth, wild young fireballer Vince Perkins took the mound. Like Cabrera, Perkins immediately ran into trouble, his control so poor that the broadcasters spoke of it after every pitch. Perkins hit Andy Abad, and then (he'll see this in his bad dreams for the next month) fell behind 3-0 to Kevin Kouzmanoff, a third baseman dstined for AA. After taking a strike, Kouzmanoff launched Perkins' next pitch over the centerfield bleachers. Four hundred and thirty feet was the conservative estimate of the Indians broadcast crew. And as with Cabrera, Perkins fell to pieces. John Rodriguez bashed a double, and Jhonny Peralta walked.

At this point, with Whiteside getting ready and the Indians radio team dusting off their Nuke LaLoosh jokes, it might have made sense to do what the Tribe had done in the top of the inning and pull the kid who was getting shelled. Instead, Perkins stayed in to face Dusty Wathan, and got him to fly out He then struck out Jose Morban; and although Perkins gave up a run-scoring single, it was the end of the damage and he escaped the inning with the lead, pitching his own way out of his own trouble by striking out the impressive Franklin Gutierrez.

Why is this worthy of comment? Look at the difference between what happened to Cabrera and what happened to Perkins. Perkins learned something from today's ordeal; he got himself under control in a tough situation, responded to adversity, and could leave the game knowing he got to finish what he started, even if he did surrender a third run. The next time he's on the mound, with the home run surrendered and a threat building, he will remember where he reached to against the Indians - to find the calm to get the ball over the plate with authority, and claim two tough strikeouts. Cabrera - no such confidence builder. He was yanked and then saw someone else surrender his fourth run, without having had the chance to finish his planned inning. The next time he faces his situation, he's going to be looking into the dugout.

It's a small thing, sure, in the context of a spring. It's a small thing in the context of Vince Perkins' development. But if the Blue Jays continue to let their young players make their own mistakes and earn their own triumphs, those players will respond - sometimes with collapse and failure, sometimes with tenacity, sometimes with grace under pressure. Raul Tablado is responding to adversity in his own way; with eyes on him following last year's suspension near the end of the Florida State League season, Tablado crashed a long three-run homer in the ninth inning after his crucial eighth-inning walk and the rout was back on.

Gabe Gross has responded this spring in his own way, too. Is there any doubt that play like this, toughness like this, tenacity like this, should be rewarded? Gross needs to be given the chance to play his way onto this team (preferably without having to hit a home run a game, but he may do that anyway). He is, of course, leading the Grapefruit League in home runs. That and a dollar will buy him a Diet Slice, sure -- I'm equally impressed with the way he's working the count as with where his swings have ended up. The Jays must be flexible enough to play him if his play demands it. The Jays have to let Gabe Gross know it too.

Too many times, last year, this team and its members reacted to the adverse, or the unknown, with fear. Josh Phelps, the first baseman of the future, never played the position - because the manager was afraid he'd make a mistake. Adam Peterson, shown adversity at the major league level, became afraid to throw a strike. The normally aggressive general manager, knowing full well that the future of this team lies with its young players, is afraid of playing too many rookies at once. So talented young players will be made to wait their turn.

Vince Perkins might be able to remind him tonight, if he can forget about Kevin Kouzmanoff, that he has nothing to fear except fear itself.

Spring Training Game Report 4 Blue Jays 12, Indians (ss) 9 | 30 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Dave Till - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 07:33 AM EST (#105079) #

Gabe Gross has responded this spring in his own way, too. Is there any doubt that play like this, toughness like this, tenacity like this, should be rewarded? Gross needs to be given the chance to play his way onto this team (preferably without having to hit a home run a game, but he may do that anyway).

I'm glad to hear that Gross is doing well, but I think it's too early to make decisions. The pitchers are still rounding into spring shape, and some of them may just be throwing fastballs to air their arms out. My recollection may be faulty, but I seem to recall that Simon Pond was hitting up a storm this time last year.

I'm not worried about Gross, or the Jays' handling of him. If he continues to hit like this, the Jays will not let him rot in Syracuse.

