April 2014

Stray thoughts from a Thursday afternoon

The Blue Jays just finished Game 1 of a doubleheader here in Minnesota and it wasn’t exactly pretty. R.A. Dickey actually handled the cold weather a lot better than I thought he would and after the game said the frigid temperatures weren’t an issue. It’s sort of hard to tell based on his pitching line, though, as Dickey’s control problems continued again and he has now walked 15 batters in just 23 innings this season.

The full game recap is available here which goes into a lot more detail about the command issues. As I mentioned in the game story, he certainly seems to be falling into pitfalls of a what everyone usually stereotypes a knuckleballer to be. That usually includes a high number of walks and an overall ability to command the pitch. That’s not really something that happened to Dickey when he was with the Mets but there were glimpses of it last season and the issue has carried into 2014.

But let’s not get too carried away about this. There was a lot of talk on Twitter today about what the Blue Jays should do with their Opening Day starter. Let’s get one thing straight, for better or worse, Dickey isn’t going anywhere. His job isn’t in jeopardy, there’s no threat of being moved to the bullpen and even if the club were to consider something that drastic it’s not like J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond or Esmil Rogers provides a viable alternative.

Dickey went through similar issues last season. His numbers from his first few outings of 2013 are eerily similar to what he has done so far this year. Keep in mind, this is a pitcher that still had an ERA above 5 as of June 21. The Blue Jays can’t afford to have Dickey’s struggles continue that late into the year this season but he’s going to get every opportunity to turn this thing around. It’s an incredibly small sample size and there’s no reason to believe the numbers won’t eventually even out but that won’t overshadow another slow start. One thing with Dickey seems to be a tendency to let starts get away from him, in 38 outings with the Blue Jays he has alllowed five-plus runs in 12 of them.

Here are a few other random thoughts from this week:

  • A lot was made of J.A. Happ’s comments to the media this week about his frustration of being put in the bullpen. It’s clear that Happ believes he should be in the rotation and is definitely not happy about his current role with the team. Personally, I don’t agree with him but I also don’t have a problem with the public comments. A lot of people immediately jump to the conclusion that just because Happ is saying this publicly it must mean that he is a problem in the clubhouse. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Happ is one of the most mild-mannered athletes in the game and for the most part keeps to himself. He’s causing a stir within his team and I don’t think anyone in that dugout really cares one way or the other whether he decides to give an honest opinion about his current circumstances. That being said, he belongs in the bullpen for now but I certainly wouldn’t be cutting him loose just for the sake of it. If a starter goes down with an injury in the relatively near future, Happ is still a viable option — at least in comparison with Esmil Rogers and even Todd Redmond, who I think is a perfect fit in long relief because of his tendency to struggle two and three times through a batting order.
  • The Blue Jays are going to have to make a decision in the very near future on the status of Adam Lind. John Gibbons said he’s taking a day-by-day approach for the immediate future but if Lind’s not ready to go this weekend in Cleveland the Blue Jays simply can’t afford to wait any longer. Lind was barely able to move after tweaking a back muscle on Tuesday and even though he was better two days later it still didn’t seem to be close to the point of playing. With a three-man bench, unless the Blue Jays ditch a reliever in the near future, they just can’t afford to keep an injured player on the active roster. Toronto has yet to make any official announcements but I fail to see how a stint on the DL can be avoided at this point.
  • In my opinion, the odd-man out in the bullpen should be Esmil Rogers. He has gotten off to an awful start this season and his tendency to give up a lot of home runs — and a lot of long fly ball outs — has become a major liability. At this point, he can’t be trusted in close games and he’s behind Redmond on the depth chart for long relief. Carrying three long relievers — Rogers, Redmond and Happ — is extremely redundant and there’s a big problem if a valuable piece like Neil Wagner gets optioned to the Minor Leagues when Casey Janssen returns. I understand the desire to protect assets, and losing a pitcher because he’s out of options (like Redmond and Rogers) isn’t ideal but at some point the roster configuration has to be based on performance, especially for a team that views itself as a contender. Rogers may eventually pan out somewhere but it hasn’t worked in Toronto and if someone has to go, it should be him.
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