Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Live Chat Tonight


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It took a little longer than anticipated, but the Blue Jays Spring Training roster has been whittled down to 30 Opening Day hopefuls.

The next few days will hopefully provide a clearer picture as to which players we can expect to see in Arlington Texas on Monday against the Rangers.

And with the Jays facing off against Roy Halladay and the Phillies today, there will be ample topics to discuss on tonight's live chat. Don't miss the final live chat of Spring Training (and possibly the season) tonight starting at 8pm EST!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dana Eveland the Dark Horse


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More so than any other players on the roster, Spring Training is where starting pitchers are made or broken.

Position players all but divvied out at the onset of Spring Training, but pitchers vying to win a spot in the starting rotation have to fight tooth and nail to prove themselves to the coaching staff.

Luckily for Dana Eveland, he just might have pitched himself onto the Opening Day roster.

A dark horse candidate from the onset of Spring Training, Eveland hasn't disappointed yet. Jordan Bastian tweeted Eveland's line from Spring Training thus far - he leads all Blue Jays starters with 21 innings pitched, accompanied by a sparkling 1.23 ERA. Not too shabby for a guy who wasn't even in the conversation when it came to candidates for the starting five.

At this point, it should be a no brainer to put Dana Eveland on the roster. For one, he is out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent down to Las Vegas. If that were the case, it would make those innings pitched all for nothing if Eveland doesn't even make the rotation.

The Manager claims only two of the five spots in the starting rotation are accounted for, so that leaves Brian Tallet, Marc Rzepczynski, Brandon Morrow, and Dana Eveland left to fill out the remaining three spots. With the most experience, in my opinion Tallet and Eveland are the favourites to win the final two starting rotation slots.

For the most part, we know what Brian Tallet is capable of. Morrow, Cecil and Rzepczynski are part of the long term plans for the Blue Jays, so there's no real reason to rush them along any quicker than they need to be.

Dana Eveland on the other hand, is the wild card. There could be a lot of upside to him ... or he could get completely lit up the first two months of the season and I could be completely wrong. However, that's the kind of chance the Blue Jays are going to have to take on Eveland.

Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope you don't get snake eyes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Clarifying Clarence's Choices


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Image courtesy of Daylife
While I haven't necessarily agreed with every single decision Cito Gaston has ever made, I've made a sincere effort to understand there is a method to his madness.

One often wonders what's going on inside that 66 year old head of his, especially when it comes to roster moves, in-game decisions or lack thereof.

With just under a week until the 2010 season gets underway, Clarence and the coaching staff have started to whittle down the non-roster invitees and the regulars into the Opening Day 25-man roster.

Are we overreacting to Overbay?

Ideally, Lyle Overbay would not be the starting first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays this year. If Adam Lind ends up being the full-time designated hitter, Overbay as the full-time first baseman  would potentially be taking at bats away from Randy Ruiz.

I don't think it was a statistical decision as much as it was a political decision. It was rumoured Overbay was one of the players who spearheaded the mutiny back in November, so my theory is this was a decision to keep Overbay happy during the final year of his contract.

Some are speculating that it was to raise his trade value, but even if Overbay puts up a decent first half, I think the Blue Jays will have a tough time finding any suitors for him at the trade deadline ... especially a team that's willing to pay the approximate $3.5 million left remaining on his contract.

Unless someone is looking for an above average fielding first basemen with a decent OBP, the Jays shouldn't expect to get the same kind of haul they received from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Scott Rolen.

Another reason for announcing Overbay as the starting first baseman is management is giving him the chance to play out the year so he can build his own value as a free agent.

It sounds like a crazy thing to do - help a player build their own worth so they can earn a contract with another team, but I think that's just the kind of guy Alex Anthopoulos is. He's an intelligent businessman, but he also gives the players the kind of respect they deserve.

The Sausage King claims his throne as closer

The "announcement" was about a week late, but Cito finally indicated who will be the closer for the Blue Jays this year, and it will be none other than Jason Frasor.

I believe this decision was made for two reasons; Frasor is the closer because simply ... he's the best man for the job. As Cito stated, Jason Frasor hasn't done anything to lose the title of closer.

Secondly, by announcing Jason Frasor as the official closer for the team, inherently he will draw interest from clubs who could be in need for a ninth inning guy somewhere down the road this season.

Personally, I thought Cito would lean on Kevin Gregg as the closer because he has the most experience closing out games. Now it appears Gregg and Scott Downs will duke it out to see who will be the setup man.

It's just proof that if Clarance makes enough decisions, eventually he will get some of them correct.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lazy Sunday Links


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Nothing cures a Sunday hangover like a big dose of Lazy Sunday Links!

C70 At The Bat continued their "Playing Pepper" feature by reaching out to a few of us Jays blogs. 1 Blue Jays Way, Infield Fly, and yours truly participated and answered some questions on the Blue Jays offseason and some predictions for this year.

Ever wondered what it was like to live a day in the life of Roy Halladay? The Sun's Bob Elliot got up early (like military early) to follow around Doc for a day. I actually prefer Ghostrunner on First's epic "A Day In The Existence Of Roy Halladay" post, but Elliot's article is slightly more realistic. Only slightly.

Speaking of the Phillies, they're down to the Sweet 16 over at The Phield. It's a brilliant concept - all the best Phillies blogs duke it out in a March Madness style bracket to see who becomes the champion of the Phillies blogosphere.

If you typically root for the underdog or like betting on the upset, put your money on "I Want To Go To The Zoo With Roy Halladay". Zoo With Roy should win just by the blog title alone.

