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Thanks to Steve for pointing out this story from the Official Site, about Josh Phelps' retirement from catching. Of course, the picture still isn't any clearer behind the plate; Spencer Fordin gives Ken Huckaby as good a chance as Wilson and Myers.

Yesterday, Richard Griffin declared Huck #1:

The ace in the hole for Huckaby... is the still-developing Cy Young candidate, Halladay, who loves to pitch with Huckaby as his catcher.

I think they might come north with three. Use Wilson mostly as a PH and start him vs. lefties, Huck catches Doc every fifth day, and comes in for defensive purposes, while Myers gets whatever workload he can handle. Cash replaces Huckaby when his bat's deemed ready. If they cut one C to keep Aquilino Lopez, it becomes a choice between Huck's glove and Wilson's bat, so it's a fine line between being #1 and being waived. I think Doc will pitch just fine to Myers.
What's the going rate for a good leadoff hitter these days? How about $252 million?

Only one name is associated with that particular contract number, so you've probably already jumped ahead in this little logic game and will be a little less surprised than I was to read that The Dallas Morning News is reporting that The Buck Stops Here Showalter "is toying with the notion of batting Alex Rodriguez [in the leadoff spot]."

This comes on the heels of recent news that, as Unkle Robby Neyer put it this week, "Bob Boone, the Boy Genius himself, is considering using Adam Dunn as a leadoff man."

What in the world of Omar Moreno is the world of traditional baseball thinking coming to? Well, think about it for a minute ...
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This is the end, my friend. Three months and 10,000 words after I started this minor-league review, here we have the final piece of the puzzle, a study of the Jays' most interesting A-Ball pitchers. These 15 -- count 'em -- hurlers all figure into Toronto's plans to a greater or lesser extent, with some of them destined to be rotation and bullpen stalwarts of Jays' pitching staffs of the mid-naughts. Which (if any) of them will make it? Guessing the future of Class-A pitchers is the ultimate mug's game, and I won't bother trying. But these are the names you should keep track of for the next few years, in order to see how the organization's pitching stable is coming along.

As always, comments, criticisms, corrections and compliments would be welcome. Buckle in for the longest ride of these four reviews.
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A new story on the ESPN website (apparently originally from the NY Daily News) gives the sad, twisted details of the presumably-not-actually-final resting place of Ted Williams.

It's unutterably sad to me, to think that even someone as legendarily commanding as Ted Williams can lose control of his own life in his later years.

Batter's Box regular Mike Moffatt edits the About.com Guide to Economics, and has used the Blue Jays offseason as the basis of a feature on that site. Called "Baseball Players and Opportunity Costs", it examines the Toronto club's decision, questioned at the time by some fans, to non-tender a contract offer to Jose Cruz Jr.:

So we see that the Jays did not give up Jose Cruz for "nothing". Instead they gave up Jose Cruz and the opportunity to play 5 minor league players and received the opportunity to play Bordick, Catalanotto, Creek, Myers, Sturtze, and Tam instead. So when a team decides not to retain the services of the player, they always receive two things in return: the money it would have taken to retain the player, and the spot on the 25 man roster that the player would have taken.

There's even a poll, where you can vote on the following question: "Has General Manager J.P. Ricciardi used the concept of opportunity cost effectively when creating his roster of players?" I cast the second ballot, and it's unanimous so far.
Shannon "Not Just An Airport In Ireland" Stewart has signed a one-year deal worth $6.2 million to avoid the arbitration hearing originally scheduled for this Thursday.

The settlement, which was $300,000 under the midway point of the two arbitration sums (the Jays had offered $5.5 million, Stewart $7.5 million), means that the Jays are about $1.3 million under their 2002 salary budget if recent media reports are accurate.

The press release is here.

Richard Griffin says so in his latest Toronto Star column. It's mostly about Tanyon Sturtze, who's getting a lot of positive ink lately, but I agree with the premise that an arbitration win Thursday over Moorad and Stewart makes such an acquisition possible. Kenny Rogers would be affordable, professional short-term help -- and like Lidle and Sturtze, he'll be auditioning for his next contract and a permanent home.
Sad news from Florida today as Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler has died at the age of 23.

Apparently, the death came as a result of heat exhaustion sustained during a spring training workout, despite the precautions taken by the Orioles.

The AP wire story is here.