Gerry - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 08:56 AM EST (#105085) #
It is always better, for a player, to be hot early in spring training rather than late. If Gross was playing for the Sparky Anderson Tigers, it would be about know that Sparky would declare him the next Mickey Mantle. Then by the time the regular season started Gross would no longer be hot, he would hit .200 for April and be back in AAA.

The point is Gross could have finally "got it", or he could be on a hot streak and will cool off next week. We need more than four games to figure out which one it is.
kpataky - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 09:07 AM EST (#105086) #
Scott Downs will be the starter for the split team that travels down to Ft. Myers to play the Twins today. Looks like David Bush will start the home game for the other half against the Phillies.
Mike Green - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 09:20 AM EST (#105087) #
Very nicely said, Craig. The specific point isn't whether Gross is ready or not, but that he's at the stage where he should not be handed a ticket to Syracuse before spring training begins. The more general point about managing and taking risks and the importance of integrating young players cannot be overstated. It's going to come up with Chacin, Vermilyea, Banks and the rest all too soon.
dp - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 09:37 AM EST (#105089) #
I know I'm drunk with spring training glee (and nothing else- not at this hour), but I'll restate my prediction:

If Gross gets 300+ PA, he'll have a better OPS than Hillenbrand and Rios...
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:01 AM EST (#105092) #
Better than both of them put together, or better than either one of them individually?

And is it just me, or is there a wager to be had in that statement?
Braby21 - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:02 AM EST (#105093) #
No Links yesterday and today? Can we go back to the way that Moffat did the 2nd game report. I thought that it was the "template" for future Game Reports?
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:21 AM EST (#105096) #
We're currently having a discussion about what's happening with the links. It's a somewhat contentious issue.

In the meantime, feel free to MYOR in the game report threads.
Dave Till - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:41 AM EST (#105097) #

Very nicely said, Craig. The specific point isn't whether Gross is ready or not, but that he's at the stage where he should not be handed a ticket to Syracuse before spring training begins.

Here's what I worry might happen:

  1. Gross wins the job, and one of the vets is punted off the 25-man to make room.
  2. Gross turns out just to have been on a hot streak, and reverts back to his 2004 form.
  3. The Jays now have even less talent at the corner spots than they did previously.

Of course, I agree that Gross deserves a full shot. But I'd want to be convinced that he is genuinely the best man for the job before I cleared space for him.

For me, the best solution is to have depth on the roster. Earl Weaver would have solved this problem by keeping a file of index cards; he would have gotten at-bats for everybody, in the situations in which they were most likely to succeed.

And, given the Jays' recent injury history, I want the team to have four quality outfielders available. Or five. Or 11.

Flex - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:02 AM EST (#105100) #
"We're currently having a discussion about what's happening with the links. It's a somewhat contentious issue."

Sounds like someone has their knickers in a twist, worrying about their vision for the site being corrupted. As a longtime magazine editor, I understand the impulse. But, for what it's worth, I learned it's usually a mistake to stick to your vision at the expense of your readers' wants and needs.

People like what they like. Why fight it?
Jordan - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:04 AM EST (#105101) #
What I don't understand about the reluctance to play too many rookies is: what rookies?

Russ Adams will be a first-year player in 2005, though he certainly looked good in a September tryout. Brandon League and Gus Chacin, if they both make the team, will be rookies -- but both shouldn't make the team, and I'd much rather see League in the Syracuse rotation. Abd that's all. Alex Rios will be a second-year player in 2005, as will David Bush; neither seemed particularly jittery in their 2004 debuts. Guillermo Quiroz is, at the very least, half a year away from the bigs.

Put differently: here's the major-league experience of the likely opening day lineup, rotation and bullpen:

C 10 years (Zaun)
1B 3 years (Hinske)
2B 3 years (Hudson)
SS Rookie (Adams)
3B 7 years (Koskie)
LF 8 years (Catalanotto)
CF 3 years (Wells) (and parts of 3 more)
RF 1 year (Rios)
DH 4 years (Hillenbrand)

SP 6 years (Halladay)
SP 4 years (Lilly) (and parts of 2 more)
SP 7 years (Batista) (and parts of 3 more)
SP 1 year (Bush)
SP 4 years (Towers)

RP 7 years (Speier)
RP 1 year (Frasor)
RP 6 years (Schoeneweis)
RP 7 years (Ligtenberg)
RP 6 years (Koch)
RP Rookie (League)

That alignment, which is as likely as any, features 9 players with 6 or more years' experience and only 5 with 1 year or less. Giving Gabe Gross the left-field job in 2005 would not change the fact that veterans greatly outnumber greenhorns on this squad.