Hat tip to Dan at John McDonald's Cabinet for tipping me off about the new book "Strike IX" featuring none other than ... John McDonald! It's all about how Providence College had to shut down their baseball program, which Johnny Mac was a part of. It in no part had to do with a lack of defense.

Mop Up Duty spearheaded this years Blue Jays Roundtable featuring most of the Blue Jays blogosphere. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the roundtable discussion for a complete rundown of predictions for this season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: Buck Martinez


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No matter where the game of baseball takes certain players, some of them always end up gravitating back to one particular place. For Buck Martinez, that place is Toronto.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we look back at the former player, reporter, coach, and new Sportsnet play-by-play announcer, Buck Martinez.

In total Martinez has been to the Blue Jays organization in some form or another five separate times. Talk about a cat with nine lives!

His first tour with the Blue Jays was as catcher for six years. Following the 1986 season, Martinez hung up his catcher's gear and picked up a microphone as the new color analyst for TSN.

There are a couple of great videos on Youtube of him interviewing most of the players on the Blue Jays roster in the clubhouse after they clinched the division title in 1991.


As a side note, watch the clip of Joe Carter at around 38 seconds. Isn't it identical to his celebration when he hit that home run off Mitch Williams in 1993?

Somehow, Buck also found time in 1985 and 1986 to pen two books: "From Worst to First" and "The Last Out". Personally, I've never read either of them, but at one point I did have "The Last Out" in my possession. Unfortunately, I never got around to reading it.

After numerous years in the broadcast booth, the Blue Jays hired Buck Martinez as manager in 2001 but he was relieved of his duties a mere season and a half later. With an overall 100-115 record as a manager, it was a little surprising the organization decided to let Martinez go so early. Maybe they were a little impatient and weren't willing to see what would happen if Buck finished out the season in 2002.

Following that, Buck returned to the field of broadcasting, most recently as the co-host of XM Radio's "Baseball This Morning".

Now here we are full circle, and Buck Martinez is set to return to the Blue Jays television broadcast team. With a guy like Martinez calling the games, you can be sure that he will definitely have lots of memories and experiences to draw from as a former player, coach, and broadcaster.

Welcome back, Buck.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Top Hot Tub Time Machine Moments in Blue Jays History


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For some reason or another, I have a fascination with movies involving time travel. Whether it's Back to the Future or The Terminator series, there's something very intriguing about the prospect of going back in time and changing the course of history.

So in honour of the soon to be cult classic  Hot Tub Time Machine
(in theatres this Friday !), I'd like to present my Top Hot Tub Time Machine Moments in Blue Jays History. And by that, I mean the moments in time I would go back to and change if given the opportunity.

Dave Stieb's near perfect game (August 4th, 1987)


Video courtesy of Mop Up Duty
On his fourth attempt, Dave Stieb achieved one of the most coveted accomplishments in major league baseball ... the no-hitter. However, Stieb was undoubtedly nervous in the 9th inning as he had come one out away from recording a no-hitter in his two previous attempts.

If I could go back in time, I would travel back to the top of the ninth inning on August 4th 1987, and call strike one to Roberto Kelly rather than ball one - thus leaving Dave Stieb only two strikes away from picking up the perfect game.

The ALCS against the Kansas City Royals (October 8th to 16th, 1985)

What's worse - losing the division lead the last weekend of the season, or being one win away from the World Series?

25 years later, the Blue Jays are still wondering what could have been if they closed out the Kansas City Royals in Game Five, Six, or heck, even Game Seven of the 1985 ALCS.

If I could go back in time, I would delay the decision to open up the League Series to seven games, and leave it at a best of five. That way, the Blue Jays would've made it to their first World Series in 1985 instead of 1992. 

Roy Halladay's line drive to the shin (July 8th, 2005)

Everything was going great for Roy Halladay in 2005. With a gleaming 12-4 record, he was cruising to his second Cy Young award. Then a line drive to the shin courtesy of Kevin Mench brought Halladay's Cinderella season to a crashing halt.

If I could go back in time through a magical hot tub, I would not only prevent Kevin Mench from playing in that particular game, I would prevent him from ever playing baseball altogether.

That way, it would eliminate Mench from becoming one half of the future Blue Jays hybrid abomination, "Mencherson".

The last series of the 1987 season (October 2nd to 4th, 1987)

Somewhere deep down, I felt bad for the Detroit Tigers for losing a tie-breaker game to the Minnesota Twins for the AL Central title last season.

That's because the 1987 Toronto Blue Jays suffered a similar fate by handing over the division lead to the Tigers during the final series of the regular season.

If I could go back, I would find a way to spike the Tigers' Gatorade cooler with Newfoundland Screech and thus render their entire team legally drunk, which would make them unable to play. Repeat for the final two games of the 1987 season, and the pennant belongs to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Scott Downs slips at Fenway Park (September 13th, 2008)

Surprisingly, it wasn't all that long ago when the Toronto Blue Jays were playing meaningful games in September. Trailing the Boston Red sox by a mere 7.5 games for the Wild Card lead, the Jays were clinging to a 5-4 lead late in the game on September 13th, 2008 at Fenway Park.

It turns out that in addition to not being able to run out of the batter's box safely, Scott Downs also has trouble fielding routine ground balls on occasion. He couldn't record the out on a slow roller from Jacoby Ellsbury, slipping and falling while trying to field the ball.