In Peter Gammons' recent article on teams that are training in Arizona and have new managers, Dusty Baker mentions Cito Gaston twice.
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Often the back page of the Sun sports section is deliberately provocative, and takes liberties with facts. Continuing the recend trend of reasonable reporting from Bob Elliott, today's column stays positive about the many offseason improvements to the Jays' spring training facility and the roster. I love this quote from J.P.:

"Last year we had 22 wins from Walker (10), Miller (nine) and Hendrickson (three), three guys who made $800,000 US combined," Ricciardi said. "And we had 18 from Loaiza (nine), Parris (five) and Carpenter (four), three guys who made $13.5 million combined."

Even I can do that math. OK, the rotation's better; how important is the remade bullpen? As Elliott points out, Escobar, who takes his share of abuse around here for inconsistency, was 38 for 46 in save opportunities, but the rest of the Jays' relievers converted just three of 24 chances. It's not just Jeff Tam and Doug Creek, who can't do much worse than Scott Cassidy and last year's LOOGY parade; there's plenty of AAA depth available if they disappoint, and Aquilino Lopez could be a big plus.

This one's worth a mouse click just for the photo. They still remember Mark Hendrickson very well in the Pacific northwest, as this Seattle Times piece indicates. Larry Stone takes us through the big guy's illustrious high-school athletic career, his continued hoops success at Washington State and in the NBA, to the present -- poised for success as a member of the Blue Jays' staff.

Hendrickson is a unique rookie; you can't judge him by the usual age guidelines, because of his late commitment to baseball. His maturity and pro sports experience has to count for something in making the emotional adjustments to the big leagues. I think the Jays would be wise to limit him to 6-inning starts -- he pitched 128.2 innings last year, counting Syracuse -- and I repeat, they could do worse than making him the bullpen's long man, pun intended, to turn around batting orders when the RH starters falter.
For two straight days, everyone's favourite Toronto Star baseball writer has devoted a column to a Jays' pitcher. No attacks on management, no predictions of disaster. Refreshing. Yesterday, he talked with Kelvim Escobar, who admits:

"I always work hard. But I can get better. I have to be very consistent. Physically I've always been strong, but I have to work harder mentally."

Today, Griffin chats with Cory Lidle, who (along with Rick Reed) will never be completely forgiven for crossing the union's picket line eight years ago as a confused 22-year-old, pressured by his bosses. Like the news about political turmoil in Escobar's native Venezuela, this is relevant, and it's presented evenly, but I'm more interested in Lidle's explanation for his slow start in 2002:

"Me and a pitching coach started messing around trying to throw a different pitch. It backfired."

Cory's second half -- 6-3, 2.69, opponents' AVG .201 -- proves he can make adjustments. Maybe columnists can, too. Even bloggers; anything's possible.
A nice interview with Jesse Barfield by Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator.
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Joe O'Connor of the National Post gets up close and personal with J.P. Ricciardi. Alternately thoughtful and funny, the GM, among many remarkably candid responses, finally puts the year-old O-Dog nonsense to rest:

"What upset me was that this was a rookie on our club, and we've got veterans around, and they were allowing him to act like this. I have a lot of old-fashioned values, and when he made that comment, at that point, he had stepped over the line. And I didn't take it personal, but as the GM I had to talk to Orlando about conducting himself in spring training."

I'm sure Hudson got the message. J.P. thinks Canadians "get" baseball; we're flattered. He's right about a lot of other things, including Bobby Orr and the Hulk.
Bob Elliott has another good player profile in the Sun, on Doug Linton:

Each time Tosca mentions the four candidates for his final two spots in the rotation he names Mark Hendrickson, Justin Miller, Pete Walker and Linton.

I've been wondering about that, as I've (optimistically) touted Mark Hendrickson as #4 and assumed a three-man battle for fifth. But the more I think about the big lefty getting 120-140 lower-pressure IP in middle relief, the better I like the idea. Jason Kershner and Scott Wiggins both stand by in Syracuse in case Doug Creek doesn't do the LOOGY job. That would make Linton a lock. When you look at his MLB career it's misleading; this guy has been one of the best starters in AAA for years, and just kept improving in his 30s. He led the International League in strikeouts last year, had a 160/26 K/BB ratio in 174.1 IP, then made 11 excellent starts, with similar command, in the Puerto Rican winter league. His ERAs were 2.53 for Richmond and 2.08 for Bayamon.

To me, Walker and Miller are interchangeable as #5/swing man, and Doug's better than both of them. His return to Toronto is another very practical move by Team Ricciardi, with a sweet nostalgic bonus for those of us who were there.