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One week ago, the Blue Jays defeated the Devil Rays 5-0 in Grapefruit League action. Yesterday, exactly one week to the day, the Blue Jays lost to the Twins 5-0. Coincidence? Yes.

Positive signs for the Jays were limited to the starting rotation, as Roy Halladay posted his strongest spring performance yet. He allowed just 1 run on 4 hits in 4 innings, walking no one and striking out 3. The run came on a pair of back-to-back doubles in his final inning of work, and it wouldn't surprise me if Doc simply threw a couple of hanging change-ups or other standby pitches there just to get some work in. Excellent news for Toronto.

The bullpen did not shine, particularly. Brandon League walked a couple and struck out a couple while yielding a run; for the record, he does not belong in Toronto on Opening Day. Miguel Batista allowed a run on a pair of 9th-inning hits, but he did strike out the side -- although it's worth noting that his victims were the decidely un-Murderer's Row-esque Todd Dunwoody, Andy Fox and Jason Tyner.

The offence was shut down by defending Cy Young winner Johan Santana and a gaggle of relievers, including intriguing young arm Scott Baker, who whiffed three Jays (including red-hot Babe Gross) and allowed just a looping base hit in 2 frames. Not much else to say there.

To help pass the time before we can all quit the office and hit the pubs for St. Patrick's Day, here's the first edition of an occasional feature I'm going to drop into Da Box over the course of the season: Three Things.

Three Players The Jays Need To Step Up in 2005

1. Eric Hinske. This one is, of course, obvious. The Blue Jays would have needed a big comeback season from Hinske even if he were still manning third; as a first baseman, his offence is even more sorely needed. Hinske's awful 2004 campaign would have placed him a distant DFL among AL first basemen. To reach median status among '04 1B, he would need to finish this coming year somewhere between Kevin Millar (.297/.383/.474) and Tino Martinez (.262/.362/.461) -- roughly, a .280/.370/.465 line. Hey, what do you know -- in his rookie season, Hinske hit .279/.365/.481. Hitting coach Mike Barnett has been working with Hinske this spring, adjusting his stance and his approach at the plate. A rebound by Hinske isn't an optional would-be-nice thing for Toronto -- it's required.

2. Alex Rios. Much has been made of Rios' lone major-league home run in more than 400 at-bats in 2004; the prevailing wisdom is that he needs to add more power. And indeed he does, but it's not like Rios was a slap-hitting singles hitter in his big-league debut. He cracked 24 doubles and 7 triples in 426 AB; pro-rated over 600 AB, that works out to 33 doubles and 10 triples. Rios added 15 pounds over the winter, and the ball has reportedly been jumping off his bat in BP this spring. It's going to be a while before that extra muscle translates to round-trippers -- it takes time for a player to adjust mechanically to a new body type -- but I expect a lot of extra-base line drives. I'll predict right here that Rios will finish 2005 with 55 combined doubles and triples.

3. Justin Speier. This might seem like an odd choice, since Speier wasn't considered part of the problem last season: a 3.91 ERA and 7 saves don't seem so bad. But Speier was largely ineffective in the first half of the season as he struggled with nagging injuries. The Jays need Speier to perform in 2005 the way he did in the second half of 2004: opponents batted just .219 off him as he posted a stingy 2.70 ERA, striking out 31 hitters in 36 innings. Speier has been a stand-up team-first guy this spring, but he's fully aware that if the Miguel Batista closer experiment fails, Speier will be the first person to whom management will turn to take over that role. Even if Batista thrives as closer, the Blue Jays need Speier to be rock-solid as a setup man. With the early-season bullpen options thinning behind him, Speier has to step up and deliver a power performance to start the season.

A few Roundup items for you today:

Geoff Baker talks to John-Ford Griffin about his family baseball connections.

Mike Rutsey says Gustavo Chacin might have identified a mechanical flaw in his delivery and that Ted Lilly is cautiously optimistic about his shoulder but still might miss Opening Day.

Spencer Fordin confirms Lilly's status and describes the tutoring of Russ Adams by none other than Mike Bordick.

John Manuel provides Baseball America's preview of the top draft-eligible collegiate corner infielders -- remember the names Alex Gordon and Ryan Zimmerman when the Jays' #6 overall pick comes up next June.

Spring Training: Twins 5, Jays 0 | 24 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Spartan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 10:08 AM EST (#106456) #
Someone posted on the forum that Koskie was hurt. The guy said it was a groin thing and that Koskie would be out for a few days. Has anyone have any info on this, as I haven't heard of it from another source.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 10:32 AM EST (#106458) #
It was in the Globe and Mail this morning -- it's been ongoing for the last five games, just some groin tightness. That's why he hasn't played lately.

I remember reading about it a couple of days ago, too.
jim854 - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 10:57 AM EST (#106460) #
Just heard on the news here in Florida that Billy Koch has been released by the Jays. Its too bad - he is a character but he pitched poorly here both at the intrasquad games and the spring games. Hope he catches on elsewhere.
Ducey - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 11:30 AM EST (#106463) #
This means the Jays just have to pay a part of Koch's salary right?
Pistol - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 11:35 AM EST (#106465) #
It was reported as a guaranteed contract so unless that was wrong the Jays would be on the hook for the entire contract.
Mike Green - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 11:41 AM EST (#106467) #

The Monster Dick Radatz passed away yesterday. He was a little before my time in baseball, but he was an icon. Big man, big fastball.

Mike Green - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 11:46 AM EST (#106468) #

The Devil Rays sent B.J. Upton to the minors. Anyone know what the story here is?