The Blue Jays would eventually lose the game 7-5, but if I could go back I would ensure that Scott Downs fielded the ball cleanly and thus help keep the Blue Jays playoff hopes alive.

Dustin McGowan's near no-no (June 24th, 2007)

It's not every day you get to witness possible franchise history in the making. Yet that's precisely was was unfolding in front of my eyes at the Rogers Centre on June 24th, 2007.

Cruising along after eight no-hit innings, Dustin McGowan was looking to record only the second no-hitter in Blue Jays history. Unfortunately, a leadoff single in the top of the ninth by the Rockies Jeff Baker broke up McGowan's no-hit bid.

If I could travel back to that day, I would make Jeff Baker a healthy scratch from the lineup and substitute in John Mabry, who had a .118 batting average that year.

Who would've ever guessed that it would be the National League's designated hitter who would end up getting the only hit for the Rockies that game.

What are your Top Hot Tub Time Machine Moments in Blue Jays History? If you could go back in time and change something about the Toronto Blue Jays, what would you do?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Live Chat Tonight


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We're getting down to the wire - it's less than two weeks away until the official opening of the 2010 baseball season, which means there is tons to talk about before the Blue Jays finalize their 25 man roster.

Join the live chat tonight starting at 8pm EST for an hour of great Jays talk. Hope to see you then!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marcum is the Man


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The Opening day torch has officially been passed to Shaun Marcum.

As expected, the Blue Jays officially announced that Marcum won the Opening Day starting job and will face off against the Texas Rangers in their Home Opener just two weeks from today.

After a couple of impressive starts in Florida, Marcum was basically a no-brainer to win the coveted position of Opening Day starer.

Back in December, I plead my case for Shaun Marcum to become the new ace (and face) of the team Ever since then, he hasn't disappointed one bit. While he doesn't necessarily have the track record to be considered a "true ace", I believe this is the season for Shaun Marcum to shine.

It's definitely going to be weird not seeing Roy Halladay kick off the season, but I am very excited to see what Shaun Marcum can bring to the table is his first full year back since 2007.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Uncovering the Blue Jays Injury Bug: the Inverted W


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A "W" is one of the most coveted statistics in the game. A W represents a win; a triumph over the opposing team.

The "Inverted W" on the other hand, is quite the contrary.

During the live chat a few weeks back, Nick brought up an interesting article from Chris O'Leary entitled "Death to the Inverted W". I noticed that Shaun Marcum was featured prominently in the article. Intrigued by the mention of one of my favourite pitchers, I decided to venture a little further into the rabbit hole.

Taking a look at the photo above, you can notice that Marcum is a candidate for the Inverted W delivery, which can be defined as when the pitcher's elbows are above the shoulders at the point of delivery to form an upside down W.

So what makes the Inverted W such a bad thing? Chris O'Leary explains:
"I believe that pitchers who make the Inverted W are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing shoulder, and in some cases also elbow problems.

I don't think the Inverted W is bad in and of itself. Instead, the problem with the Inverted W is that it can create a timing problem where the PAS (Pitching Arm Side) forearm is not in the proper, vertical position at the moment the GS foot lands and the shoulders start to rotate.

It increases the distance and force with which the PAS upper arm will externally rotate. This increases the stress on both the elbow and the shoulder.

I do think the Inverted W can increase the likelihood of a direct shoulder (especially rotator cuff) injury such as an impingement injury."
As soon as I saw the word impingement, I immediately thought of Scott Richmond. A shoulder impingement was the injury he initially suffered back in July, and now has him on the 60-Day DL.

Sure enough, after looking through the photos, Richmond shows signs of the Inverted W. Albeit not the textbook case, his pitching arm side does not raise very high above his shoulders, but it does occur.

But he's not the only one. Although Brian Tallet did not suffer from any injuries last year, the photo below indicates that the Inverted W could lead to one in the future.

I asked Chris if the injury to Scott Richmond and possibly Brian Tallet in the future could be attributed to the Inverted W.
"The Inverted W doesn't seem to cause injury in and of itself. What it does is increase the likelihood that the pitcher will develop a timing problem and thus put more strain on their elbow and shoulder.

Without video, I can't say anything definitive about Tallet and Richmond, but I'd bet that if you looked at video of them you'd see a timing problem where their Pitching Arm Side forearm is closer to horizontal than vertical at the moment their front heel plants and their shoulders start to rotate."
Thanks to footage and pictures, maybe we can predict which pitchers are more susceptible to injuries than others. Strangely though, members of the Blue Jays pitching staff have seemingly dropped one by one due to major injuries. I was very curious as to the congregation of injuries to the Blue Jays pitching staff.

Just in the past three years, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch and formerly B.J. Ryan all succumbed to major injuries. Some believed that former pitching coach Brad Arsnberg was in some way responsible for the demise of the Jays young arms. Chris suggested it could actually be attributed to the scouts.
"I have often wondered if someone inside the Blue Jays is actually selecting guys because they have the Inverted W. They just seem to congregate in the Blue Jays more than in any other organization, which makes me wonder if people are either drafting or signing pitchers for it or teaching it.

I don't doubt that the Inverted W may give a pitcher a few extra MPH. However, it's the equivalent of running a car past the red line. It works. For a while. But you're going to cut the life of the engine short because you're overloading it."
Whether or not the Inverted W actually increases the likelihood of injuries in players remains to be seen, but from what I've read and seen on the subject in the past few weeks, I'm a believer.

