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It was almost a clean sweep for the Jays’ farm teams last night, and had the Fisher Cats managed a little more extra-inning offence, so might it have been. But there were plenty of good stories emerging from last night’s action, including strong comeback performances from one prospect in Dunedin and two star-crossed big-name trade acquisitions in Syracuse.

Syracuse 9 Scranton-Wilkes-Barre 4

Blue Jays fans, I’d like to introduce you to someone you haven’t really met before: John-Ford Griffin, hot prospect. Two weeks ago, he was a disappointment who’d struggled with injuries and performance two straight years at Double-A. The former multiple-.400 hitter in college was 25 and was at the end of his prospect rope. But this morning, Griffin is hitting a cool .333/.405/.758, with 4 home runs in his first 8 games at Triple-A (albeit with a 4/11 BB/K rate in 33 AB), and people are starting to sit up and watch him more closely.

Is this just a hot start in a new league, or has Griffin finally figured something out? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear from the Skychiefs’ hitting coach on what, if anything, has changed. It’s obviously early, and Griffin is obviously old even for the International League. But if he has in fact figured something out, then maybe the Jays have some hitting help closer to the majors than they had imagined.

Griffin drove in 5 runs with a single and a homer last night, but he wasn’t the only hitting hero for the powerful Skychiefs. Aaron Hill, Eric Crozier and Andy Dominique also cracked round-trippers, with Hill also singling to raise his average to .316. Gabe Gross continued to find his stroke with a single, double and triple and two runs, bringing his BA to a respectable .273. Second baseman Bryant Nelson continued his torrid start with a double in 4 trips and finished the night at a cool .419.

Justin Miller was the beneficiary of all this offence, but he pitched well enough on his own, scattering 5 hits and 1 run over 4 innings, striking out 2 and walking nobody; he induced 8 groundballs, an excellent sign. The W actually went to Ryan Glynn, even though he allowed 2 runs in his 3 relief frames. And who’s that earning his first save by striking out 3 of the 5 batters he faced? Why, Jason Arnold, who has been a tandem-act with Griffin in trades from Oakland and New York. These two players' fortunes have tended to rise and fall together. Now, they're both hitting their stride, and Arnold has allowed 3 hits in his first 5 IP, struck out 8 and walked no one. Felipe Who?

Binghampton 5 New Hampshire 4 (12 innings)

On the bright side, the offence-starved Fisher Cats scored 3 runs in their first 2 innings last night, though one came on an error and another on a groundout. On the less bright side, the F-Cats then scored just 1 run in the final 10 innings as they fell in 12 frames. Second baseman Brad Hassey was New Hampshire’s best hitter on the night as he doubled, singled and walked, but that was about all the good news there was. Robert Cosby went 0-for-5 and Miguel Negron went 1-for-6; his average fell to .147. Big Vito is at .192.

What’s up with the Fisher Cats’ offence? There are some talented hitters in this lineup, but a number of them are making the jump from A-Ball and are struggling with the adjustment. Then there’s the fact that the Cats lost their new hitting coach, John Valentin, right before the season began, and the organization had to scramble to replace him. Whatever the cause, the Blue Jays need to think about acquiring some punch for this squad; bringing local favourite Justin Singleton back from Syracuse would be a popular move (though not necessarily with Singleton) and might be a good start, but ideally, the Cats would pick up a jump-starter from outside the organization, much as Anton French electrified Syracuse last season.

The pitching was pretty solid last night. Double-A veteran Cameron Reimers started and pitched decently, allowing 4 runs (though only 2 earned) in 5 innings on 8 hits and a walk, striking out 3. Steve Andrade and Josue Matos came on to provide 5 shutout innings of relief, combining to allow just 1 hit while striking out 7. Gerry McDonald tells the rest of the story: "In the twelfth, with two outs, Ryan Houston allowed a double. After running the count to 2-0 on the lefty, Jacobs, the Cats decided to walk him intentionally to face Prentice Redman. Redman hit a hard liner right at Raul Tablado; it bounced a couple of feet in front of him. Tablado assumed a big bounce, and he missed the ball by a foot, leading to the winning, unearned, run."

