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To whom it may concern:

I'm not sure if you are aware of this or not, but on February 22nd, 2003, Carl Riccio, my cousin, a 17-year-old junior at Watchung Hills High School in NJ, broke his neck during a high school wrestling match. Carl was an undefeated wrestler and a star baseball player. This tragedy made headline news across the country. These accidents occur only twice a year in the sporting world.
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The newest Skychief gets a rude welcome to AAA, and the hits just keep on coming for the New Haven Lumber Company. Here's the latest farm system news.
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Tampa rookie Dewon Brazelton was a 2001 first-round pick (third overall) who got a huge bonus to sign, after going 13-2 in college, with 154 strikeouts and 24 walks in 127 IP. Still only 22, with limited pro experience, the righty faces a tough lineup tonight.

Cory Lidle held the Rangers to four runs in six innings last time, and was superb in his previous effort, a 3-hitter against Anaheim. He's going for his fifth win in six starts.
An interesting piece by our old friend Rich Griffin in yesterday's Star deserves a few comments (none of them venomous). Griffin spoke with Paul Godfrey, who said there'd be no salary dump trades at the end of July and that the Jays would be pushing hard for a balanced schedule in future.

Griffin took from this that Shannon Stewart won't be dealt at the deadline, but I don't think one can assume that. Salary dumps have nothing to do with Shannon, who's on a one-year contract and who will unquestionably be playing elsewhere next season. By contrast, Raul Mondesi and Alex Gonzalez, underperformers locked into long-term deals, were salary dumps of the highest order. Stewart will leave the team in July if he can bring good value in return; if not, he'll be allowed to walk out the same door through which Jose Cruz Jr. strode last winter.
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It's a game of inches, and Roy Halladay noticed that his pitching arm was an inch or two too high during his delivery. He corrected that before his start against Anaheim, and it was vintage Doc as a result. Very good news for Toronto; very bad news for the rest of the league.

Halladay and Lidle look to be rounding into shape as reliable #1 and #2 guys for this team. That leaves, potentially, five guys to fill the rest of the rotation: Mark Hendrickson, Tanyon Sturtze, Doug Davis, Kelvim Escobar and Pete Walker. My guess is that Hendrickson goes to long relief and Walker stays in the pen, leaving Sturtze, Escobar and Davis in the 3 through 5 spots. But if I ran the zoo, Sturtze would be in the pen and Hendrickson, who has more upside, would be allowed to build on his two recent strong starts.
Oh, those pesky Devil Rays.

Tampa has a banged-up lineup that should be contained by the Jays' starters this week -- although all bets are off in Joe Kennedy starts, as far as the Jays are concerned. The cross-body-throwing lefty has been pure Kryptonite to the Blue Jays since he entered the league.

As for the rest of Tampa Bay's pitching staff, the "Tigers Conundrum" applies: Does a weekend against the Tigers soften up a pitching staff before a series against actual big-league hitters, or does it inject a little confidence into the rotation that will help them out against a squad like the Jays? Time will tell.

Though it's far from a foregone conclusion, a sweep will position the Jays above .500 and might start a little buzz around the GTA and the baseball world. Let's hope the Jays keep up their league-leading approach at the dish...

On to the Advance Scout!
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Next to Doug Creek, only Jeff Tam has suffered more slings and arrows early in this 2003 Blue Jays season. But as this item in today's Star indicates, he's slowly starting to turn things around. Frankly, Tam, Creek, Miller and the rest of this pen need to do just that: there's no one in Syracuse ready to take their place, and the Jays certainly aren't going to go trade for bullpen filler in a rebuilding season. Then again, if the starters keep going 6 innings or more every time out, the relievers won't be run out there so often. There's reason to believe the worst is behind this staff.
If only Joe Kennedy could face Toronto every start: he'd be in the Hall of Fame. As it is, he'll get his chance tonight to go 6-0. The Jays counter with former D-Ray Tanyon Sturtze. All zeros after one.
Jays Even Ultimate Series, 2-2
Toronto Crushes New York, 11-2

Ultimate Series: The Concept
Recaps: Game 1 * Game 2 * Game 3 * Game 4 Below
Box Scores: Game 1 * Game 2 * Game 3 * Game 4

Here's all you really need to know about the fourth game of the so-called Ultimate Series: the first three hitters in the Toronto lineup each had three hits. The entire Yankee lineup combined for one.
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As you might have heard by now, the next four Wednesday home games at Skydome have been designated "$2 Wednesdays." All available 200- and 500-level seats in the stadium have been purchased by a company called Expedite Plus at full price; those tickets will then be sold for $2 each. It's a follow-up to the Blue Jays' own recent "stick it to the WHO" event, whereby all available seats were offered (and quickly bought) for $1 each. In addition, thanks to Coca-Cola and Skyservice Foods, all soft drink and popcorn orders will get free refills.

Folks, something rather odd is taking shape here.
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An 11-1 rout of the slumping Nation Builders propelled Snellville Jones' Gashouse Gorillas to a 5 1/2 game lead after six weeks in the Batter's Box Fantasy League. Springfield Isotopes and my Toronto Walrus are tied for second, a half-game ahead of Baird Brain. All of us are rooting for Spicol's Red Mosquitos, back over .500 after a 7-3 win, to bite the Gorillas this week.
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As unsurprising as it is welcome, news comes today that top Jays pitching prospect Jason Arnold has been promoted to AAA Syracuse. Arnold was 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA; in 35 IP, he allowed 18 H, 11 BB and 33 K (24% K/BF). As the saying goes, he had nothing more to prove at Double-A. Perhaps anticipating the move, the Syracuse Post-Standard just published a brief profile of Arnold. One step closer to the Toronto rotation....
Even in the high-octane AL, there are interesting pitching matchups, like Zito-Clemens I and II, or today's. Jarrod Washburn wasn't 100% at the start of the season, but he's rounding into form. Though his seasonal K rate is way down, he struck out five in a complete game 6-hitter last time out. The lefty dominated the Jays the only time they met in 2002, combining with Troy Percival on a brilliant 3-hit shutout. Roy Halladay, the 1-0 loser that day, can expect a little more support this afternoon. If he avoids getting hurt again by nemesis (6-for-9, 1.556 OPS) Garret Anderson, Doc can win the rematch.
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Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves. But Carlos Delgado is on fire, and has been since last September. This column by Larry Millson explores Delgado's fast start, an article remarkable in and of itself for being perhaps the first recorded use of the term "OPS" in the Globe and Mail. But I think there's more going on here than just Carlos finding his touch again:

- He's completely healthy for the first time in a long while.
- The malaise surrounding the organization is being stripped away.
- He's got hitters surrounding him (Wells, Phelps) who actually inspire concern in opposing pitchers.

Any other suggestions? And any guesses on how long he can keep this up?
No, not for the Blue Jays -- for your Toronto Maple Leafs, the ones who aren't playing golf at the moment. Those of us outside Toronto will miss the Leafs' first home game of the Intercounty Baseball League season today at Christie Pits, but if you're in Melonville and have time on your hands, go catch the game. At a time when columnists and talking heads are constantly bemoaning how baseball "just isn't a game anymore" and so forth, the ICB League is a genuine throwback. Go Leafs Go!