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Blown leads were the order of the day in the Blue Jays organization, as two of their minor-league affiliates copied the Toronto bullpen in coughing up one-run leads late. At least Dunedin managed to eke out a messy win afterwards -- but that was the only W anywhere in the organization last night, because the hitting was also pretty bad. Avert your eyes if you’re the sensitive type….

Scranton-Wilkes-Barre 5 Syracuse 2

Ryan Glynn got the start for the Skychiefs last night, but didn’t have much in his arsenal. He yielded 3 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on 4 hits and 3 walks, not to mention two costly wild pitches that moved runners into scoring position. Interestingly, it was Brandon League who got the call in relief -- presumably he’s being stretched out for a return to the rotation, but more on that below -- and he didn’t fare much better: over 3 innings, he gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out just 1. He did get a ton of grounders, consistent with his repertoire. Still, it wasn’t a great return to the minor leagues for the youngster. It often takes time for a young player to adjust to the reality of bus rides and White Castle after having enjoyed private jets and Hilton hotels.

Offensively, Jason Alfaro was pretty much the bright spot for Syracuse: he homered, doubled and singled in four at-bats. Aaron Hill singled twice in 5 at-bats and raised his average to .323. Gabe Gross singled and walked, while John-Ford Griffin went hitless with a walk and 2 strikeouts.

Box score

Game of missed opportunities, says the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Binghampton 5 New Hampshire 1

The Fisher Cats dropped another game at home in their new ballpark. Mets prospect Brian Bannister (Floyd’s kid) shut them down again, allowing only Raul Tablado’s solo home run to cross the plate for New Hampshire. Miguel Negron’s double in 3 trips was the only other extra-base hit for the Cats, and that two-bagger raised his average all the way up to .170.

On the mound, Ismael Ramirez had a rough night, getting touched for 3 runs on 5 singles, 2 doubles and a triple in 5 2/3 innings; typically, he walked no one and struck out 4. Bubbie Buzachero relieved him and issued 2 walks and a hit in 2 scoreless frames, striking out 2. Jordan DeJong’s troubles continued as he surrendered 2 runs on 3 hits in 1 inning, driving his ERA up to 10.12.

Box score

Mtes shut down the Fisher Cats, says the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

Road trip! says Kevin Gray of the Union-Leader, and it’s a fun piece. Apparently, today’s minor-leaguers watch DVDs on their laptops or plug into their iPods.

Dunedin 9 Tampa 8 (11 innings)

This was a pretty messy affair even before the late innings arrived. Davis Romero started for the D-Jays, and on the positive side, he whiffed 6 in 6 innings of work. Unfortunately, he also allowed 7 hits, 2 walks and 3 runs, watching his ERA rise to 4.42. The parade of relievers who followed him threw gasoline on the fire -- Tracy Thorpe, Danny Core, Milton Tavarez and Brad Mumma combined to allow 6 runs on 6 hits and 5 walks over the next 4 innings.

Dunedin had a 7-6 lead going to the top of the ninth, but Tavarez gave up a walk and a double to tie the game. In the top of the 10th, Mumma allowed 2 singles (one of them a bunt base hit) and a grounder and the T-Yanks went ahead 8-7. Then it was Tampa’s turn to blow successive leads. Ryan Roberts singled in the tying run in the bottom of the 10th, and then David Smith sent everybody home in the bottom of the 11th with a leadoff walk-off home run, his second round-tripper of the year. The win went to Russell Savickas, who barely escaped disaster himself after giving up 2 singles and a walk with 2 out in the top of the 11th. It was a high-wire act all around, and the Yankees were the first to lose their balance completely.

Smith’s home run capped a 3-RBI night that included a single and a walk. Shortstop Manny Mayorson doubled twice and singled in 5 trips, driving in 2 and scoring one of the tying runs. Roberts singled twice and walked, scoring 2 runs, while Adam Lind doubled and drove in 2 runs in 6 trips to the plate.

Box score

West Michigan 4 Lansing 3

An ugly home loss for the Lugnuts last night. Lansing was leading 3-2 going into the 9th inning, thanks mostly to a sterling effort from Casey Janssen, who pitched 7 innings of 5-hit ball, allowing 2 runs, walking only one and striking out 9 opposition batters. After a solid setup inning from Mark Sopko, Lansing turned the ball over to closer Danny Hill, who promptly yielded 2 singles and a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. Third baseman Christian Snavely then booted a ground ball for an error, allowing 1 run to score. Following a walk to load the bases, Hill wild-pitched the go-ahead run home. Not good.

The offence wasn’t much to rave about. Snavely supplied the only extra-base hit with a solo homer, while Curtis Thigpen singled twice and drove in a run.

