The Jays return to the Dome after a 4-3 road trip that can't help but feel unsuccessful because of how it ended: badly. The club scored a combined 3 runs in 3 games in Baltimore, and two of those runs were the result of a pretty awful error committed by Nick Johnson. Meanwhile the Mariners roll into town after rolling the Tigers, winning their three game set by the very un-Marinerlike margin of 21-9. Who will win? Who will lose? Will there be cake? Find out, this, and more, in the Advance Scout.
Also special programming note for those in the Vancouver area: the Vancouver Canadians are hosting a Viewing Party/Tweetup for those interested in watching the Jays take on the Mariners, live with audio, at Mahony & Sons at Canada Place, April 28th (Saturday) at 1 PM local time. More details online at http://vancouvercanadianstweetup.eventbrite.com/!
Friday: Blake Beavan vs. Ricky Romero
Blake Beavan was taken by the Rangers as the 17th pick in the first round of the 2007 draft and shipped to Seattle as part of the Cliff Lee trade. A prep arm, Beavan moved through the Rangers system pretty quickly before reaching the majors last year with the Ms at the tender age of 22. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing though, as Beavan has only really succeeded at one stop on his ascent, in AA with Texas at the start of 2010. Beavan reminds me a bit of Henderson Alvarez without the raw stuff, in that the hallmarks of his minor league career were not walking anyone (and I mean anyone, he walkedabout 4% of the batters he faced) and limiting home runs, although he's actually been a fly ball pitcher so far in the majors. The counterpoint to this is that, like Alvarez, Beavan doesn't strike out a lot of batters - his raw rate of about 5 K/9 IP sells him a little short because he faces fewer batters on average, but his rates have consistently been around 15% of batters faced in the minors, and 10% of batters faced in the majors. As a comparison, Drew Hutchison was at about 27% and 6% in the minors. Coming out of high school Beavan reportedly threw around 94 and as high as 98 mph, but as a pro his fastball has been clocked around 90-91 on average. I won't speculate as to this being the reason for the diminished strikeouts, but it seems possible. Anyway, Beavan relies heavily on his fastball - he throws two variants, both a two-seam and a four-seam. He'll also mix in a curve and a change. He made one start against the Jays last year at Safeco and gave up 5 runs in 5 innings.
Saturday: Kevin Millwood vs. Brandon Morrow
Old Man Millwood is still going strong - well, he's still going in any event, despite turning 38 later this year. He signed a minor league contract with Seattle this past offseason and pitched well enough (or I guess others could have pitched poorly enough) that he made the team out of spring training. He started out strong enough, holding the Rangers to one run in six innings, striking out seven (the Rangers!). Things have been worse since, as he got lit up by both the Indians and the White Sox, allowing 11 runs in a combined 9.1 innings. He actually hasn't even lost velocity on his fastball, still pumping it in around 90 MPH, to go along with a slider and the occasional curve and change. Pitch f/x seems to think that he's started throwing a cutter last year and this year; I cannot attest to the accuracy of that. Lifetime against Millwood: Jose Bautista is 7/12 with 3 home runs (and a double and triple), Yunel is 3/4, Encarnacion 2/11, Adam Lind 0/16, Jeff Mathis 3/20.
Sunday: Jason Vargas vs. Henderson Alvarez
This is Jason Vargas' sixth major league season, which I would not have guessed, and he's been basically league average during that time, which I also would not have guessed. He strikes out slightly fewer guys than you'd like, and walks slightly more than you'd like, but he does a reasonable job at limiting home runs, and if you're lefthanded you can pretty much do that for fifteen years if you know how to. Anyway, Vargas hits about 88 and 84 with a fastball and cutter respectively, and relies heavily on his 80 mph change up which is his best pitch by far; he'll also mix in about 4 or 5 curveballs a game. Lifetime Jose is 1/7, Davis 0/8, EE 4/12 with 2 doubles and a homer, Lind and Escobar are both 2/8 and Mathis is 1/13.
Chone Figgins LF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero DH
Kyle Seager/Alex Liddi 3B
Michael Saunders CF
Miguel Olivo C
Brendan Ryan SS
The Mariners were the team that Phillip Humber perfect game'd, though make fun at your own peril, Blue Jays fans... The Mariners seemingly dodged a bullet, as Michael Pineda is missing the season while they have Jesus Montero. Brian Cashman isn't calling a Sirotka on them, at least for the moment... U.S.S. Mariner weighs in on Justin Smoak, and they don't seem too optimistic... Ichiro appears to have altered his stance somewhat, moving back in the box but closer to the plate [ESPN Insider]. This is 2011, and this is 2012. You can also see evidence of it in this piece from Lookout Landing (which preceded the Insider piece)... Alessandro "Alex" Liddi is the first player born and raised in Italy to play in the majors, and although he really isn't a prospect he's put up an OPS of over 1.000 in 30 PA...Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Michael Saunders are all struggling to start the season (as is the aforementioned Smoak), which isn't great given they are the future hope of the team.
Infirmary: Mike Carp (1B/OF) is back soon after suffering a sprained right shoulder, Franklin Gutierrez (CF) has a partially torn right pec and might be back before the end of May; George Sherrill (RP) is also likely back in May; he's out with a strained left elbow.
Song to Advance Scout By: In these times of uncertainty and bandwagon jumping, there are simple words we can all heed.
Chart: Data from Fangraphs, per usual.