July 2011

Notebook leftovers

Brandon Morrow continued his recent dominance with an impressive performance against his former team. The 26-year-old allowed just three runs — one of which came when the game was already well in hand — over seven strong innings. It appears as though he is on a similar type of roll to the one he had in the second half of 2010.

Morrow is a perfect 5-0 over his past seven starts. The native of California has posted a 2.85 ERA over that span while the Blue Jays have won all seven of those games. Those are the type of numbers we have been waiting to see from Morrow all year because he has as much potential as any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

You can find plenty of coverage from tonight’s game over on the main site. There is also a notebook with updates on minor injuries to Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista, an update on the roof being closed for tomorrow afternoon’s game due to the expected extreme heat conditions and also an item on Brett Lawrie trying to find his timing in Triple-A.

If that’s not enough to keep you occupied then check out some of these leftover items that didn’t make it into the site.

Rajai Davis:

What do you look  for once you reach base…

“I just kind of look, see what the pitcher’s actually giving me. Is he giving me an opportunity? We took it from there and it looked like he was giving me an opportunity to steal and I was able to get a decent lead and a good jump. Knowing that they have a really good catcher (Miguel Olivo) back there, who earlier in the game made some great plays, threw out a couple of fast runners. But we were able to get a good jump and steal the base.”

Once you reach second base…

“Kind of just reading the pitcher if I haven’t seen him that many times. Trying to find out if he has got a good move to second — or what kind of move he has over there — and trying to see if I can pick off some signs that the catcher’s giving the pitcher. Kind of just weigh the options and take advantage of the opportunity.”

Cat and mouse game between the pitcher and runner…

“I enjoy it actually, they’re paying a lot of attention to me. It’s tough to pay a lot of attention to me and throw strikes. When you focus on one thing it’s hard to divide that focus and do really well at two different things at one time. That’s my goal when I’m over there, to try and distract the pitcher and get into scoring position, get closer to home plate and make it easier for us to score.”

John Farrell:

On the expected high temperatures for Thursday’s game…

“Tomorrow is going to be extreme, whether we play with this (roof) closed, if it’s like this right now I think we would be better served having this closed. But even talking with people with the Rangers, how they deal wiht the heat down there. Their starting pitchers take an IV before they go out in the game. So they’ll replenish their fluids or even preventively pump their systems with fluid just to have to a reserve or a reservoir almost as they’re going through the extreme heat.

“Most importantly, it’s the days leading up to your start day, anticipating the conditions. You’ve got to hydrate before going out there obviously. But what we do in between whether it’s the ammonia towels or getting out of the conditions out here and getting inside where there is some cooler air. Those are some normal methods that every pitcher uses.”

On the running game…

“It’s a disruptive element. It’s more to contend with. Any time you can create a situation to try to split the attention, or divide the focus, of the guy on the mound you’re  opening up the possibility for mistakes to be made. If there’s any indecision with some attention being paid to the guy on first base, or anywhere on the basepaths, that may have an effect as the ball crosses home plate. 

On being a former pitcher and how he became interested in base running…

“It really came more into light having been in a role to prepare against teams that were more aggressive in that area versus those that were not and it gives you a whole lot to think about.”

“The thing that we always identify with young players, pitchers, hitters, can they slow the game down? Can they mentally take a step back, regroup, execute pitches? If we can find ways to speed the game up, to force them to do that more often, then that’s how we’re trying to control the tempo of that. Having lived the side of it, to try and slow it down in game and then prepare against it, that’s where some of these things can really create a number of things to contend with.”

Looking ahead to the trade deadline…

The Blue Jays aren’t expected to make any major moves at this year’s Non-Waiver Trade Deadline but with just over two weeks to go until July 31st there’s still time for things to change. General manager Alex Anthopoulos continues to look for potential fits but at this point doesn’t anticipate making any deals.

“At this point … I don’t think we’re close to doing anything,” Anthopoulos told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “If I had to handicap it right now, I’d say I don’t expect us to do anything but that could change quickly and I hope I’m wrong.”

Toronto was in a similar situation last year but pulled off a surprising mid-season deal for Yunel Escobar. The club took advantage of a Braves organization that had grown tired of waiting for Escobar to fulfill his potential. Atlanta was looking to make a playoff push in Bobby Cox’s last year with the team and opted to go with veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez instead.

