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When spring training games start this week most eyes will be on the pitching battles.  There are at least two starting pitcher jobs up for grabs and the bullpen has three vacancies.  If we expand our view to the Syracuse Chiefs the picture gets even more cloudy, by my count there are thirty-five pitchers battling for twenty-four jobs between the Blue Jays and the Chiefs.  Most readers are familiar with the major league battles but might not be aware of the AAA ones.

Roy Halladay and AJ Burnett are guaranteed spots in the Blue Jays starting rotation.  Gustavo Chacin will probably take one of the three remaining spots leaving two jobs between Tomo Ohka, John Thomson and Josh Towers.  At this point I am assuming that Dustin McGowan will head to AAA, the Jays appear to be firm on this, and Shaun Marcum will be in the bullpen. 

BJ Ryan, Jason Frasor, Brandon League and Scott Downs have spots locked up in the bullpen.  Davis Romero, Brian Tallet, Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Accardo, Francisco Rosario and maybe Pete Walker are competing for the other three spots, with Marcum having the best shot of that group.

But when we look at AAA the picture gets even more cloudy.  Candidates for the five starting pitcher jobs include the loser of the Towers, Ohka, Thomson battle; Dustin McGowan; Casey Janssen; Josh Banks; Geremi Gonzalez; Ismael Ramirez; Michael MacDonald and Kyle Yates.  That's eight pitchers competing for five spots.  If Victor Zambrano recovers from his surgery it will be nine pitchers.

The bullpen candidates include three losers from the major league battle; plus Ty Taubenheim; Lee Gronkiewicz; Jamie Vermilyea; Ryan Houston; Tracey Thorpe; Jean Machi; Blaine Neal; Matt Roney; Jason Scobie; Jordan DeJong and Beau Kemp.  Fourteen pitchers for six or seven spots.  This assumes that Jesse Carlson and new signee Jo Matumoto head for AA.

So what will happen?  It looks like Tomo Ohka and John Thomson have the inside track for the two big league starters jobs, Josh Towers isn't even listed on the depth chart at  Towers will have to outperform both Ohka and Thomson by a good margin to win his job back.  In the bullpen Marcum looks to have the best shot at the fifth spot.  Pete Walker will probably not make it, he might go on the DL to continue his rehab.  Romero and Tallet will battle for a lefty spot while Rosario and Accardo will fight it out for a righty spot.  The Jays appear to like Tallet, based on their 2006 track record, and Romero has options so my assumption is Tallet gets the spot and Romero goes to AAA.  And for the righty we will assume Accardo gets it and Rosario passes through waivers and comes back to AAA.

There are four starter spots in AAA that look locked up, Casey Janssen, Josh Towers (or the other loser), Dustin McGowan and Geremi Gonzalez.  Rosario, Josh Banks, Ismael Ramirez and Ty Taubenheim are all two way guys who could start or relieve.  Rosario has moved between the bullpen and starting for the last two years, Taubenheim ended 2006 working out of the bullpen and the Jays see him as a major league reliever.  I assume they will be bullpen candidates leaving the starters job between Banks and Ramirez.  Banks and Ramirez have been used almost exclusively as starters but both have been talked about as possible major league relievers if they cannot thrive as starters.  Banks has the weapons to be a starter but has had trouble with location and home runs allowed.  Banks is reportedly working on a new pitch to enable him to work lower in the zone.  Ramirez may be more of a two pitch pitcher which might make him more suited for the bullpen.  If Josh Towers does not make the Blue Jays rotation will the Jays trade him?  A National League team could trade for Towers and the Jays would not likely ask for much if the acquiring team paid Towers salary.

