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Blue Jays fans, at least those who read Batter's Box, think a lot about their favourite team's pitching. We are very interested in the minor-league prospects, waiting for the day Jason Arnold, Dustin McGowan or one of the other kids arrives to make a difference in the big leagues. That kind of anticipation brings back memories for Toronto pitching coach Gil Patterson, who wasn't just a prospect, he was a full-fledged "phenom" -- at age 21, the Philadelphia-born righty was in the New York Yankees rotation, where he was expected to stay for many years. Gil had amazing stuff and enough confidence to guarantee George Steinbrenner 300 wins, but it was not to be.

Patterson's career was short, but brilliant. At 19, in his pro debut after attending Miami Dade South Junior College, he threw six complete games in 13 starts for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League. As a 20-year-old, he dominated both the Eastern and International Leagues, spinning another 12 complete games -- one a no-hitter -- with a combined record of 18-4, including 2-0 in the playoffs. Promoted to the majors in 1977, the rookie made a strong early impression on Carl Yastrzemski, who called him the best young pitcher he'd seen in the AL for a long time. Already in pain and far from his best, Gil made only six big-league starts. Eight operations and a quarter-century later, he looks back on his abbreviated playing career with mixed feelings.
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The Jays will have Frank Catalanotto at DH tonight and Reed Johnson in RF; Josh Phelps sits against righty Rick Helling. I don't know if something's wrong with Josh, but it's a surprise. Woodward gets a night off; Bordick's at short and Howie Clark starts at third.

It's Kelvim Escobar's game to win, and he shouldn't change a thing from his last few starts. He can expect plenty of support, and after being removed early last time, will be given a chance to finish. Helling survived five innings at home against the Jays with four earned runs, Vernon Wells taking him deep twice. He could be in trouble early tonight.
With about a week left before All-Star balloting closes, Carlos Delgado leads all AL first basemen by a comfortable margin -- pleasantly surprising, to me at least. Barring late online ballot-stuffing by fickle Yankee fans in favour of Jason Giambi, Delgado will be the Jays' lone positional starter -- Vernon Wells is half a million votes out of first place in the outfield, and no other Jay is even on the horizon. Wells could well be added to the roster by Mike Scoiscia, and Roy Halladay is a lock to make the squad, possibly even to start -- but that will probably be all for Toronto at the Suddenly, This Time It Counts Game.

All-Star voting brings out the best kind of baseball arguments -- do you vote for your favourite player, or for the guy you think is actually best? Do you vote for a player based on his past performance, or on the half-season he's having now, or on a combination? Should the fans have the vote? (The best argument against that is in the NL, which if voting concluded today would have Marcus Giles, Rafael Furcal and Javy Lopez all starting the game.)

Personally, I think that the All-Star team should represent the best current players in the league at each position -- the guy you'd take first overall in a free-for-all one-season draft. And as my All-Star picks, just submitted online, will attest, that's exactly how I voted this year. Sort of.
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Good column in the Star today about the Jays bullpen. Yes, it's by Richard Griffin, who admits that "even the fiercest critics" are realizing what the ZLC has known all along about the renaissance of baseball around here.

Tosca's standing by Cliff Politte as his closer, citing Dusty Baker's faith in Robb Nen a while back. Carlos is the man who has to manage all those personalities, and he supports his guy. Ricciardi mentions Juan Acevedo's saves in 2002 and earlier this year, and suggests the word "closer" may be obsolete:

"We have to go with the best way that we can win games. Because we don't have that flat-out closer-type guy."

J.P. also said "once we get him rolling," which suggests Juan's been working closely with Gil Patterson and Bruce Walton on some changes. Sounds like an opportunity to at least share the high-leverage work in a bullpen without a nominal closer. Whatever makes Politte better, I'm all for it.
Its the Birds again. Better get used to it, 7 of the next 13 games are against Baltimore. A 4 set this week in Skydome and then three in Baltimore July 4th weekend.The Jays have won 30 of the last 41 between these two.

The good news is Baltimore aren't quite as hopeless as they have been in recent years. Mora, Gibbons, Matos and Hairston are showing signs of becoming the core of a decent offense. That offense has scored a creditable 366 runs (through Saturday) thats more than the Giants, Mets, White Sox, Cubs,
Indians, Expos and Phillies and only one less than the Rangers.

The Orioles are entering a stretch of the schedule not even Montreal would envy, they are in a stretch of 50 games where only two are against teams under .500.

On to the advanced scout...
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Inspired by the "real" swap of Mark Bellhorn and Jose Hernandez, Jordan's Sub-Urban Shockers and Spicol's Red Mosquitos agreed on a mega-deal last week that saw Mark Prior and Jim Thome also change teams. Sean Casey replaces Thome at 1B for the rebuilt Shockers, and the Mosquitos managed to get Octavio Dotel. A trade of this magnitude is hard to assess (who "won" depends on Prior's continued good health and the possibility that he will be even more awesome in the future) but it has changed the personality of two contending teams. Making it even more exciting, the negotiations were public; I thought I was reading Moneyball instead of a BB thread.

