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Howie Clark has played every position but pitcher in his professional career. Carlos Tosca has been reluctant to give call-ups Jason Kershner, Brian Bowles and now Josh Towers more than limited action in low-risk situations, so don't expect Clark to get a lot of playing time. The Jays will likely have Bordick start the lion share of games at third base, with Berg spelling him. Nevertheless, Clark's lefty bat could be useful coming off the bench in pinch-hitting situations.

Clark is a career minor leaguer who made his major league debut with Baltimore last year at the age of 28. He's been in the Orioles' organisation until this year, with the exception of 2001, which he spent in the Mexican League and the (Independent) Western League.

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British Columbia's own Adam Loewen went literally to the stroke of midnight before signing with the Orioles, who originally drafted him almost a year ago today. Terms were as usual not available, but Baltimore's last offer was reportedly in the $2.5 million range. That would be much less than other top picks have been getting recently, but with Bud Selig ready to clamp down on high-draft signing bonuses, Loewen may have decided he wasn't going to do much better. Besides, the way this year's draft was shaping up, Loewen looked destined for the Brewers. Wow, Baltimore or Milwaukee? Firing squad or the guillotine? Good luck, Adam, and watch your pitch counts.

The Blue Jays weren't going to so much as sniff Loewen this draft, but the signing is still a spot of bad news: it takes away one more potential high draft choice and reduces the pool of talent that Toronto could snag at #13. But JP probably has his eye on a number of players. Mississippi State lefty Paul Maholm and Houston right-hander Brad Sullivan appear to be near the top of the Jays' wish list, but with the paucity of big bats in the lower minors, don't be surprised if JP takes a position player #1. The draft starts June 3.
It's Roy Halladay vs. Bartolo Colon at the Skydome tonight, and if the game proceeds like most marquee pitching matchups these days, it'll be a 10-9 final. Okay, that's unlikely: both of these guys are near the top of their game right now, and the fans in attendance are in for a treat. Jerry Manuel is on a very hot seat, and if his ace loses this one to the red-hot Jays, he may be looking for a job this time tomorrow.
I went to Monday night's game; when I go to a game, I take notes. Here's my writeup; enjoy. (I like semicolons; some people don't.)
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Pitching, pitching and more pitching well, except for Diegomar Markwell and the continuing remarkable season of Simon Pond.
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Yes, I know: it's wildly premature. But what's the fun of being a baseball fan if you can't do irrational things once in awhile. As such, I've devised a new weekly feature, which I hope to update every Monday morning from here on in.

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Not the 1930's Cardinals, the 2003 Gorillas. Snellville's club is cruising atop the standings with a 9 1/2 game lead after Week 8 in the Batter's Box Fantasy League. My own Toronto Walrus is back in second (by percentage points) after taking advantage of a meltdown by the Springfield Isotopes. Mike Hansen's team picked a fine week to give up hitting and pitching, while Carlos Delgado and Matt Morris led my motley crew to an 11-1 victory.

There's a possible playoff preview atop the standings this week. Third-place Billie's Bashers are loading up the tranquilizer darts for the Gorillas, and fourth-place Baird Brain is on a Walrus hunt. I notice, looking a bit further over my shoulder, that the Sub-Urban Shockers are in the passing lane, and a 10-2 week for the Chatsworth Halos has moved them above the .500 mark, which in this league, means into contention.
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There's not much to add beyond Mike D's excellent White Sox Advance Scout. (I keep hoping that Ad-Rock or MCA will show up to do an Advance Scout, but no luck yet.)

Anyway, tonight it's Buehrle versus Hendrickson. I'd be a lot more worried about this matchup last year, but Buehrle is having a tough time getting outs. It's not just that he's 2-7, but opponents are hitting .306 off him and his walk-to-strikeout ratio is 27:29. The 5.19 ERA doesn't even do him justice; he's given up a lot of earned runs.

As Tosca said over the weekend, if anyone wants to beat the Jays these days they'd better bring their A game. The White Sox did bring their A game twice in the series in Chicago, but they've been incredibly disappointing and it's time for the Jays to show their killer instinct and pound on a struggling team throughout a series.
Chicago's American League entry remains a difficult bunch to figure out. Mark Buehrle struggles, while Esteban Loaiza shines; the team's supposed weakness -- pitching -- has been decent but the team's alleged strength -- hitting -- has been utterly horrid all season. Any hopes the S.S. South Side had been righted after taking two of three from the Jays were dashed by embarrassingly dropping two of three at home to the Tigers.