Now, there are good reasons not to start Gross in Toronto in April 2005 -- he did struggle in his first exposure to the bigs (as expected), and it would do him good to re-establish his confidence at Triple-A this spring after his poor September in Toronto. But neither of those reasons has anything to do with the number of rookies on the 2005 Blue Jays, a team already well-stocked with veterans. In fact, with 2006 likely to see the full-time debuts of Guillermo Quiroz, Aaron Hill, Francisco Rosario and maybe even Josh Banks, 2005 is exactly the season to let Gross get his feet wet.

Gabe's hot start in Dunedin is nice but meaningless. Two weeks from now, when he's 0-for-16 against big-league pitchers refining their stuff, the talk of bringing him north will have died down. Frank Catalanotto is under contract to play left field at Rogers Center, and that's where he'll start 2004. Gross will be in Toronto when he's ready, and I still say that'll be no later than Victoria Day. But let's not cloud the issue by bringing rookies, or the lack of rookies, into it.
Joe - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:08 AM EST (#105102) #
MYOR is always an option, and a good one. Here's a template for it, a sort of starting point:

  • The CBC has a story about Tom Cheek, "Cheek returns to broadcast booth," in which they say that Tom won't be participating in every broadcast due to his chemotherapy.
  • Steve Simmons writes about Delgado's apparent unwillingness to run out ground balls (which Delgado was he watching, anyways?) in "Dollars, no sense."
  • Larry Millson talks about how Terry Ryan's Twins once envied the Jays and their 4 million fans, but now the tables have turned: "Twins an inspiration for the Jays."
Mike Green - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:17 AM EST (#105103) #
How about looking at this another way, Dave?

Compare Gabe Gross and Russ Adams. Gross has been a significantly better hitter than Adams throughout his minor league career. In a little over 100 ABs in the majors last year, Gross hit .210 with a little power and pretty good plate discipline. Adams hit .306/.358/.529 in 72 major league at-bats.

Now, when it comes to expectations for Adams, we intone "small sample size" a few times and say ".270/.340/.400". We do not expect him to slug .500. Why can't we do the same thing for Gross and say ".270/.350/.430"? That's roughly what ZIPS and PECOTA say, if we need comfort.

As for carrying five outfielders (including Catalanotto), I'm right with you. That would probably necessitate an 11 man pitching staff, which would be OK with me, but probably is not going to happen.
Ryan B. - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:18 AM EST (#105104) #
I agree that we need to see more of Gross before any type of opinion should be formed. If he is still hitting like this at the end of the month then we can start talking about him making the team and forcing Cat to the bench/DH.

On another note I'd like to remind everyone the Jays/Yanks game is on Sportsnet this Thursday at 7 p.m est.

Also, one month from today is the Jays home opener! I can't wait!!!
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:27 AM EST (#105108) #
Sounds like someone has their knickers in a twist, worrying about their vision for the site being corrupted. As a longtime magazine editor, I understand the impulse. But, for what it's worth, I learned it's usually a mistake to stick to your vision at the expense of your readers' wants and needs.

People like what they like. Why fight it?

Actually, it's more like "who's going to do it and where will we put it".

It's a real issue if we have a lot of original content pushed off the front page by threads that are just links to other pages. At the same time, we need a new roundup thread daily during the season. So that means that the roundups alone will push Monday's content off the page by Wednesday, for sure.

In addition, no one wants to write a carefully thought out piece to have discussion of it drowned out by Look What Griffin Said Today in the comments, which is why the hybrid Game Report - Roundup won't fly.

On top of that, people seem unwilling to MYOR, even when given the links to the regular sources, which means that one of us must trawl for links, and we have to find someone who can do that between the time that the new articles are put online in the morning and about 9:00, when people arrive at work/school and begin clamoring for them. This is the hardest part.