Lee Gronkiewicz, Jamie Vermilyea, Davis Romero, Rosario, Taubenheim, Ryan Houston and Jordan DeJong would then be tabbed to return to the bullpen where all seven pitched at some point in 2006.  But that leaves out Ramirez or Banks, plus Tracy Thorpe who is due a shot at AAA after putting up a 2.91 ERA in AA last year and pitching well in the Arizona fall league.  With seven returning bullpen pitchers plus a couple of new players from AA the bullpen is full but the Jays signed four other minor league free agents including a couple with good AAA credentials.  It is not known what promises the Jays might have made to these free agents but I assume the free agents want to get back to the major leagues and it is much more likely you can make it from AAA than AA.

Blaine Neal has pitched over 100 major league innings between 2001 and 2005.  2006 was the first year he did not pitch in the majors since 2000 and he did spend all year at AA in Altoona putting up a 1.99 ERA.

Matt Roney also has over 100 major league innings between 2003 and 2006.  Roney also has established AAA credentials, a 2.95 ERA at Sacramento last season, a 2.00 ERA in 2005.  Roney is on the Jays 40-man roster.

Jean Machi is a 24 year old reliever and is on the 40 man roster.  Machi pitched all of 2006 in AA and would be due a promotion to AAA.

Beau Kemp pitched in AAA for Rochester between 2004 and 2006 logging over 200 AAA innings and putting up a 2.32 ERA last season.

The Jays acquired Jason Scobie mid way through the 2006 season and Scobie spent time in both AA and AAA.

This analysis assumes that Michael MacDonald, Kyle Yates and David Purcey return to AA.  I also have not assumed any players on the disabled list, other than Pete Walker.  Usually there would be between one and three pitchers on the DL.  But it does look like there will be some very disappointed pitchers heading to AA to start the season.  Earlier we reviewed nine potential home-grown pitchers for the bullpen, with four free agents and Jason Scobie to be added.  Fourteen pitchers for seven spots.  Let's assume two players go on the DL and let's also assume Neal and Machi go back to AA.  Now we have ten pitchers for seven spots.  The Jays could lose a pitcher on waivers, such as Rosario, release a pitcher or two and also keep Ramirez, Scobie and DeJong in AA. 

There will be some big battles and nervous pitchers through April 1.

As I see it:

Blue Jays starters: Halladay; Burnett; Chacin; Ohka; Thomson
Blue Jays bullpen: Ryan; Frasor; Downs; League; Marcum; Tallet; Accardo
Chiefs starters: McGowan; Janssen; Towers; Gonzalez; Banks
Chiefs bullpen: Gronkiewicz; Thorpe; Vermilyea; Houston; Romero; Rosario; Taubenheim; Roney; Kemp (2 DL spots)
Fisher Cats starters: Ricky Romero; David Purcey; Jesse Litsch; Michael MacDonald; Eric Fowler
Fisher Cat bullpen (from): Kyle Yates; Jean Machi; Blaine Neal; Jason Scobie; Jordan DeJong; Jesse Carlson; Jo Matumoto; Justin James; Paul Philips; Danny Hill; Kurt Isenberg
DL: Zambrano; Walker

Pitchers a Plenty | 46 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
China fan - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 09:08 AM EST (#163824) #

   The latest news on Brandon League is confusing and perhaps troubling.   On the one hand, we have this quote from Brad Arnsberg, who sounds pretty ominous in his assessment of League's health:    "It's a big concern to me. You wonder how soon he'll get back. He's going to have to go through body-awareness drills and repetitious drills.

   That sounds pretty bad.  But in the same article, Jeff Blair insists that Ricciardi is confident that League's problems are merely a "temporary blip." 

   That sounds much more reassuring.  But how can Ricciardi sound so blase about League if his own pitching coach says that League's problems are "a big concern" and doesn't even have an estimate of when he could return to normal?  Ricciardi does have a track record of downplaying injuries and pretending they are much better than they actually are.  Last season, when Rios was injured, Ricciardi was very misleading about it -- he gave the impression that Rios would be gone for only a couple of games.   So I'd be inclined to say that League is going to be a question mark for some weeks to come.  With the departure of Speier and the uncertainties about youngsters such as League, Accardo, Romero and Rosario, I'd rate the bullpen as one of the top concerns for the Jays at this point.  Yet, in the same Blair piece, Ricciardi insists that he won't trade for any bullpen help.