Box score

Bonus article: Spencer Fordin has an interesting feature about two of the Jays’ most treasured arms, Dustin McGowan and Brandon League. The news on McGowan from GM J.P. Ricciardi is what we’ve been hearing: he’s scheduled to start throwing breaking balls soon, and once he does that successfully, he’ll be shipped off to Dunedin. If that goes well too, he’ll move up to New Hampshire before the year is out. Personally, I wouldn’t expect to see him rise any higher than Double-A in 2005.

The news on League is more confusing and, I think, more concerning. Jays fans had heard that he was heading to Syracuse to be stretched out as a starter. But JP seems less certain of that now – he says he doesn’t know how League will be used. “We're just going to let him stretch his arm out and work on stuff,” he told Fordin. “The more he gets the ball, the more he's able to work on things."

Fordin goes on to say: “[League’s] two-week trial didn't go as well as Toronto expected, shaking up the organization's plan. Ricciardi doesn't even have a preference at this point. He wants League to help out wherever and whenever he can -- preferably sooner instead of later.” Two weeks of big-league performance shook up the organization’s plan? How detailed and well-thought-out was this plan, that two weeks could throw it off? Either he was ready for the majors in a relief role, or he wasn’t: the consensus now appears to be that he wasn’t, and if that’s the case, that’s a misjudgment by the front office. If you’re going to promote 21-year-olds from Double-A to the majors, you’d better be pretty sure that they’re equal to the task.

Frankly, the Jays sound like they don’t know what should be done with League right now. “I think if you look at all the good closers, they started at some point,” says Ricciardi. But he still doesn’t know what role League will fill in Syracuse -- last night, he entered in long relief and did not dazzle anyone. I don't like the sound of this, for two reasons. One, when the Ricciardi Jays aren’t sure what to do with someone, they often end up dealing him away to a team that does know what to do (Jayson Werth comes to mind). And second, the profile of a hard-throwing 21-year-old promoted from the minors too quickly and yo-yoed between the rotation and the bullpen sounds an awful lot like Kelvim Escobar to me.

The Jays need to decide League’s best role -- starter, closer, long reliever, whatever -- and they need to tell him and his coaching staff what that role is. They need to let him finish this year out at Syracuse unless he’s just ripping up the International League (which I don’t think he’s going to do). And they need to figure out, as decisively as possible, what to do with this exceptional 21-year-old talent, so that he can continue to progress towards a successful big-league career.

Your Three-Star Selection:

3. Jason Alfaro, Syracuse: Home run, double and single in a losing cause.

2. David Smith, Dunedin: Three RBIs, including an extra-inning walk-off homer to give the organization its only win last night.

1. Casey Janssen, Lansing: Nine strikeouts in a 7-inning five-hitter in a losing cause.

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papa - Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 10:39 AM EDT (#113326) #
I couldn't agree more about League. Management seems to have a consistent indecisiveness about prospects, or a stubborn intransigence. Perhaps it's the case of none of the kids being true "A" prospects, rather good "B" players that have to still be defined. Circumstance usually plays a role in deciding, but management's handling has been maddening, mostly falling back on easy truisms as outs... "needs to play every day or pitch more" which is sounding more and more like "we have no idea what to do"
the shadow - Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 10:42 AM EDT (#113327) #
As regards to League, I agree with your comments completely,he has to be brought along to perform in that position to which his talents are best suited and not to that position which is the Jay's need, great review on the minors as always
Mick Doherty - Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 11:52 AM EDT (#113331) #

If Jamey Newberg down Texas' way is noticing, as per today's Newberg Report excerpted below, surely Jays brass is, too:

Former Ranger reliever Matt Whiteside has resurfaced in the big leagues. Toronto has called the 37-year-old up from AAA Syracuse to fortify its bullpen, and it's the first time the righthander has been a major leaguer since 2001. If and when he falters, the next Blue Jay opportunity could go to former Texas farmhand Spike Lundberg, who has been sensational for the SkyChiefs, firing 10.1 scoreless innings in his five relief appearances. The 27-year-old has scattered six hits (.162 opponents' average) and three walks while fanning seven International Leaguers.

Mike Green - Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 04:10 PM EDT (#113372) #
I agree with Jordan. League is 22, and needs to know what will be expected of him. Personally, I would recommend making him the bullpen ace in Syracuse, rather than trying to teach him a new pitch in the rotation. The key though is to do one thing or the other.
Rob - Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 07:40 PM EDT (#113386) #
It will be interesting to see what happens with League next year, if he's in the Toronto rotation or not. If he is, they better keep him there to avoid the Escobar trap -- 10 of his 22 games in 1998 were starts, and a young pitcher doesn't need to be jerked around like that.

Oh, and "Notes From Nowhere"? Interesting choice...
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