Congratulations -- and thanks -- to the Chatsworth Halos for edging the first-place Gashouse Gorillas 6-5. Coupled with my 9-3 win over Mebion Glyndwr (it's better to be lucky than good; almost every category was very close) Snellville's lead is back down to single digits. I'm also grateful to Jason Giambi for his belated contributions, and to all my fellow owners for refusing to trade pitching for Milton Bradley. In addition to going 500/516/731 at the plate this week, he singlehandedly won me a category with five steals.
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It could be Souvenir Baseball Night down at the Skydome this evening --- both the Orioles and Jays can mash the ball, and neither starter (Omar Daal or Doug Davis) is likely to inspire much fear in the batter's box (the one on the field, that is). Daal did pitch decently his last time out against Toronto, but still yielded 3 runs and 9 baserunners in 5 innings (4 BBs, 1 K); he may not be able to dodge the bullet again tonight. Davis, for his part, continues to hang by a thread: with Mark Hendrickson solidifying his spot in the rotation lately, Doug has very little margin for error.

The big news: Shannon Stewart is back! Off the DL and starting in left field. The offensive juggernaut gets a little more jugged. And check it out: his summer replacement, Reed Johnson, bats right behind him and plays right field. I'm looking forward to seeing those two guys bat back-to-back. Josh Phelps and Dave Berg also return, from National-League- and dizziness-related causes, respectively.
Thanks to rodent (who spilled the beans on the Bandwagon thread), we now know that today is not just any day -- it's the 50th birthday of Coach Kent Williams! No time to arrange anything like a card or celebration, so this thread will have to do -- please sign in and wish a very happy milestone birthday to the man who has done far more than anyone else to make Batter's Box not just a reality, but a top-notch close-to-100,000-visitor Blue Jays Weblog.
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The Bandwagon Update is now going to run once every two weeks. It will become official only when Toronto has finished playing Oakland and Seattle and if they have a realistic shot at a playoff birth.

TeamGamesWinsLossesBehindLast 2 Weeks
Seattle Mariners7449250.0 (+5.5)7-6
New York Yankees7344294.5 (+2.0)9-2
Minnesota Twins7440349.0 (+1.0)5-8

Oakland Athletics7343300.0 (-5.5)9-3
Toronto Blue Jays7543321.0 (-2.0)9-2
Boston Red Sox7341322.0 (-3.0)6-6
Kansas City Royals7238344.5 (-1.0)8-4

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It's unlikely, on short rest, that Roy Halladay will be allowed to finish what he starts, so the Jays bullpen will get involved at some point, and sooner or later, Acevedo's audition will begin. Livan, also returning a day early, will have his hands full with the Jays hitters.

Vernon Wells is getting his first day off of the season. Reed Johnson plays CF, Howie Clark is in RF batting second and Cat's in the three-hole. Bordick is at third, batting eighth, and Doc will no doubt be trying to match Lurch in the home run derby.
There's a storm brewing... over the Yankees postponing Thursday afternoon's game against the Devil Rays due to "expected rain", on an afternoon that turned out to be lovely.
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Perhaps you are aware of the best leadoff prospect in baseball since Wade Boggs. He happens to play third base and is property of the Boston Red Sox. His name is Kevin Youkilis - a minor deity featured in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and coveted by Oakland GM Billy Beane. One wonders how much the presence of Youkilis in the Sox' organisation weighed on Beane's original decision to jump ship. One also wonders whether the negotiated compensation for Oakland (Youkilis) was what pulled Billy back aboard. But I digress...
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We were discussing crappy "All-Stars" in yesterday's Notes thread, and I thought I'd take a shot at compiling a preliminary list of some really pathetic All-Stars from the last thirty-five years. Here they are:
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Well, they're there for the time being, anyway -- maybe even through 2004, according to recent reports. Canadian baseball fans should enjoy these Toronto-Montreal matchups while we can: we're seeing the tail end of history unfolding. Mark Hendrickson, whose performances are being watched closely by a front office with a gradually increasing number of starting options in the minors, pitches for the Jays, while Sun-Woo Kim gets the call for les Expos. If you hear a loud roar of engines, some gunfire and lots of police sirens during the game, that'll be Jose Theodore 's box.
On many clubs, the first-base coach is a former player who remains popular with the fans. It's almost an honourary position, with limited responsibilities. Not so with the Blue Jays, who want every coach to be an experienced teacher. John Gibbons, who has manned the post in Toronto since last summer, has paid his professional dues, and then some. Don't let the laid-back country-boy exterior fool you; a shrewd baseball mind lurks beneath.

As a minor-league manager in the Mets' system, Gibbons won championships in the Appalachian League and Florida State League, then guided AAA Norfolk to a division title in 2001. The 41-year old is also unbeaten as a bench boss in the majors -- when Carlos Tosca attended his daughter's graduation in early May, "Gibby" stepped in as interim skipper for two straight wins. After watching him hit ground balls during batting practice prior to a recent game, Batter's Box caught up with #58 in the Jays' dugout.
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