    Here's the link to Blair's piece:

Christopher - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 09:12 AM EST (#163825) #

Wouldn't Rosario have to clear waivers in order to be sent down to Syracuse? 

I can't see that happening.

Christopher - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 09:14 AM EST (#163826) #

I see you indicated that Rosario would have to clear waivers.

I still can't see that happening.  I imagine someone would give him a shot.

jim854 - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 09:36 AM EST (#163827) #
Excellent article, Jerry! You have Towers starting in Syracuse. It occured to me that if he does not make the Jays might they just release him in order to allow a younger player to pitch in Syracuse.
I think that today's intra squad game will be cancelled because it is raining here. I hope to be at tomorrow's game.
Mike Green - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 09:47 AM EST (#163828) #
My guess is that Rosario makes the major league bullpen and Accardo starts the season in Syracuse.
Pistol - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 10:03 AM EST (#163830) #
I wouldn't be surprised to see a minor trade involving a pitcher; Rosario would probably be the most likely pitcher traded because he's out of options.  I'm not convinced that the Jays are going to have both Jason Smith and Matt Stairs on their bench and getting a LH bat that can play a good OF would be useful to have.
timpinder - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 10:03 AM EST (#163831) #

That was an interesting article.  I agree with all of Gerry's predictions except that Rosario will clear waivers and head to Syracuse, and that Banks will get the nod over Ramirez in AAA.  In my opinion, either Rosario will be in the Jays' bullpen in 2007 or he'll be scooped by another team.  I know he hasn't really produced in the majors yet, but Rosario has the potential to be a fantastic set-up guy, maybe even a closer.  His 2006 AAA numbers were awesome, and he was very good in his first several appearences in the majors last year.  I'm predicting a break-out year for him.  I would hate to see the Jays lose Rosario.

I noticed that Ramirez wasn't included in Gerry's final predictions.  My guess is that he gets one of the starting spots in Syracuse.

Gerry - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 11:22 AM EST (#163832) #
Good catch Tim.  If Ramirez is in the AAA bullpen, and if Rosario or Accardo are not traded then one other pitcher would have to drop to AA.  My guess is that it would be Jamie Vermilyea based on the Jays bouncing him around a lot over the last couple of years.
China fan - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 12:53 PM EST (#163837) #

       Jays have revealed their pitcher rotation for their early Grapefruit games, and it seems to confirm Gerry's predictions.  The rotation looks like this:  Game One -- Halladay;   Game Two -- Chacin;  Game Three -- Burnett and Ohka;  Game Four -- Thomson;  Game Five -- Towers.      (No sign of Marcum or Downs among the early starters, so they seem likely to stay in the bullpen.)


John Northey - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 12:56 PM EST (#163838) #
I'm betting strongly on the Jays trading some minor league pitchers for minor league hitters before April hits. Whoever they feel is AAAA material will be delt to someone who has excess infielders (ideally shortstops) in their minor leagues. Probably for a AA level one who has small potential to be a big league regular in exchange for a pitcher or two (or three) from the log jam, someone who is out of or nearly out of options.
Maldoff - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 01:11 PM EST (#163839) #
The thing I worry most about with League is that I have read reports indicating that he has dropped his arm angle down again.  If we all remember, his nightmare-ish 2005 was attributable to a low arm angle, which flattened out his fastball.  Last year, he got it back up to a 3/4 delivery.
Pistol - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 01:25 PM EST (#163841) #
I wouldn't read too much into the starters in the spring training games - it's just an indication of where the Jays think their rotation lines up today.  For the first couple weeks pitchers generally don't go more than 2-3 innings so a Marcum (or whoever) can get in just as much work in relief as a starter does starting.
Gerry - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 10:06 PM EST (#163846) #

Excellent summary of todays inter-squad game from Jordan Bastian at MLBlogs.  Taubenheim, Rosario, Janssen and Houston all looked great, Ramirez had control problems, Rios has a minor sore shoulder, but still played.