One suggestion was to set up an automated system to post a new Roundup thread daily that does not appear on the front page as an article, but just as a link in the sidebar. That way it would be accessible but not push original content off of the front page. But still, that would be a MYOR unless someone wanted to volunteer to gather links and post them every morning.

How's that sound? Any takers?

Craig B - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:53 AM EST (#105115) #
Here's what I worry might happen: 1. Gross wins the job, and one of the vets is punted off the 25-man to make room. 2. Gross turns out just to have been on a hot streak, and reverts back to his 2004 form. 3. The Jays now have even less talent at the corner spots than they did previously.

Gross's 2004 form (taking into account his whole year) wasn't any worse than two of the veterans who have been handed a job wihout having to compete for it. I don't see how giving Gross a chance to compete for a job jeopardizes the talent the Jays have at the corners; of the three guys they have pencilled in at those spots, only one is out of options.

It's not that I mind sending Gross to Syracuse, necessarily. If he needs to work on something, if he's going to otherwise rot at the end of the bench, or if he's just plain not ready, I think he should go. But I would draw the line at saying to a player who's obviously close to being the best corner OF you've got, that he has no realistic chance of making the team before spring begins. I think it sends the wrong message - not only to him, but to the underperforming veterans at his position.

In the end, Dave, worrying about the possibility that you'll have to get rid of Reed Johnson and that it'll sap your talent base - what sort of talent base have you got? If Gross flails along even at his 2004 major league pace (which I wouldn't like to see happen, I'll admit) it's not going to cost you more than a win (two at the very most) compared to what Reed Johnson will do for you.

It comes down to whether you're going to be ruled by fear, and the worry that somehow you'll have to scrounge a reserve outfielder from somewhere, or whether you're going to be ruled by hope, and embrace the idea that Gross might develop, with the right handling, into someone you'll want around for the rest of the decade.

Flex - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:54 AM EST (#105116) #
A link that isn't an article won't have the same "gather round the old campfire" feel, I submit.

Fair enough that people are concerned about hard work going unnoticed. For a couple of years I edited a TV magazine and poured tons of effort into front-section stories that people just flipped past to get to the listings.

One trick I discovered was to make the listings interact with the stories. So when people looked up their show, if we'd done an article that touched on it, they found a flag next to the listing pointing them to the article.

You don't have quite the same problem here, because people WANT to read those long thoughtful pieces and do. They may not always, however, be the sorts of pieces that generate lots of comment and debate, the way a Griffin article does. That doesn't mean people don't love the stories.

I think there's room for both.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:00 PM EST (#105118) #
A link that isn't an article won't have the same "gather round the old campfire" feel, I submit.

Well, the only difference between it and a "regular" article would be that it wouldn't appear on the front page as a feature. It would be laid out on a page just like what you see if you click on Game Reports to the left -- a page of just those threads.

Ducey - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:20 PM EST (#105122) #
Hank: I would be happy just with a list of links somewhere like there was before - then I can do my own trawling. MYOR is fine for me. I marveled at Moffatt's dedication last year in doing the daily Roundups and would not expect anyone to do the same this year. Besides, due to their overuse last year, cuttlefish are now probably an endangered species

The links were also handy in coming up with info for comments, thereby improving the level of discussion.

Mylegacy - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:27 PM EST (#105124) #
Craig B, TWO things.

ONE; Links shimks. We can find our own, go to slam.canoe.ca then click on baseball. Most of the articles about the Jays are there.

TWO; I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed your report about the game!

Three; There is no three.
Dave Till - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:35 PM EST (#105129) #

It comes down to whether you're going to be ruled by fear, and the worry that somehow you'll have to scrounge a reserve outfielder from somewhere, or whether you're going to be ruled by hope

I just want to not see Dave Berg, or the equivalent, in left field ever again.

Sparky isn't the problem, actually; he could platoon with Gross, or he could stay on the bench as the 4th or 5th outfielder. I guess the big question is whether Gross should be moved ahead of Cat on the roster depth chart. Me, I want all of them, if I can have them, with Gibbons mixing and matching them to put them in situations in which they are likely to succeed.