It's great that coaches and trainers can recognize the Inverted W may lead to problems in the future, and I was curious if it could be "cured" - as in, could pitchers alter their delivery to avoid the Inverted W? Chris O'Leary explains:
You're dealing with muscle memory, which can be VERY hard to overcome. I've had a few youth level guys who were taught the Inverted W, and I wasn't able to get them to transition to a better arm action.

There's also the question of motivation, given that the pitcher very well may lose a few MPH and thus some effectiveness. That possible level of performance reduction is a very hard pill for a pitcher to swallow, especially if he's still able to survive in the big leagues.
So what can we take away from all this information? Basically, it serves as a warning to pitchers and their coaches; if it's evident they have a Inverted W delivery, they could be much more susceptible to injuries than their counterparts who do not.

It appears that trying to alter a pitcher's delivery is like trying to teach them to pitch with the opposite arm. In this particular situation with young pitchers, it's much easier to be proactive than retroactive.

If they have already been accustomed to their delivery, then there's not much the pitching coaches can do about it. Unfortunately, those mechanics are something pitchers can necessarily re-learn or avoid, so it could be a slippery slope for young hurlers that demonstrate the telltale signs of the Inverted W.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Travis Snider: Shredder of Lumber


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Image courtesy of Daylife
It wasn't all that long ago when many were questioning whether Travis Snider would even make the Opening Day roster.

After a rough first couple of first weeks in Spring Training, there was a distinct possibility that he could have been taken out back and put through the proverbial wood chipper.

Now it's Snider who is shredding the lumber.

After swatting two home runs on Thursday's game against the Orioles, Snider has bumped his batting average up to .273 thanks in part to three home runs in three straight at bats.

It may have taken him a little while to get warmed up, but does this mean the real Travis Snider has finally stood up?

Some believe that a huge part of this team's success in 2010 hinges on whether or not Vernon Wells can step it up. On the other hand, I believe it rests on the shoulders of none other than the Great Big Giant White Pasty Hope (TM Tao of Stieb) himself, Travis Snider.

As the highest paid player on the roster for many years to come, financially the Blue Jays have a great deal invested in Vernon Wells. However, I believe the Blue Jays have much more invested in the future of Travis Snider.

Over the past two seasons, Travis Snider has been called up to the big leagues three times. And in each of those instances, he brought an air of hope with him that no other Blue Jay has duplicated in recent memory.

Even if the Blue Jays were completely out of contention, the news that Travis Snider would be added to the roster signalled a wave of enthusiasm and excitement to an otherwise inconsequential season.

It's a similar feeling that fans will also hopefully get to experience when Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek eventually make their major league debuts in the near future.

At 22 years old, the best years of Travis Snider's career are still on the horizon. The future for him is as bright as his complexion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: the 1989-1996 Home Uniforms


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With the official demise of Flashback Fridays, it looks like Acid Flashback Friday remains as the only look back to Blue Jays yesteryear.

This week, we honour the classic home uniforms from the 1989-1996 seasons.

Surprisingly, the club donned these for the Flashback Friday on August 8th during the Back2Back Weekend, and I have to say they looked very sharp.

It was a very nice change from the very loud powder blue jerseys. Nothing against those uniforms, but the home white uniforms are much more traditional and don't look like a novelty uniform like the powder blues.
There's something about this uniform in particular that conjures up so many good memories of this ball club. Maybe it's because the Blue Jays won four division titles, two American League Pennants, and two World Series during the tenure of this particular uniform.

Maybe it's because there so many iconic images of Blue Jays players wearing the classic white home uniforms that we mostly associate this jersey with good times from the past.

Since the Blue Jays will no longer we sporting the powder blues on Friday home games, why not have them wear the home white uniforms instead? They would look great as an alternate jersey the Blue Jays could bust out every once in a while.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The 2nd Annual BJH Fantasy Baseball Draft Day Strategy Guide


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With the Tao of Stieb's Roto-Hoedown draft set to go down this weekend and The Blue Jay Hunter draft scheduled for Monday, I thought I would share some tips for draft day.

1.) Concede one category to win two

In my first fantasy baseball draft last weekend, I drafted the golden trifecta of strikeout kings: Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena. While my team's batting average category is going to take a huge hit as a result, it sets me up to win RBI's, HR's and even OBP.

This is a bit of a risky move, but I would much rather have sluggers on my team rather than guys like Ichiro or Derek Jeter who hit for average and can get you some steals, but not much else.

2.) Beware the sophomore slump

Last season I preached the same advice - if it all possible, avoid drafting players in their sophomore year. I subsequently ignored my own advice, and picked up Evan Longoria in 3 of my 4 leagues last season. Luckily, the move worked in my favour, but as far as I can remember Longoria was one of the few exceptions to the rule.

It's difficult to get all wrapped up in the hype for guys like Tommy Hanson, J.A. Happ and Clayton Kershaw. Especially with rookie starting pitchers without a proven track record, it's difficult to guage what their second season will be like in the majors.

3.) Same faces, new places

As usual, there are plenty of players who have new homes to begin the 2010 season.

Will Cliff Lee benefit by moving to the more pitcher-friendly park in Seattle? Will Jake Peavy's ERA inflate after moving from the confines of Petco Park to US Cellular Field? And can Javier Vazquez make the successful transition back to the American League?

All of these things should be taken into consideration when making your picks.

4.) They had the time of their life, but will they do it again?

Last year, their were multiple candidates that seemingly came out of nowhere to snag some MVP votes. I'm talking about players like Kendry Morales, Ben Zobrist, and Pablo Sandoval.