TamRa - Monday, February 26 2007 @ 10:43 PM EST (#163847) #

Let me clear this little logjam right up...


Rosario + Vermillyea for Erik Aybar (or Macir Izturus)

Towers + Ramirez or Banks for Ryan Church (based sheerly on Jimmy's refusla to give the man his due)

Alternately, Marcum and Rosario for Betemit (yeah yeah, underpaying I guess) instead of the Angels deal...



Mylegacy - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 01:45 AM EST (#163850) #

Losing Lilly, and to a lesser extent Meche, is turning into a fortuitous situation. (Been a long time since I used the word "fortuitous")

Instead of Lilly's 180 innings and Marcum and or Janssen being rushed... we've got Ohka, Thomson and Zambrano (later) to shield the kids. NOW, the kids can get to start in the bigs the correct way, namely when they FORCE the issue.

Very fortuitous I would say (if I used big words).

timpinder - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 10:15 AM EST (#163854) #

MyLegacy, don't forget Vernon Wells.  Losing Meche and Lilly and the $20-22 million per year that they'd have cost was quite "fortuitous" indeed.  If the money was spent on those two pitchers Wells might have been gone in 2008.

Ryan Day - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 10:41 AM EST (#163855) #

I wasn't crazy about John McDonald being on the roster, but now he's definitely got to go:

Close call: Janssen looked good in his inning of work on Monday -- only three of his 13 pitches were balls -- but his last offering was nearly costly. McDonald hit a hard grounder that bounced off Janssen's left ankle. Janssen was immediately examined by team trainers, and was able to walk away unscathed.

At the very least, no one let him anywhere near Roy Halladay.

Jim - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 01:19 PM EST (#163859) #

Let me clear this little logjam right up...

Josh Towers for Brandon Wood...

Ty Taubenheim and Ryan Houston for Evan Longoria....


Mick Doherty - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 02:01 PM EST (#163860) #

Josh Towers for Brandon Wood...

I assume this is a joke. You'd expect LAA to deal a 22-year-old SS who has hit 68 homers over his last two (A and AA) minor league seasons for a 30-year-old pitcher coming off a 2-10 season with an ERA+ of 56?

Uh ... no.

Paul D - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 02:19 PM EST (#163861) #
Relax Mick, it was clearly a joke.
Chuck - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 03:32 PM EST (#163864) #

Ty Taubenheim and Ryan Houston for Evan Longoria....

O tannenbaum for Eva Longoria? Merry Christmas indeed.

cascando - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 05:09 PM EST (#163865) #

I'm probably Maicer Izturis' biggest fan outside of Anaheim. 

I believe he is the solution for Toronto at SS.  His OBP was .365 last year (106OPS+).  In 2004 at Edmonton, his OBP was .428.  Aside from playing a decent SS, he's the consumate super-sub, filling in at 3B, 2B, LF and CF.   Yes, I'm a fan.  Basically, I think he is the missing piece from the championship puzzle.   In fact, I'm baffled that Anaheim didn't win last year, given that Macier was part of the team.

And since Stoneman probably thinks as highly of him as I do, he clearly won't be available for two players that Toronto can't squeeze onto its roster.  But if Aybar or Wood work their way on to the roster, and Figgins stays, Izturis will almost certainly be available.

However, I think it will take something closer to Rosario + Vermilyea + Reed Johson to get the deal done.  The last time I suggested trading Johnson for Izturis in this space, it didn't go over well.  I understand that, if Reed Johnson is the player of 2006 (complete with his .367BABIP) and Izturis is the player of pre-2004 (less likely, given that he hadn't grown up yet).  But, ZIPS (for example) has Reed at .286/.346/.423 and Izturis at .281/.357/.387.  When you consider that Izturis can play anywhere Johnson can play plus 3B, SS and 2B and consider that Royce Clayton is currently pencilled in at SS and that Adam Lind is slated for AAA... I'd wait until the end of Spring Training and if Lind, looks good, I'd make that trade and I think Stoneman might, too.