Jdog - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 11:51 AM EST (#106469) #
Doesn't Tampa Bay have a reputation of keeping their young guys in the minors as long as possible!! umm ya ...
Ryan Day - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 12:41 PM EST (#106472) #
If I had to guess, I'd say the Rays don't like Upton's defence. When you don't want to play your top prospect at his natural position, there's probably something going on.
Ryan01 - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 01:04 PM EST (#106476) #
I believe they've been planning on sending Upton back to triple-A for a while now. The bat is ready but the defense isn't and obviously they'd like to see him stay at shortstop.

Besides, Upton has struggled this spring and Alex Gonzalez is off to one of his infamous hot starts where he looks like he's finally put it all together only to burn out in May.
Mick Doherty - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 02:19 PM EST (#106484) #
Koch's most comparables per BBRef, aka "flameout row":

Mark Wohlers (962)
Stan Belinda (959)
Danny Graves (949)
Jason Isringhausen (943)
Jay Powell (942)
Robb Nen (939)
Ricky Bottalico (938)
Bobby Thigpen (933)
Xavier Hernandez (932)
Mel Rojas (931)

That does not bode well for the '05 Reds or Cardinals.
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 02:24 PM EST (#106485) #
His Pecota comparables are pretty similar:

1. Joe Boever (1991)
2. Ricky Bottalico (2000)
3. Jerry Johnson (1974)
4. Brian Boehringer (1999)
5. Dwayne Henry (1992)
6. Gregg Olson (1997)
7. Sammy Stewart (1985)

[insert 150 words about Sammy Stewart here]
Jordan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 02:35 PM EST (#106487) #
Koch might have a hard time catching on elsewhere. It's a real shame, because he had the million-dollar arm; he just couldn't pull it together. Beware the first-round-drafted pitcher, be it college or high school. The Jays are now 1-for-3 in the last 12 years (Halladay up, Koch and Carpenter down) -- David Purcey and Zach Jackson, you're on deck.
Flex - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 02:45 PM EST (#106488) #
Koch and Carpenter both made good on their promise, if more briefly than we could have hoped. But I would say it's wrong to suggest they were failures.

I posted the Tom Cheek news in the other thread, but thought I'd mention it here -- he's had a cancer setback. According to the Fan it looks like he needs more surgery, and he won't be doing play-by-play even at home games to begin the season.
Anders - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 02:59 PM EST (#106491) #
About Upton - It was my understanding that he was going to breal with the big club. His bat is ready and his defense isnt, and I guess TB thinks its important enough to have him work on it.

Given that at age 19 he had a better season than A-Rod did, I'm sure BJ will be back up before too long.
Jordan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 03:20 PM EST (#106495) #
Probably I'm being unfair to Carpenter. It wasn't his fault the Jays rushed him to the majors. Really, the Jays' handling of their Big Three -- Carpenter, Escobar and Halladay -- is a pretty classic example of How Not To Develop Pitchers. They got lucky with Doc, but Escobar got it together just about the time he became too expensive, and Carpenter never did sort himself out entirely.

That is, of course, bad news about Tom. I know I speak for everyone at Batter's Box when I wish him courage and stength in facing this latest challenge.
Rich - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 03:26 PM EST (#106500) #
I agree with Flex on this one. Koch saved 163 games in his career, and Carpenter has won 64 games, pitched just over 1000 innings, and will probably win some more (though he will also spend a lot more time on the DL as well).

Just because they didn't turn into Mulder and Zito doesn't make them failures as number 1 picks. It would be an interesting exercise to look at each franchise's last 3 first-round drafted pitchers to see if any other club did much better than Doc, Koch, and Carpenter. I'd bet there aren't many.
Mike Green - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 03:39 PM EST (#106503) #

I think Jordan's point was not that the Jays did particularly poorly with their 1st round pitchers, but that it is always a gamble. Here is Mike Moffatt's listing of all the 6th overall draft picks of the last 30 years. As you can see, the pitchers have done spectacularly badly. One in three would be a very good return from this group.

So, you're both right. 1st round pitching selections are notoriously risky, and the Jays did pretty well compared with the average with Halladay, Koch and Carpenter.

King Ryan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 04:33 PM EST (#106513) #
I'm a bit surprised they just outright released Koch. I thought they'd place him on waivers first and hope someone would bite, and then if not maybe send him to Syracuse. Or did they try this?

Paying a guy 900k not to pitch for you seems a tad harsh, but I guess if it's the only option...
Ryan01 - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 05:28 PM EST (#106518) #
Well they did have to pass Koch through release waivers and nobody claimed him. As a player with 3+ years experience in the majors he has the right to declare free agency if they try to send him to Syracuse. So the Jays would still be on the hook for the money either way.

If he does accept assignment to Syracuse then you're guaranteed to be stuck paying him the full amount. If he plays in the majors with another team then the new team pays him the league minimum while the Jays only pay the difference. So if Koch can find another team to play for then at least the Jays recoup about $300,000.
Nolan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 05:52 PM EST (#106527) #
Has anyone heard anything about a potential Rios/Gross platoon?

I swear I read that at some website 10 minutes ago and now I cannot remember where- it is irritating the junk out of me.

Anyone heard anything like this?
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 08:06 PM EST (#106543) #
Hehe, yeah, it was in today's Game Thread.
Nolan - Thursday, March 17 2005 @ 09:01 PM EST (#106547) #
Wow, I feel a bit foolish now.

Spring Training: Twins 5, Jays 0 | 24 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.