While the Jays are inspiring exuberance from the local fans and media, the Sox are shrouded in pessimism as they set out for a long road trip. The Chicago Sun-Times resident Griff, Jay Mariotti, has the following to say in today's paper: "Only the blind, deaf and dumb still have any faith in this pile of pulp ... When they finally return home, the Sox will be so far behind the Minnesota Twins they'll need a compass, map and Sherpa guide to find them."

Chicago does, however, have some good pitching matchups this series, and the Colon-Halladay duel tomorrow night should not only be entertaining but a good bellwether as to what extent Doc has gotten his groove back.

On to the Advance Scout!
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I'm not sure if an unofficial bandwagon can have an official meeting, but WE'RE GOING TO THE GAME. And we want you to join us. And tickets are FREE.
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The Blue Jays, 3 1/2 games out of the wild card race, have nothing to lose this afternoon (1:00 on Sportsnet) and the Yankees, especially Juan Rivera, are obviously feeling tons of pressure. Doug Davis has had surprising success against the likes of Giambi and Posada, and a few Toronto mashers always enjoy hitting off Jeff Weaver (Delgado has a 1.473 OPS, Hinske 1.408 and Wells 1.111). Weaver has seen his 2003 ERA rise by nearly two runs in his last five starts (1-2, 6.90, with 14 walks and 43 hits allowed in 30 innings). He did beat Toronto April 17, but a lot of things have changed in both dugouts since then.

The Yankees have enough talent to turn this mess around eventually, but for now, the aura is black, and Richard Griffin sums up the current state of the pinstriped mystique:

"Even the legends in Monument Park seem to be looking the other way, pretending they don't know these guys. If bronze could blush, it would."
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I've had a couple of people ask me recently whether I thought (given that U.S. media congolomerates aren't swallowing sports franchises at the same rate anymore) Rogers Communications might be only a temporary corporate home for the Jays, especially given the losses that they are claiming.

To which I have said, I don't think so...
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Chris Reed of prospectreport.com catches up with the Jays' future. The promising youngster wasn't sure about the training regimen required for Oakland pitchers:

"Pitchers throw five tosses at 45 feet and then every three throws move back 15 feet. You end up throwing farther, but not as much. Its kind of neat, but weird at first. I was skeptical, but obviously it works for them," Arnold said.

Cory Lidle (you know, the only 8-game winner in the major leagues) still does this routine, even on game day. Earlier this season at the Dome, I watched in amazement as he threw strikes from at least 150 feet, immediately before his final warmups on the bullpen mound. Jays fans should be very happy if Arnold develops into another Lidle.
As Shane mentioned in last night's game thread, Doug Creek is on the 15-day DL with a strained elbow, and Josh Towers is your newest Toronto Blue Jay. The skinny righty, who relies on "sneaky" control, pitched well for the Orioles in 2001 before an absolutely disastrous 2002 season. Credit Team Ricciardi for the low-risk signing this winter, as the 26-year-old has bounced back nicely with a 3.29 ERA in nine AAA starts. Both his walks (8) and strikeouts (33) are low for 54.2 IP, but he's been getting people out consistently.

The more logical replacement for Creek was Jason Kershner, who has been untouchable in AAA, so something's up. Mark Hendrickson may have been just pitching on the side late in last night's game, or he could be Creek's temporary replacement in the bullpen. Lurch's next scheduled start is Monday, against the same righty-loaded White Sox lineup he faced last time. Perhaps the plan is to let Towers pitch that game (it's certainly a different look for the Chicago hitters) and keep the big lefty in the bullpen. Obviously, I'm just speculating, but it makes some sense. The Jays brain trust knows Mark has been effective in relief, and they're still evaluating Doug Davis as a starter.
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No matter what happens today, the Jays have achieved a passing grade in the midterm. If some crazed optimist had told you exactly one month ago that the 7-15 Blue Jays would be guaranteed no worse than a .500 record and a split in this series after today's game, you would have laughed.

Can Cory Lidle make it seven in a row? Will Stewart, Wells and Wilson continue to own Boomer? I have no idea, but it will be fun to watch.