Now, when it comes to expectations for Adams, we intone "small sample size" a few times and say ".270/.340/.400". We do not expect him to slug .500. Why can't we do the same thing for Gross and say ".270/.350/.430"?

That's an easy question to answer: the Jays don't have any options that are better than Adams. Hill is a year away. Besides, outfielders are expected to hit more than shortstops.

If Gross is clearly better than Cat, he should take Cat's job; that's a given. But I don't want to give Gross the job until it's clear that this is the case. I don't think it is yet. It's too early in spring training. (And I don't want to punt Hillenbrand and move Cat to DH, as Shea is cover for third and first.)

Craig B - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:54 PM EST (#105131) #
I just want to not see Dave Berg, or the equivalent, in left field ever again.

Dave, I think we can all agree that this is necessary to preserve our sanity, yes.

As for roster construction, this is what makes it such a delicate balancing act. If the balance that needs to be struck is Shea vs. Cat vs. Gross, I'm all for giving them each 2/3 of a job and seeing who prevails. But that in itself presumes there's room for all three on the roster. If the Jays are determined to carry 12 pitchers from the get-go, there might not be. As I think I said above, I can handle Gross losing out in a numbers game. I just can't abide the idea that on a team with as far to go as the Jays, the April roster is set in stone on March 1.

Craig B - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:56 PM EST (#105132) #
Mylegacy, five things. No, three.

One, thank you.

Two, we're trying to come up with something to please everyone. And yes, we know that we can't actually do that.

Five, there is no fifth thing. I mean third thing.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:04 PM EST (#105139) #
A-ha! It was CRAIG who determined the .340 winning percentage!
Gitz - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:08 PM EST (#105145) #
No, Craig is still waiting for the Jays to play 1,984 games under J.P. before he comes up with a winning percentage.
binnister - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 02:34 PM EST (#105186) #
Random Thoughts:

Why no threads on the Blue Jays 2 Spring Training games??

Why no 'Round Up' threads?

Heck, why no 'Make Your Own Round Up' threads?

Please, bring back to the Batter's Box the things that drew me to the Batter's Box in the first place.
Mike Green - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 03:21 PM EST (#105205) #

Here's an interesting article on Arnsberg's pitching philosophy, with support from A.J. Burnett.

Dave Till - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 04:08 PM EST (#105224) #

I just can't abide the idea that on a team with as far to go as the Jays, the April roster is set in stone on March 1.

Sounds like we're not far apart: you don't want to hand the LF job to Gross right away, and I agree that he should be given a chance to make the club.

I was thinking about this at lunch, and realized that I don't really have a clue whether spring games are a useful tool for evaluating young players. If a young player has a hot spring, has he improved in the offseason due to becoming closer to his physical peak, or is it just a fluke? I can't tell from where I am.

I found spring stats for the Jays, on the USA Today site, for 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001, for anyone who is less lazy than me and is inclined to try to draw any conclusions (if any can be drawn).

Check out Kerry Ligtenberg's 2004 spring numbers (and, sadly, Greg Myers's).

Craig B - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:31 PM EST (#105251) #
I don't think you can draw too many useful conclusions from spring stats. I think you can draw a lot of useful conclusions from what a player does in spring, but not necessarily from whether he hits .200 or .400. The sample sizes aren't exceedingly meaningful, and the circumstances are not very regular.

As for the 2004 editions of Ligtenberg and Myers, I am entirely unsurprised that spring training stats are unable to predict future injuries. :)

I will say this; Gabe Gross now has as many home runs this spring as any Blue Jay has in an entire spring training all the way back to 2001 (when Delgado hit eight). That's pretty good, and he's clearly seeing the ball well, and he's been working very well in his other at-bats as well.
Thomas - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:43 PM EST (#105256) #
Pond was hot last spring, but that never translated into MLB success. Berg and Hermanson were less so, and it was a foreshadowing of things to come.

I really doubt there's substantial patterns that can be drawn from spring data. For every player who rakes and shows that he's ready for MLB playing time, there's probably another one or two who do and are simply beating up on AA and low-quality Triple-A pitching.
Spring Training Game Report 4 Blue Jays 12, Indians (ss) 9 | 30 comments | Create New Account
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