Will they do it again, or were they just some flash in the plan? I have a tough time believing that lightning will strike twice with these guys, so don't be tempted to draft these fellas very high in your league.

5.) Injury notice

There is no way of knowing if the team you draft at the beginning of the season will remain healthy all year, but you can do yourself a favour by checking the injury reports before draft day.

Especially with high-ranked picks such as Jose Reyes, Joe Nathan, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton, you don't want to gamble on guys who might begin the season on the Disabled List.

6.) Go with the flow

Definitely have a plan of attack going into draft day, but don't abandon all hope if Roy Halladay gets drafted one pick ahead of you. If the league starts heading in one direction, shift accordingly and continue to fill your roster as needed.

7.) Ride the dark horses to victory

This is where fantasy baseball teams are made or broken. The dark horse players are always the most gratifying to select, and if they don't pan out then it's never a big loss to just toss them out onto the waiver wire.

Candidates here include pitchers who are coming back from substantial injuries (Shaun Marcum), positional players who have moved up the depth chart (Matt Wieters), and minor league players who are poised to crack their roster (Randy Ruiz).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Live Chat Tonight


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If you need to take a break from the St. Patrick's Day debauchery, feel free to join us for tonight's live chat starting at 8pm EST.

With Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan's impressive road to recovery, the sudden emergence of Mike McCoy, and the official/unofficial signing of Adeinis Hechavarria, there will be plenty to talk about for 60 minutes.

Hope to chat with you then!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mike McCoy is the new Slap Chop


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Hey, it's Vince here with the greatest invention since the Slap Chop ... Blue Jays utility man Mike McCoy.

You're going to be in a great mood all season because you're going to be hitting and gloving away your troubles with Mike McCoy on the roster.

Now look, here's an ordinary middle infielder. One slap, you've got a guy who can play the hot corner. Two slaps, you've got an outfielder just like that.

Now I love pitchers, but once in a while get those position players in there to throw a couple innings when those guys get tired. One slap, and Mike McCoy picks up the ball and goes to the mound.

Alright, life's hard enough as it is for Blue Jays fans. You don't wanna cry anymore. Put Mike McCoy in there and you'll stop crying long enough to forget that Roy Halladay isn't coming back.

Guys, we're going to make the Blue Jays somewhat competitive again ... one utility player at a time.

Now here's the deal - when you put Mike McCoy on the roster, you either get the Joey Gathright or the Jeremy Reed. They're both great for the outfield, or even jumping over cars if someone suddenly drives a vehicle onto the field and they need to leap over it to catch a fly ball.

Mike McCoy sells for $400,000, but if you pencil him in on the 25-man roster now ... because you know we can't do this all spring, you're going to get Joey Gathright or Jeremy Reed. Just pay another league minimum salary.

Here's how to order!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Shortstop Search is Over


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Alex Anthopoulos' search for a shortstop could finally be over.

The New York post reported that the Blue Jays are close to signing Cuban defector Adeinis Hechavarria to a 4-year $10 million dollar contract.

Anthopoulos let it be known a few weeks ago that a shortstop was one of the coveted pieces he was searching for in rebuilding this team, and they would definitely have it by signing Hechavarria.

Just from watching the video above, it's evident that Hechavarria not only has great range as a shortstop, but incredible speed as well. Once again, the New York post suggests that Hechavarria's speed could translate as an outfielder.

The only stumbling block with that idea is Vernon Wells still has five years left on his contract, and certainly isn't planning on opting out of his contract after the 2011 season. Hechavarria skills would definitely bode well for him as a centre fielder, but at this point Alex Anthopoulos probably sees him much more valuable as a middle infielder.

Prior to the news of this possible signing, the Blue Jays 2007 first round pick in Justin Jackson was their next best bet when it came to a shortstop of the future. Jackson is still in Single A ball and has a long journey ahead before he makes it to the majors.

One could only imagine where Adeinis Hechavarria would begin the 2010 season, my guess is in Double A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

What makes this news even sweeter is the fact that the New York Yankees and the Blue Jays were the final two teams bidding on Hechavarria. Any time a player chooses the Jays over the Yankees is a fantastic day.

One can't blame him for choosing the Jays though, because it seems like the Yankees are so reluctant to move on from Derek Jeter. The next shortstop in the Yankees organization waiting in the wings for Jeter to move on or retire could be waiting for a long time to supersede Jeter in the Yankees middle infield.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gordon Lightfoot as Prime Minister?


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What a whirlwind past few weeks for Gordon Lightfoot. Last week he was rumored to have died, and now this week he inherits the throne as the Prime Minister of Canada!

At least that's what Jason Frasor thinks.

Check out this great video courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet of Scott Richmond quizzing his American teammates on some Canadian trivia.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fall of Flashback Fridays


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Kids, I hate to say it ... but Friday home games at the Rogers Centre will no long be known as Flashback Fridays.

According to the Blue Jays official Twitter account, there will no longer be Flashback Fridays at the Rogers Centre. The news comes after a noticable lack of Giveaway Days on the Blue Jays 2010 home schedule, and it appears Flashback Fridays were not immune to the cutbacks.

I would say this was a fairly successful promotion, with prominent players in Blue Jays history returning for autograph signings and on-field recognitions. Most notably was the Back2Back Weekend just last summer.

That also means the Blue Jays will no longer sport their Powder Blue uniforms on Friday home games, but apparently will still be worn during selected games throughout the season.

Maybe this opens the door for the 1992-1993 Home White jerseys to make a return?

