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I don't like to get excited over rumors, but Ken Rosenthal's piece speculating about what the Yankees might do to shore up their bullpen is intriguing.
On Slam! Sports' Canadian Baseball page, Bob Elliott and Mike Cormack compiled this thorough review of how Canucks fared last week in U.S. college ball. Those good-hitting pitchers from B.C., Tom Klapp and Adam Loewen, shared player-of-the-week honours. The window for the Orioles to sign Loewen, their 2002 first-round pick, is closing fast.
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The Blue Jays can get back to .500 today, but who knows what to expect in Escobar's first start since September 23, 2001? Let's hope Kelvim is a little better this time -- in that disaster, he lasted just an inning and a third against the D-Rays, allowing six hits and issuing four walks for six earned runs.

Given his tendency to throw a lot of pitches per at-bat, I don't expect Escobar, on a limited count, to figure in the decision this afternoon. If he is efficient enough to last five innings, that would be very promising for the rotation experiment. Kelvim will have to be careful with Mike Sweeney, who has lit him up at a .467 clip (7-for-15) with a homer, but the Royals will again be without Carlos Beltran, and light-hitting Mendy Lopez gets the start at 3B in place of Joe Randa. The Jays should have their "A" team on the field, with Hinske returning to action.
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Here's an excellent Spencer Fordin piece, where Carlos Tosca discusses Tanyon Sturtze, Frank Catalanotto and Toronto's fourth outfielder:

"I think Reed is probably a little more ready to sit and not play. His readiness is probably better," Tosca said. "If we had an injury to one of our outfielders, then Jayson would be getting the everyday playing time."

Johnson injects maximum energy into everything he does on the field; he'll dive into the stands for a foul ball or lean into a fastball to get on base. Reed gives the Jays a defensive replacement, a pinch-runner and occasional starts vs. lefties -- I'm guessing Cat gets more opportunities to hit seventh against southpaws.
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The Jays face another young Royals lefty tonight, but don't expect 18 more runs. Jeremy Affeldt is a little more polished than Chris George, and has a devastating curve ball reminiscent of Barry Zito's. A couple weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Affeldt struck out eight and walked just one in his last start, improving his record to 3-1 with a win over the Twins.

Roy Halladay, winless after his first six 2003 starts, has since reeled off three victories in a row, and his latest was his best yet. Doc's April 25 start against K.C. in the Dome was memorable for hanging curve balls; though he gave up three homers, he left after six with the lead, only to have Escobar blow the save and vulture the win on a Wells walkoff blast.

According to the Yahoo preview, a usually reliable source of pregame lineups, Reed Johnson is in right field, batting second. Hinske sits again, as Delgado is the only lefty batter in Tosca's lineup. Still no sign of Dave Berg. Although last night's laugher was fun for Toronto players and fans, this one should be more interesting.
Needless to say, Kansas City hasn't kept up their furious pace with which they went into their April series in Toronto. But this week's split of a four-game set at the Metrodome is perfectly respectable for this young club -- a team that still holds a division lead over squads in Minnesota and Chicago, both of whom have taken longer than anticipated to find their groove.

This series has two interesting pitching matchups: Halladay-Affeldt on Saturday, and Kelvim's return, on Sunday. The Royals' entire pitching staff has struggled over the last three weeks; this weekend, the onus will fall on the Jays' pockmarked staff to cut out their frustrating habit of losing games in which their lineup gives them five (or more!) runs of support.

Bill James thinks they're fluky, and the Royals may well come crashing down to earth when they hit the West Coast, starting Monday. Hopefully the Jays can kick-start their descent a bit early this weekend with another solid showing on the road. But oh, all those games against Cleveland and Detroit...the Royals will likely still be at least relevant after the All-Star break, and that's an accomplishment. Maybe Tony Pena's proving the Mike Scioscia Hypothesis true: crafty, annoying ex-catchers make good managers in the clubhouse.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Actually, I believe it's called "The Last Word" -- that page of nonsense at the back of the Toronto Sun. Today, noted baseball authority Steve Simmons stoops to new depths in his "review" of an already-notorious title:

J.P. Ricciardi has not accomplished enough in baseball to have a book written about him. Not yet anyway.

But if you want to better understand the Blue Jays general manager -- who remains a local curiosity -- there is required reading available.

The new book is called Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, and any day now it should be in bookstores, explaining the quirky ways of Ricciardi, if not necessarily by name.

