Much of the focus this offseason, and rightly so, was on the Jays' pitching additions. It was clearly the team's Achilles' heel in 2003, as the offence cranked out 894 runs last season which was good for second best in the American League, behind only the record setting Boston Red Sox. While that performance may not be so easy to match, it was not hard to reason that the offence would be at a minimum average, and for the Jays to show continued improvement this season it would have to come from the mound.
After the Jays lost to the Red Sox in 12 innings on Sunday, many wondered out loud about Carlos Tosca's bullpen management, which resulted in Aquilino Lopez pitching 3 innings. This was especially confounding given that the Jays made the decision to carry 12 pitchers to start the year, and that the restocked bullpen was supposed to cure Tosca's quick hook from last season (he used 5 pitchers to get 6 outs in the 8th and 9th). One also has to wonder what Josh Towers was being saved for, given that he is not expected to make his first start until April 17th.
Despite these valid criticisms, the fact of the matter is that the pitching thus far, while not outstanding, has not been the Blue Jays biggest problem in stumbling to a 1-5 start. The offence that struck fear into opposing pitchers last season has been simply non-existent thus far. Through the first week of the season, the Blue Jays are hitting just .217 as a team, good for 28th out of the 30 Major League teams. They have left 44 men on base and are hitting an abysmal .167 with runners in scoring position – dead last in the American League. In terms of runs scored, which is ultimately what offence is all about, they also rank dead last in the league with a meagre 21, or 3.5 runs a game. Given that only the Los Angeles Dodgers allowed fewer than 3.5 runs a game last season, this level of offensive will clearly not cut it.
The season is still young, and it is too early to panic, but if the Jays have any chance of keeping pace in the AL East this season, they need their offence to come to life before the Red Sox and Yankees, who haven't had particularly strong starts either, get too far ahead.
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Scott Cassidy will start the year on the disabled list for the Syracuse SkyChiefs. What's interesting about this is that Cassidy is not injured. "I'd rather not say anything, because I don't want to say anything that'll get me in trouble," said Cassidy.
While Orlando Hudson's defensive prowess is old news to Blue Jay fans, it is nice to see he is starting to get some recognition elsewhere, in this case from Boston Globe reporter Joe Burris.
Despite a strong relationship that has lasted 26 years, there are rumbling of displeasure from Syracuse regarding their Player Development Contract with the Blue Jays, stemming from the fact that Syracuse has managed only 8 winning seasons in that time. "Signing a two-year contract [rather than the four year deals done in past] is in no way an indication of wanting to make a change," board chairman Dick Ryan said. "We just want to leave the door open for the future and it might work out the best for both teams."
While no-hitters are more common in college baseball than in the big leagues, it is worth noting that three Canadian pitchers managed the achievement in one day.
Blue Jay Milestones
When Terry Adams came in to pitch the 8th inning last Friday, it was the 500th game of his career.
Vernon Wells' double off Curt Shilling last Sunday was the 100th of his career.
Carlos Delgado's next hit will tie him with George Bell for 3rd career hits as a Blue Jay with 1294.
This Week in Blue Jays History
1992 – David "Boomer" Wells sets a Blue Jay record by hitting 3 batters in one game vs. Baltimore.
2002 - Justin Miller made his Major League debut vs. Tampa Bay.
Former Blue Jay Jeff Dewillis' birthday.
Former Blue Jays Mark Bomback and Paul Hodgson's birthday. Greg Myers turns 37.
2001 – Bob File made his Major League debut vs. Kansas City.
1996 – Juan Guzman set a career high with 11 strikeouts vs. Detroit.
1979 – The Blue Jays set a team record with 13 walks in one game vs. the Chicago White Sox. Alfredo Griffin & John Mayberry led the way with 4 each, which are also single game team records (since tied 5 times).
1989 – Kelly Gruber hits for the first cycle in Blue Jay history vs. Kansas City, in what is the Blue Jays' 900th all-time franchise win.
1994 – Pat Hentgen recorded his first 10 strikeout game vs. California.
1996 – The Blue Jays set a team record with 6 double-plays in one game vs. Detroit.
2001 – Raul Mondesi steals home vs. the New York Yankees.
2003 – Reed Johnson made his Major League debut vs. the New York Yankees.
2003 – Valerio De Los Santos earns his first career save, pitching for Philadelphia vs. Houston.
2000 – Craig Grebeck, Raul Mondesi, and Carlos Delgado hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off Anaheim pitcher Jason Dickson.