Flashback Friday: 1992 McDonald's Donruss MVP Baseball Card Set


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After getting all nostalgic reading Mop Up Duty's great post on baseball cards earlier this week, I couldn't help but think back to some of my favourite cards from back in my childhood. While the actual value on these cards isn't particularly high, the sentimental value is priceless.

For this week's trip down memory lane during Flashback Friday, let's focus in particular on the 1992 McDonald's Donruss MVP Baseball Card set.

The traditional way to obtain these cards was by purchasing the little four or five card packs at McDonald's. I can't remember the exact price (probably around 99 cents), and each pack came with one of the special gold foil cards above.

Admittedly, I kind of cheated to complete my set. I remember buying these for a cool $1.75 at the Ilderton Fair. The vendor was asking $3 dollars but my father refused to pay such a steep price for six baseball cards, so he handed over $1.75 to his ten-year old son, and I proceeded to haggle the vendor.

Knowing that I was just a little kid who loved the Blue Jays, the guy probably felt sorry for me and let me have the cards for $1.75. It felt like I had just won the lottery.

Anyway, enough with my inconsequential anecdotes ... whether it was this set in particular or another baseball card, it's always great to look back at old collections and reminisce about a much more simple time where the only two things we looked forward to were playing baseball, and spending recess looking at baseball cards.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is Brian Tallet better as a Starter or Reliever?


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Image courtesy of Daylife
Brian Tallet is the proverbial Swiss Army Knife of the Blue Jays pitching staff. He can toss a couple of innings of solid relief, take over for a struggling starter in the long relief role, or step in as a dependable arm in the starting rotation.

Tallet has spent most of his major league stint as a relief pitcher, but he actually began his career as a starter with the Indians. Since then, he has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, most recently settling in as one of the candidates for the Blue Jays starting rotation.

Now we stand at a crossroads - either Tallet makes his way onto the 25 man roster as a starting pitcher, or a reliever. So it begs the question - is Brian Tallet better as a starter or reliever?

The answer might surprise you.

IP ERA BB/9 K/9 HR/9
Starter (Career) 167.8 4.99 4.13 6.17 0.97
Reliever (Career) 197.8 3.78 4.14 7.23 0.73

Honestly, I was expecting Tallet's numbers as a starter to be through the roof after last season. It was no surprise that he had some control problems and also had a tendency to give up quite a few long balls.

However, if you average things out, Brian Tallet is more effective as a reliever ... but not by much.

Aside from his ERA being a full run higher as a starting pitcher, Tallet's career statistics are very similar whether he was starting the game or throwing from the 'pen.

Prior to Brett Cecil's "kitchen-type incident", personally I would much rather have Brian Tallet break camp as a relief pitcher rather than one of the starting five. Now that plans have suddenly changed, it looks like Tallet is the odds-on favourite to snag the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

That being said, I think that Tallet is still best served in the bullpen. With so many young hurlers on the mound, he's probably going to rack up a ton of relief innings anyway.

Why not give the chance to somebody like Dana Eveland or maybe even Lance Broadway? If Dustin McGowan isn't ready by the time Opening Day rolls around, there are plenty of other guys that could easily occupy the fifth starter's spot.

It's not like the Blue Jays don't have anything to lose ... except for more games.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Live Chat Tonight


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It's hard to believe it's already been an entire week since Spring Training began - with a full seven days of games under their belts, the Blue Jays are showing great signs of promise.

Which players have impressed you so far? Which have failed to live up to expectations? We'll discuss it all during tonight's live chat. It gets underway once again at 8pm EST. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trade Fodder: Jason Frasor for Hak-Ju Lee?


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Image courtesy of Flickr user Let's Play Two
Yesterday, I was preparing to write a post about how the Blue Jays have quite the conundrum choosing from their three closer candidates in Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg.

Now it appears that decision just might become a whole lot easier.

It turns out that the Blue Jays three-headed closer monster could be reduced to two, as the Chicago Cubs are once again reported to be interested in Jason Frasor. While the Blue Jays have ample arms to chose from, the Chicago Cubs on the other hand are desperately seeking help in the bullpen.

After reading the Jason Frasor post on MLB Trade Rumors, the consensus in the comments seems to be that it would be fair for the Blue Jays to ask for the Cubs shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee.

Having not being too familiar with the Cubbies farm system, I searched the internets for any tidbit of information I could find on Hak-Ju Lee. Here is what ScoutingBook.com had to say about the Cubs prospect:
"A big, powerful shortstop from Korea, Cubs prospect Hak-Ju Lee is a polished hitter (.330/.399/.420 as an 18 year old at low-A Boise) who seems to have the footwork and arm to stick at shortstop. His 25 steals in 68 games is also a highlight. He should move quickly, and could reach AA by the end of 2010."
Lee would definitely bring some great speed and could fit in quite nicely as a dependable leadoff hitter  and fits the bill for the prototype of shortstop that Alex Anthopoulos has been so desperately seeking.

Another extremely promising aspects of Lee's game is his blistering speed on the basepaths. Last year with the Cubs Single A affiliate Boise Hawks, Lee swiped 25 bases in 62 games, having only been caught six times.

Scouts also boasted of his speed out of the batter's box, having been clocked in around 4.10 from the batter's box to first base. Somebody get Drew from Ghostrunner on First on the phone because it sounds like the Blue Jays just might stumble on to their own version of Ichiro.

If all it's going to take to acquire Hak-Lu Lee from the Cubs is Jason Frasor, Alex Anthopoulos should make the trade before the Cubs find another suitor. Right now, Frasor's value is at it's apex and they should pull the trigger on any offer from the Cubs that includes Lee.