Dunedin 4 Fort Myers 1

Welcome back, Kurt Isenberg, at one time the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Jays’ system. And while that label said more about the state of the Jays’ system (before Jon Lalonde took two southpaws in the first round of the 2004 draft), Isenberg was pretty well regarded before a terrible Dunedin experience last summer saw him demoted to the South Atlantic League. His first start of 2005 was nothing special, but he turned in a beauty of a second start last night, firing a one-hit shutout over 6 innings, walking no one and whiffing 7 batters. A sign of things to come? The Jays sure hope so.

Three relievers followed Isenberg, with the save (his third) going to free-agent acquisition Milton Tavarez, who struck out 2 in a perfect 9th. Tavarez has averaged about one K per inning in his two pro seasons in the Boston organization, and at 23, is still young enough to be reasonably considered prospect. Despite one bad outing early in the season, he might be someone to keep half an eye on.

The D-Jays spread their offence evenly throughout the lineup; no batter had more than one hit, although 2B Ryan Roberts walked twice and singled, scoring 2 runs. Third baseman Scott Dragicevich’s double was the lone extra-base hit for Dunedin. Adam Lind’s RBI single in 5 trips dropped his average to .375.

Lansing 6 Beloit 4

Those Lugnuts just keep on rolling under their new Blue Jay affiliation. Young lefty Chi-Hung Cheng continued to impress, allowing just 1 earned run on 6 hits over 5 innings, striking out 5 and issuing no walks. In his first 10 innings of 2005, the 19-year-old has allowed 12 hits, walked nobody and struck out 13. In a nice change of pace, Cheng allowed no home runs in this game. Danny Hill struck out 2 in the 9th for his 4th save.

Catcher Curtis Thigpen and second baseman Jason Armstrong had the only multi-hit nights for Lansing, with Thigpen driving in 2 runs and Armstrong banging out a double and a single. RF Erik Nielsen doubled, walked twice and drove in 3 runs, while DH Joey Wolfe doubled in 4 trips, but struck out his other 3 trips to the plate.

Your Three-Star Selection:

3. Chi-Hung Cheng, Lansing: Five strong innings of 6-hit ball, allowing no walks and striking out 5.

2. Kurt Isenberg, Dunedin: Six shutout innings with 7 strikeouts and just 1 baserunner.

1. John-Ford Griffin, Syracuse: A three-run homer and a two-run single for the possibly-rejuvenated slugger.

Suddenly, That Trade Is Looking Better | 25 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Magpie - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 11:05 AM EDT (#111992) #
For some reason, JF Griffin is now reminding me of a LH Ron Kittle. Kittle was old for a rookie, struck out a lot, had some major defensive shortcomings - but for a few years there, he hit enough home runs that it was worth it. Griffin seems unlikely to become a star, but he's still got a chance for a career.
robertdudek - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#111995) #
Former Blue Jays farmhand pitcher Dave Gassner (included in the Stewart-Kielty trade) is making his first start/mlb debut for the Twins against the Indians.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 01:44 PM EDT (#111996) #
A little Saturday afternoon BBRadio from Binghamton. The Mets host the Fisher Cats. Kevin Deaten is on the mound for the Mets.

Top 1

Miguel Negron leads off and grounds out weakly to short.
Carlo Cota breaks his bat and grounds to Chase Lambin at third whose throw pulls the first baseman from the bag, but the sweep tag gets Cota.
Kevin Barker pops out to second.