Anthopoulos will monitor similar situations this season and said he is still keeping all of his options open.

“If we can improve the club we’ll always look to do that,” Anthopoulos said. “It always comes down to the assessment, or the value, and what you’re giving up.

“If we feel that the value is there for us, even if it’s an incremental upgrade, we’ll end up doing it even if it’s short term. Even if you get someone here for two months, maybe you get to know them for a little bit. Maybe they get to know the city, their teammates and maybe even if it’s a prospective free agent you get a chance to sign them back because you do have that window of exclusive negotiating rights.”

Here’s a quick rundown of potential Blue Jays players that could become bargaining chips in the next couple of weeks:

Frank Francisco — Unlikely to be on the move because he is currently ranked as a Type-B free agent and could net the Blue Jays a compensatory pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander’s struggles this year also have impacted his trade value but if a team feels inclined Anthopoulos likely will listen to all offers.

Jason Frasor — Frasor also is currently ranked as a Type-B free agent and would net the Blue Jays a draft pick if he leaves via free agency. He also has a team-friendly option on his contract and it’s still not completely out of the realm of possibilities that he is back with the club next year. For what it’s worth, Frasor is just one appearance shy of tying Duane Ward for the most all-time appearances (452) in club history.

Shawn Camp — Another one of the Blue Jays potential Type-B free agents in of the bullpen. He would be in line to receive a raise on his $2.25 million contract through arbitration but likely will receive better offers on the open market. Anthopoulos would need to receive similar or greater value to a compensation-round pick in order to pull the trigger on any deal.

Octavio Dotel — Dotel is the likeliest Blue Jays reliever to be on the move before the end of the month. Dotel makes $2.75  million (with a $750,000 buyout) this season and would almost definitely accept arbitration at the end of the year because — at age 37 — he’s unlikely to get a multiyear offer in free agency. That negates his Type-B status but Anthopoulos could move Dotel to a team in the market for a right-handed specialist out of the ‘pen.

Jon Rauch — The final player with Type-B status in the bullpen that could become a free agent at the end of the year. Rauch is also signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with a club option in 2012. If Anthopoulos receives an offer he can’t refuse then he’ll obviously make the deal but it’s hard to imagine a team giving up value equal to that of a compensation pick to acquire his services.

Other potential trade candidates

Carlos Villanueva and Jo-Jo Reyes could be available to contending teams in need of some help at the back end of their starting rotations. That seems unlikely — even with Villanueva’s recent success — because of their limited track records. Teams in the playoff hunt likely will want more of a guaranteed commodity. A more likely scenario is that the Blue Jays continue starting the two hurlers in an attempt to boost their trade value heading into the offseason.

Last year, Toronto had a series of veteran players that were obvious trade candidates. The 2011 team is much younger and doesn’t have the same type of obvious veteran presence that would normally be on the block. Corey Patterson likely would be available for a team in need of a fourth outfielder while Jose Molina could be had for similar reasons behind the plate. The dark horse candidate could be Aaron Hill if another team believes he can turnaround what was a lackluster performance in the first half of the year.

 Misc. Anthopoulos notes from Thursday afternoon:

Update on negotiations with 2011 top draft picks: “The baseball calendar really dictates the ebbs and flows of the season and the timing of doing everything. You can still multitask and talk about drafted players. But no one is in a rush to do anything. It seems like no one is motivated to do anything, everyone seems to want to wait until the end. That’s why I think each year, more and more, we see players signing closer to the deadline. I would definitely say that the focus of most, if not all front offices, is on the trade deadlines, sending scouts out to see players, teams, things like that.”

Expectations for the second half: “Obviously you always want to win and that’s what you’re going to be judged on but you do want to see improvement and strides especially from the young players. You realize with young players they have options and there’s a reason they have them and any young player we call them up I expect them to be optioned down at some point. It’s not that I want them to, it’s that reality dictates that they will.”

Update on Kyle Drabek: “The last few outings have been very good. He’s throwing a lot of strikes, curveball has been very good. Hopefully he can keep it going but he has done a very good job there. The stuff is still the same, up to 97, plus curveball, I like the fact that the cutter is not an option because it forces him to continue to work on his changeup. Even though the cutter is a great pitch for him, it has great action … it allows him to focus on getting ahead with the fastball. If he does, everything else is going to play up because he has got a fastball that can dominate a lineup.”