Mike Green - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 05:18 PM EST (#163866) #
Marcel has Macier Izturis at .276/.346/.410.  Whether he can play an adequate defensive shortstop is the question; I really have no idea.  The available data suggests that he could, but I would be more persuaded by the subjective accounts from a scout than the limited data we have.
greenfrog - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 05:43 PM EST (#163867) #
I'm not sure Rosario, Vermilyea or Reed collectively address any of the Angels' pressing needs. What the Halos need is a power-hitting run producer. They already have an excellent bullpen (fronted by K-Rod, Speier and Shields).

Unfortunately, Rosario and Vermilyea won't bring much in return. Rosario has been too inconsistent (and he'll be 27 in June). Vermilyea has had intermittent success in the minors but the consensus seems to be that his stuff is fringey. Last year the Red Sox (who needed bullpen help at the time) selected him in the Rule 5 draft but returned him to the Jays.
Jim - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 08:17 PM EST (#163869) #
Where were the Jays when the Angels were giving away Callaspo last year?  You might be able to pry Izturis away from LA, but Stoneman seems to have absolutely no idea what direction he's going in so it's hard to say who he might deal, and what he might want back. 
Mike Green - Tuesday, February 27 2007 @ 08:41 PM EST (#163870) #
Callaspo might still be available.  The D'Backs do need pitching, and Callaspo is behind Drew and Hudson on the depth chart. It will probably cost a little more this year dealing with Byrnes than it would with Stoneman, but I can't see the harm in asking...
China fan - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 04:51 AM EST (#163873) #

   Here are the pitching assignments for the first three Grapefruit games, courtesy of Jeff Blair's column today:

Thursday vs. Boston (Split squad)
Roy Halladay (two innings); B.J. Ryan (1); Jason Frasor (1); Scott Downs (1); Brian Tallet (1); Jeremy Accardo (1); Ty Taubenheim (1); Ryan Houston (1)

Friday vs. Boston (Split squad) at Fort Myers
Gustavo Chacin (two innings); Dustin McGowan (1); Casey Janssen (1); Jean Machi (1); Beau Kemp (1); Brian Wolfe (1); Matt Roney (1); Tracy Thorpe (1)

Saturday vs. Tampa Bay at Dunedin
A.J. Burnett (two innings); Tomo Ohka (1); Jeremi Gonzalez (1); Blaine Neal (1); Ismael Ramirez (1); Francisco Rosario (1); Pete Walker (1) Josh Banks (1)

     The one oddity, that I notice, is the inning for Brian Wolfe.  Is he still in the picture as a prospect?  I'm a little surprised to see him getting time in the Grapefruit games at this point.  I thought he had been written off as a dud.


Jim - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 07:38 AM EST (#163875) #
I'll be at that game on Saturday.  I couldn't take another week of sleet and freezing rain and broke down and planned the trip. I think I'd rather see a couple of guys that are throwing on Friday, but I can't deal with the Red Sox or Yankees in Spring Training.
Wildrose - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 02:44 PM EST (#163887) #
Good article about players  out of options this year, Rosario mentioned prominently.
MatO - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 04:38 PM EST (#163895) #
Don't know if this has been mentioned but Arnsberg was on the FAN the other day and said Davis Romero is out with "tendonitis".
Lefty - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 10:04 PM EST (#163900) #

Yes, that is a good article. As I was reading the Hairston segment I was musing that a trade would be a nice idea and lo and behold the Baseball Analysts reach this conclusion.

Though I think it would take a bit more than Rosario to land Hairston, just pedigree alone.

I've always enjoyed that site.