0-0 going to the bottom of the first. Shaun Marcum is pitching today for the Fisher Cats.
Marc Hulet - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 01:46 PM EDT (#111997) #
I saw an interview with Griffin during spring training where he said he really worked on his batting stance during the offseason and made some adjustments. Hopefully that is what is causing the improved numbers and it's not just an early season fluke.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 01:48 PM EDT (#111998) #
Bottom of 1 from Binghamton:

Victor Hall leads off and grounds out to Big Vito at first unassisted.
Shortstop Anderson Hernandez grounds the ball over the mound, Cota, playing second today, snags it and makes a strong throw to get him.
Aaron Baldiris flies out to left.

3 up, 3 down for Marcum.

0-0 after 1 inning.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#111999) #
Top 2 AA:

Mikael Jova, batting cleanup, grounds out routinely to third.
Ron Davenport strikes out swinging on a 0-2 high heater.
Rob Cosby shoots the first pitch right back up through the box for a single.
Raul Tablado drills the 2-0 pitch to left for another single. Runners on first and second.
Big Vito up, gets ahead 3-1, and pops up to second baseman Baldiris in short centerfield.

0 runs, 2 hits.

0-0 after an inning and a half.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:02 PM EDT (#112000) #
Bottom 2 AA:

DH Mike Jacobs pops up into short leftfield, third baseman Cosby and shortstop Tablado give chase, but it falls in for a single.
Prentice Redman grounds it to Tablado right at the bag for the easy 6-3 DP.
Duncan lines out to Tablado.

0 runs 1 hit.

0-0 after 2.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#112001) #
Top 3:

Catcher Jose Umbria strikes out looking.
Miguel Negron strikes out swinging. He's off to a very poor start.
Carlo Cota lines a ball hard into the gap, but Duncan makes a fine running catch.

3 up, 3 down.

The trivia question of the day in Binghamton is: When the Blue Jays won their first World Series, who did they defeat? Just goes to show, one fan's trivia is another fan's essential knowledge...

0-0 going to the bottom of the third.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#112002) #
Bottom of 3 AA:

First baseman Jason Caligiuri pops up to Tablado.
Chase Lambin falls behind 0-2 and strikes out swinging on a curve for Marcum's 1st K.
Zach Clements falls behind 1-2, fouls off a couple of fastballs and then strikes out swinging on another curve.

3 up, 3 down.

Shaun Marcum is pitching well again today, but the Cats have yet to score a run in either of his starts. Fun fact: the entire Fisher Cat staff has walked 11 batters in 10 games.

0-0 after 3 innings.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:23 PM EDT (#112003) #
Top of 4 AA:

Kevin Barker walks on 4 pitches.
Mikael Jova grounds into a 4-6 fielder's choice.
Ron Davenport pops up to second.
Rob Cosby lines out to centre.

0 runs, 0 hits.

No score after 3 and a half innings.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:35 PM EDT (#112004) #
Bottom of 4:

Victor Hall lines a ball into the right-field corner for a double.

Anderson Hernandez bunts, Marcum fields and throws to first, but Cota is late covering and drops the ball anyways. First and third, nobody out. This will test Marcum's mettle.

On the 0-1 pitch to Aaron Baldiris, Hernandez goes and Umbria throws him out. Baldiris then strikes out on an 0-2 81 mph pitch with lots of movement (a slider?).

Marcum pitches carefully to DH Jacobs, goes to 2-2 and throws 2 balls just outside for a walk. First and third, 2 outs.

Prentice Redman grounds out weakly to Marcum on the first pitch.

0 runs, 2 hits.

0-0 after 4.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:40 PM EDT (#112006) #
Top of 5 AA:

Raul Tablado strikes out swinging.
Big Vito runs the count to 2-2, and then hits one high and deep to left centre, the leftfielder leaps and it's over his glove and off the wall. Vito coasts into second with a double.
Jose Umbria hits a lazy fly to right for the second out.
Miguel Negron (0-2 today) falls behind 0-2, takes one outside, and hammers it to center but right at him for the 3rd out.

0 runs 1 hit.

No score halfway home. I am good for another inning or so.
Stellers Jay - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:41 PM EDT (#112007) #
Sounds like another impressive start for Marcum. He works very conservatively with his pitches by pounding the strike zone. His last start out, he was threw 6 innings having only thrown 70 pitches.