Since they invited so many arms to Spring Training in the first place, the Blue Jays can easily afford to lose Frasor and thus opens the door for guys like Josh Roenicke, Zech Zenicola or even Merkin Valdez to make the roster.

Monday, March 8, 2010

God of Walks


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Move over Kevin Youkilis, there's a new Greek God of walks - and his name is Aaron Hill.

I know he's only played in four Spring Training games, but could Hill be reinventing himself as an on-base percentage titan? All signs are pointing to yes, as he currently holds a .909 OBP thanks in part to a .800 batting average and six walks.

It's apparent that Aaron Hill is very conscious this spring about being patient at the plate - almost the exact opposite of his strategy last season, which was swing away early in the count.

Hitting in the two slot, it's advantageous for Hill to work the count for two reasons: one, by wearing down the pitcher in his at bat, that leaves the door wide open for Adam Lind to capitalize on mistakes made by a tired pitcher in the following at bat.

Secondly, with Hill's reputation of swinging early in the count, pitchers are more likely to start him off out of the zone rather than throw the typical first pitch fastball down the heart of the plate.

Also, the added pressure with Lind in the on-deck circle is bound to work in Hill's favour - so he can either see the pitch he wants, or draw a base on balls.

Either way, it's already paying dividends for Hill this Spring Trainingwith his new approach at the plate. Let's hope that it carries over into the regular season, and possibly in the new future he'll have the honour of being known as the new Greek God of Walks - the Great Hilles.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What team IS this?


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Image courtesy of Daylife
Who are these guys and what have they done with the Toronto Blue Jays?

Not usually known for their small ball tactics, over the course of their first three Spring Training games the Blue Jays are showing a completely different shade of themselves.

The first thing that stands out in my mind is Aaron Hill's on base percentage. Given he's only played two games, but he's already drawn four walks which equals a 1.000 OBP. I suppose if you preach patience at the plate long enough, hitters will eventually listen.

Secondly, is how the Jays have suddenly employed the running game into their reppetoire. On Wednesday, it was the use of the double steal. Today, it was the hit and run and a bunt from Joey Gathright.

It's not like Cito Gaston to suddenly change his managing style, but maybe he's trying to go out with a bang this season by using every trick in the book.

Finally, let's give a well deserved slow clap to Jose Bautista. The Bautista Appreciation society was most pleased with his performance today: 3 for 3 with two doubles and a home run. And, the home run came off of Cole Hamels - a lefty nonetheless.

Don't forget, BAS Memberships are still available and make a great gift for the Jays fan!

Acid Flashback Friday: Mitch Williams


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Who could forget that look of disdain and that long flowing mane?

Toronto Blue Jays fans remember him as the man who turned Joe Carter into an icon. The Philadelphia Phillies remember him as the guy who let one get away. For this edition of Acid Flashback Friday, let's take a look back at "Wild Thing" Mitch Williams.

I did a brief writeup on him back in 2008, and after basking in his mistake for years, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Mitch Williams because of all the backlash he received after the 1993 World Series.

Most recently, Williams joined the panel on the MLB Network as a studio analyst. In my mind though, he will always be known as the guy who almost fell down on the mound every time he threw a pitch.

In other Phillies news ...

Not surprisingly, Roy Halladay was flawless in his Philadelphia Phillies debut yesterday. I know it's a fairly small sample size, but through two innings of work, Doc threw 24 strikes and 3 balls. You're welcome, Philly.

Speaking of which, the fine folks at the Philadelphia sports blog iSportacus asked me some questions on what to expect from Roy Halladay.

I suppose it's all finally coming full circle ... Mitch Williams and the Phillies gave the Blue Jays a gift in the form of a 2-2 pitch down and in to Joe Carter, and then the Jays reciprocated 16 years with the gift of Roy Halladay.

I'd say we're about even now.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Big Lubanski


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It might be a little early to start giving nicknames to guys like Chris Lubanski, but the meantime, The Big Lubanski (hat tip to The Globe's Rob Macleod) seems like the perfect moniker.

Lubanski turned quite a few heads after he crushed a three-run home run in yesterday's Spring Training Home Opener against the Tigers. Not to get all up in arms after just a couple of at bats, but could Chris Lubanski be the second coming of a superstar?

Obviously, the Kansas City Royals saw that Lubanski had the potential to be a star player, and that's why he was their first pick in the 2003 draft.

Unfortunately for the Royals, he failed to display any signs of promise in their farm system and although he spent six years within the Royals organization, Lubanski never logged any Major League service time.

Interestingly enough, Chris Lubanski was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 MLB draft ahead of fellow Blue Jays Aaron Hill (13th) and Shaun Marcum (80th).

Still relitately young at 24 years old, Chris Lubanski is hoping for a second chance at success with the Toronto Blue Jays.

If his first game with Toronto was any indication of what's to come, the team just might have another heavy-hitting left handed bat to add to their arsenal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring Training Opens Today


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The time has come. Spring Training has officially arrived, and not a moment too soon!

Later this afternoon, the Blue Jays kick off their 2010 Spring Training schedule against the Detroit Tigers. Ricky Romero starts the game and will likely get two to three innings of work before the baton is passed onto Dana Eveland and then Josh Roenicke.

After perusing Cito's first lineup card of Spring Training, I shook my head when I saw Travis Snider all the way down at the bottom hitting ninth. Once again, there is a method to Cito's madness - when I was crunching the numbers for last week's post on the possible Opening  Day lineup, it revealed that statistically Snider is a better hitter in the number nine spot. I understand why Cito is doing this, but I don't necessarily agree with it.

