Blue Jays drop their first game of the spring
Well, the Blue Jays weren’t going to remain undefeated forever and on Monday afternoon in Lakeland, Fla., that inevitable first loss came. Despite the club’s record dropping to 2-1, there were still plenty of positives to take away from today’s game. Colby Rasmus continues to drive the ball to right-center field with authority and appears to have much better mechanics compared to when he arrived in Toronto last July. Edwin Encarnacion appears to have lost weight during the offseason and finally has put the previous wrist injuries behind him. That has resulted in being able to drive the ball more consistently this spring as evidenced by today’s ground-rule double to left field.
Henderson Alvarez got the start for the Blue Jays and as a result I ended up doing a feature on him for the main site (link will be posted when it goes live). Alvarez is looking to build upon the 10 starts he made during a rookie campaign, and while his well-above average control on both his fastball and changeup combination has been well documented, it’s the development of a third pitch that will be crucial during his second go around with the club. Alvarez didn’t throw his slider/cutter combination on Monday but said he will next time out when his outing is expanded to two innings. For more information on today’s result, check out the game recap on bluejays.com and look below for lots of leftover quotes.
Other coverage today included a notebook with an injury update on Carlos Villanueva, a little piece on the club’s pitching depth, and another on Evan Crawford a strong early impression in camp. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB for various news from around Spring Training.
Here are today’s leftovers from manager John Farrell:
On Alvarez’s performance…
“He picked up where he left off last year. He attacked the strike zone, had some quick outs, we had him go down and throw another 15 fastballs just to get him up and down in his work day today but he threw some good changeups and put the ball on the ground. I know it’s one inning but he came out and threw the ball with good arm strength and a positive day for him.”
On Gose almost throwing out runner at home plate…
“Very good arm strength. He’ll load it up, he knows he has a good throwing arm, if the ball gets hung onto at home plate that’s an out. I think he learned a little bit too about some strength of the opposing hitters. The double over his head, he’s playing at solid average depth, but ball right at him, little bit of a tough read, he broke in and that ended up being the difference in today’s game.”
“I think the thing we’re most excited to see are the mechanics adjustments that he’s made with his lower half are being maintained and when he hits the ball into right-center field he can backspin it with the best of the hitters that we’ll see. It’s good to see him staying with a consistent approach.”
Pre-game interview with Farrell:
Alvarez’s third pitch…
“He’s got a slider and the way he finished last year, I think he got a better feel for shortening up and creating a little more power to it, where it gave it a little bit more of a later action when it approached the strike zone. It’s a pitch that he felt more comfortable with as the year went on and it gives him three distinct pitches.
Last year Alvarez called that pitch a cutter…
“To me when you get into cutters and sliders, you’re starting to split hairs a little bit. With him, if the mindset is cutter it’s still got a true slider type of break to it. So it’s not adding any pressure to his elbow or his arm and it’s a pitch, that at this level, the later the action, to get quality big league hitters out, I feel like it’s a pitch that will give him that opportunity to do that.”
Doesn’t seem like he gets fazed by a lot on the mound…
“No doubt about it. He, Luis Perez, Joel Carreno, put those three young pitchers in the same description or category coming up for the first time. They handled this environment very well. Henderson, he’s not afraid to pitch to contact and he has that unique ability to get two outs with one pitch, which we saw a number of times last year. His overall athleticism, you’re talking about a conversion guy that repeats his delivery very well, he’s very athletic and he’s very confident that he can throw strikes. I think the numbers bare that out.
“There will be some situations that will arise this year that will be the first for him at the Major League level and again it’s about how he responds and handles those but the early read is very positive in that area.”
How much of an impact can adding one player make in a lineup? (ie: Fielder or Pujols)
“It can have a huge impact. You’ve named two of the best hitters in the game and the most productive bats that were available. Any time you can lengthen out a lineup, particularly in our league where offense is a premium, they make a huge impact. It alters how you pitch accordingly to a given lineup and that was a very good lineup to begin with. They’re going to miss Victor Martinez a tremendous amount but to have the ability to go out and add Prince Fielder, not many teams are capable of doing that and they’re very noticeable when their names are in the lineup I can tell you that.
Adding a Pujols/Fielder versus a guy like Jose Reyes…
“Guys impact the game in a different way. Here, what we feel like, in this league or you look at the other lineups in our division, and that’s not to take anything away from anyone else, the ability to score quick is important and probably a greater emphasis on that than a guy who relies a lot on his speed and hits for average.”
Greater impact — elite pitcher or elite hitter?
“You have to pitch regardless how potent your lineup is, you still have to pitch night in and night out. It’s a great question and a great debate, what’s a more valuable contract. A guy that you’re going to have for 152 games or a guy that you’re going to have for 32 starts. But I do know this, any team that you look that goes into the postseason they can look at the rotation as being a strength. A fact that a team can add both of those is a clear luxury.”