Mike Green - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 10:12 PM EST (#163901) #
Hairston doesn't seem to me to be a likely trade target for the Jays.  He'd be #5 on the outfield depth chart.  They need a middle infielder.
Lefty - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 11:20 PM EST (#163902) #

 His natural position is second base. Some one named Hudson seems to have forced the shift to OF.

However, corner infield is the position that has me fretting the most this off-season. If Glaus can't play it looks to be Hill at third. Maybe thats why the Jays signed so many middlin'  infielders.

TamRa - Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 11:27 PM EST (#163903) #

Just noticed Rotoworld speculating that if Tulo makes the Majors, the Rox have indicated Barnes would go back to AAA....

if you look at his 2005 numbers, we could do a lot worse than throwing a couple of extra guys at Colorodo and hope he bounces back from the 2006 train wreck.


China fan - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 07:00 AM EST (#163905) #

     An interesting rumor today:  Pat Gillick made an unexpected visit to the Bobby Mattick Complex, amid rumors that he is looking to trade Jon Lieber, possibly to the Jays -- especially if the Phillies manage to pick up pitcher Scott Linebrink from the Padres, as they are expected to do.    Gillick is supposedly interested in Alex Rios (won't happen) and Dustin McGowan (might happen). 

    Jeff Blair says the Jays won't trade for another starter until they get a better look at Thomson, Ohka and Zambrano.  That makes sense.  But it would be a mistake to assume that the Jays now have enough depth to be confident in the 4 and 5 slots in their rotation.  Ohka and Zambrano, especially, are big question marks, even if Zambrano is ahead of schedule on his injury recovery.

    The Blair link:

SheldonL - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 11:26 AM EST (#163909) #

Scott Hairston is the answer! He should be our second baseman. Chacek out his minor league stats

He's played 85 of his 101 career games at second base. He has batted .323 last year with 26 homers and 22 doubles in 381 AB's. He slugged .591 in 701 AAA at bats!

We must flip Rosario over for him!

Mike Green - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 11:37 AM EST (#163910) #
The problem is that Hairston is a weak defensive second baseman.  That is why Josh Byrnes and the D'Backs moved him to the outfield, where he took a step forward with the bat.  The D'Backs could use Hairston as a super-utility player effectively if they traded Callaspo for a pitcher.  Callaspo has the advantage of playing both shortstop and second base well, which fits in more with the local nine's situation.
Gerry - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 03:19 PM EST (#163913) #
Baseball America has published their top 100 prospects.  As expected the Jays have two representatives, Adam Lind at #39 and Travis Snider at #53.
VBF - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 03:39 PM EST (#163916) #
Apart from the fact that the Jays just proved they're quite possibly the greatest team ever and will probably go 162-0, what did we all think of Alan Ashby?
ayjackson - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 04:07 PM EST (#163917) #
I know it's early, but Doc's K rate is zero this year.  This trend is definitely worrisome.
huckamaniac - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 04:43 PM EST (#163918) #
I was pleased with Ashby, I didn't hear his play-by-play but he and Jerry worked well together, especially for their first time.
Flex - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 06:57 PM EST (#163921) #
I heard the last few innings, including some of the Ashby play-by-play. He had a nice quality. Seemed to be trying very hard to be likeable and find a rhythm with Jerry, so no doubt he'll relax over the course of the year. But he exuded baseball knowledge and clearly will increase the information/insight quotient of the baseball broadcasts this year by a huge margin over what we've had recently.

timpinder - Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 06:58 PM EST (#163922) #
Halladay's 0.00 ERA and 0.50 WHIP isn't very worrisome though.  I attribute his diminishing K rate to the style of pitching he's adopted.  It's obviously working for him, and I imagine that if Doc decided he wanted to rack up K's he wouldn't have much trouble, though he'd probably last fewer innings as his pitch count rose.  He could go back to that looping 12-6 curve I haven't seen him throw in a couple of years.  It certainly got him some strikeouts but also yielded some homers, if you remember.
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