What kind of pitch count are the AA starters on? Is is a strict 100 or would it be even less than that?
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#112008) #
Bottom of 5:

52 pitches through 4 innings for Marcum.

Jeff Duncan lines out to right on an 0-2 pitch.

Jay Caligiuri pops up in foul territory to third, Rob Cosby battles the sun unsuccessfully and the ball falls for an error. Caligiuri runs the count to 3-2 and then laces the ball down the left field line for a double.

Chase Lambin falls behind 0-2, takes 2 balls and then grounds out to Vito unassisted as Caligiuri moves to third with 2 out.

Zach Clements grounds out to Carlo Cota near the bag.

0 runs, 1 hit.

Scoreless after 5 innings.
Carson - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:55 PM EDT (#112009) #
Gassner had a pretty decent start, 6IP 3H 2R 1ER and only 1 walk but also only 1 strikeout. I guess that is what we would have expected in the strikeout department from him.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 03:04 PM EDT (#112010) #
Top of 6:

Carlo Cota lines a single to right.

Kevin Barker flies out to short center.

On a hit and run, Mikael Jova lines a single to right, Cota moves to third.

Ron Davenport fouls out to third.

Rob Cosby grounds weakly to short. Hernandez throws wide of second, all hands are safe. Cota scores, Jova to second. Cosby generously credited with a single.

Raul Tablado runs the count to 3-2, fouls three off, and then swings through the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

1 run, 3 hits for the F-Cats.

1-0 F-Cats after 5 and 1/2. Finally a run for Marcum. I'll finish the sixth.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 03:10 PM EDT (#112013) #
Bottom of 6:

Victor Hall leads off and grounds out to Big Vito.
Anderson Hernandez grounds back to the mound, Marcum boots it but pounces and throws off-balance to get him for the second out. That's what a former shortstop can do.
Aaron Baldiris grounds a ball down the left-field line. Davenport fields it, Baldiris heads for second and Davenport guns him down for the third out.

0 runs, 1 hit.

1-0 F-Cats after 6 innings. I've got to go.
Magpie - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 03:32 PM EDT (#112014) #
Thank you Mike. This Marcum guy... not bad.

Nice ball game going at Shea today. Pedro's home debut, and Al Leiter's return to Queens. Pedro struck out 9, but was down 2-1 after 7, when the bullpens took over. The Mets just tied it up.

Carson - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#112015) #
Not to mention Chris Woodward is playing LF for the Mets.
Magpie - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 03:51 PM EDT (#112017) #
Playing LF and hitting 5th, behind Beltran and Piazza.

The Marlins blew the lead, now the Mets have blown the lead. Tied at 3 heading for the bottom of the 9th.

Stellers Jay - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 05:33 PM EDT (#112019) #
NH ended up winning 6 - 1. Marcum picked up his first AA win pitching 7 1/3 surrendering only 1 run. Vermilyea cleaned up the rest and picked up his first save of the year.
R Billie - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 06:09 PM EDT (#112022) #
7.1 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 1 homerun was the final tally for Marcum. It seems like he drew a lot of contact early in the count today as he pitched fairly deep for a guy who threw just 70 pitches or so last time out.

Chris Baker was the starter for Syracuse and finally pitched a nice game at AAA. 6 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts. The bullpen picked up the win though. Aaron Hill was 2 for 4 to push his average to .333 though he struck out a couple of times as well.
rtcaino - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 06:18 PM EDT (#112023) #
How is McGowan doing so far? Has he started yet?
R Billie - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 06:43 PM EDT (#112024) #
I haven't heard anything one way or the other on McGowan. I assume that he's still on schedule to start pitching in May sometime throwing fastballs and changeups until he builds enough arm strength and confidence to throw breaking balls.
Stellers Jay - Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 07:15 PM EDT (#112027) #
McGowan is still in extended spring training.
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