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Mark Hendrickson has dodged the bullet and remains in the rotation. As long as he's careful with Sweeney, I think Lurch can do well again tonight. He's been excellent in three of his last four starts. Very few Royals have ever seen him, and the same applies for most of the Jays and 23-year-old lefty Chris George.

Carlos Tosca told Jerry Howarth on the radio pregame show that Eric Hinske's wrist is feeling better, and Dave Berg has a stiff neck, which explains why he hasn't been used much lately. Once again, the skipper bats Bordick second; Mike's playing third while Hinske enjoys another night off. Catalanotto makes a rare start against a lefty, because he's 4-for-6 off George.

The Blue Jays hitters got off to a pretty good start against some stingy pitching staffs, so it was expected that their solid offensive production would continue against weaker opposition. That, indeed, has happened: the Jays are now third in the AL in runs per game at 5.71, trailing the Red Sox (6.13) and the Yankees (6.08), but solidly ahead of the homerun-happy Rangers (5.38).
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In any given baseball game, the "impossible" can happen. For example, last night the Tigers beat the A's, with Steve Avery getting his first save in 15 years as a pro, and Cleveland, with a rookie pitcher facing Freddy Garcia, beat Seattle. So the D-Rays can win this afternoon, even though their pitcher's ERA has been above 8.00 for the last three years.

Soft-tossing lefty Jim Parque, (maybe) 170 pounds, with a history of arm trouble, had his most promising start in ages last week. It was "only" the Tigers -- keep in mind the Jays have scored more than twice as many runs as Detroit this season -- but he had a no-hitter through six innings. He threw 100 pitches, just 57 for strikes, walking four while striking out just two, as the shutout improved his 2003 ERA to 9.24. Although Parque has had success against Carlos Delgado in the past (1-for-12 with 5 strikeouts) he has generally not been a lefty-killer, so I won't be surprised if Cat and Hinske are also in the lineup.
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Instant karma's gonna get you. This article (which I lifted from our friends at Fanhome) lauding Jays pitching prospect Vince Perkins ran in yesterday's Charleston Daily Mail. That night, Perkins got rung up like a Walmart sale: 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 3 innings (Dick Scott was in the stands; maybe a little stage fright?). That pushed his ERA all the way up to 1.83. No big deal: Vince was overdue for a thumping, and he still struck out 6 in 3 innings. His promotion to Dunedin isn't too far away.

Nonetheless, I think the author of the piece, as well Vince's manager, might be letting their enthusiasm run away with them a tad.
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Shannon Stewart was pulled from the game in the ninth after he complained of tightness in both hamstrings.

"He told our trainer he was sore in one leg in the seventh, and then it was both legs in the ninth," Tosca said.

This is exactly what Shannon was trying to avoid by working out with Desai Williams, but it's a chronic problem, and the reason I stopped legging out triples in about 1975. In the same piece, by Mark Zwolinski in today's Star, Cory Lidle admits to concentration lapses late in games, especially with big leads, but also says he's pitching like he did last August. His honesty on both counts is refreshing.

Elsewhere at, Richard Griffin says the main difference between Rocco Baldelli and Jayson Werth is opportunity. I hope he's right, but I'd make that trade in a heartbeat.
According to Yahoo's postgame summary, Carlos Tosca is quoted as saying that Kelvim Escobar will take Tanyon Sturtze's spot in the rotation. As well, Yahoo reports that Jayson Werth will be sent to Syracuse.

Any word as to who'll be taking Werth's place?
I got an e-mail (well, me and 4,400 other subscribers) from Kevin Goldstein of The Prospect Report, indicating that he's going to be on The Fan 590 tonight circa 9:40 pm Eastern (8:40 pm Central). You can listen online here. I presume that he'll be asked about Blue Jays prospects, so it would be worth tuning in to hear what he has to say.
Eric Neel of scribed this article about Billy Beane and the A's philosophy of stat-driven scouting along with a heavy preference for college players. The piece contains many quotes from other GMs, including a few other "small-market" guys like Terry Ryan of the Twins and everyone's favorite flogging boy, Allard Baird of the Royals. (Nobody mentions J.P. Ricciardi or Keith Law, but we know their philosophies.) The astute BB cabal has discussed many of these issues, and I -- and others, of course; I didn't come up with this notion -- have maintained the absolute key to the A's success is Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: those guys aren't around, we're not talking about Beane quite so much.