I'm sure it will be a topic of discussion during tonight's live chat. After a brief hiatus, it returns once again tonight at 8pm EST. With the first game of Spring Training officially under their belts, there will be plenty to talk about. Hope to see you then!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Begins Tomorrow


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According to the calendar, Spring may not start until March 21st, but for Blue Jays fans ... Spring officially gets underway tomorrow.

In just over 24 hours, the Blue Jays kick off their Spring Training schedule against the Detroit Tigers at Dunedin Stadium. Unfortunately, we will be relegated to Twitter updates and constantly refreshing the boxscore to find out how the Blue Jays will fare against the Tigers.

Luckily, Friday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies will be broadcasted on MLB.com, but the only way to listen live is through MLB's GameDay Audio (which I'm told will be available later today).

For just $19.95, I highly suggest subscribing - the GameDay subscription allows you to listen to this Friday's game against the Phillies, as well as a few addition weekday games and all the weekend broadcasts.

Plus, you also get to listen to all the regular season games online - which is a bonus because keep in mind The Fan is not allowed to transmit the games on their website.

Speaking of Friday, thanks to the insight from Jordan Bastian's latest blog post, we discovered that Marc Rzepczynski will start the game against the Phillies.

Brett Cecil will also get some work, followed by Kyle Drabek in his highly anticipated debut as a Blue Jay. The Phillies will counter on the mound with Cole Hamels, J.C. Ramirez, Ryan Vogelsong and Antonio Bastardo.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scott Richmond brings home the Gold


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Image courtesy of Daylife
In what could possibly be the funniest Blue Jays photo day picture in recent memory, Scott Richmond (above) poses with his homemade Olympic Gold Medal in honour of Team Canada's big win over the United States in the Gold Medal hockey game.

I have to give credit to Scott, he obviously took some time to craft the medal and also attach it to a Baseball Canada lanyard. That takes commitment and determination, not unlike the skills that Team Canada displayed yesterday. Of all the days for Scott Richmond to pose with a homemade Gold Medal, today (otherwise known as the day after St. Crosby Day) was the day to do it.

And who said that Canadians didn't have a sense of humour?

According to reports for Jordan Bastian, one of his jealous teammates ripped up the medal in a fit of rage. Could it be the same person who stuffed a Team Italy cap in Richmond's locker after Canada's loss to the Italians in the World Baseball Classic?

An inquiry is currently pending and hopefully the suspect will be brought to justice.

10 Questions with David Brown from Yahoo! Sports


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When it comes to baseball, he's the guy with all the answers.

So I thought ... who better to ask about the most burning questions this Spring Training than the "Answer Man" himself?

I had the pleasure of asking David Brown from Yahoo! Sports and Big League Stew, 10 questions regarding everyone's favourite late winter pastime, Major League Baseball's Spring Training.

1.) There has been some controversy across the blogosphere over the new designs for the Spring Training caps and uniforms. What are your thoughts in particular on the new batting practice caps?
It’s funny to care about batting practice *caps* when, in batting practice, we only usually pay attention to the guy swinging in the cage -- who is wearing a helmet.

That said, I appreciate baseball fashionistas. If the things are ugly enough, the players will complain, and people won’t buy them, and they’ll change the design for next year.

Aside for my love for the Montreal Expos old paneled caps, I tend to like simplicity. When you try to do too much, as these caps seem to do, it gets hard to look at.

Someone commented that the White Sox have the only sharp-looking batting practice cap, and I would add the Tigers and Yankees to that. But you’re already talking about classic, simple logos to begin with.
2.) With the addition of Twitter to the beat reporter's arsenal, what used to take days or even weeks to report has now become instantaneous. How has Twitter changed the game of reporting from Spring Training?
We’re still finding out. It is so much easier to be wrong when publishing something -- and tweets count as “publishing.” I do think it’s a positive for a good reporter who’s able to be “first” with a brief tweet and then can take a little extra time to post a detailed blog of the subject that has its facts straight. But Twitter is even more exciting as a reporter’s tool (I said “tool”, huh-huh).

Communicating with other reporters and fans, seeing what people are talking about. It makes for being better-informed more quickly. As we all get used to the medium and more join, it will get even better.

It’s also great advertising. Maybe first and foremost, it’s a great way just to let people know you’ve published something. That goes for professional journalists, bloggers who do this on the side, whatever.
3.) In your opinion, what is the most over-used Spring Training cliche? And on the flip side, which Spring Training cliche would you like to hear more of?
If it’s not Rogers Hornsby looking at a calendar or out the window or whatever it is, I’d have to say it’s “best shape of his career” thing. I’m not saying we get rid of it because, sometimes, a guy WILL actually show up and be in the best shape of his career and maybe it’s news-worthy. Just gotta take it all with a grain of salt -- speaking of cliches.

The second question is tricky. This isn’t only germane to spring training but I hate it when someone writes, for example, “Casey Janssen threw *off* the mound today.” The reporters mean to say he threw *on* the mound. Yes, he threw the ball off the mound to the catcher, but he was standing *on* the mound when he did. Just write: “He threw *from* the mound” to eliminate the confusion that it seems only I experience.
4.) I'm sure you've visited many Spring Training facilities over the years - out of all of them, which is your favourite ballpark?
This is actually only my second spring training, and as I write I have yet to see Arizona at all. But the best park I’ve visited so far, hands down, is Joker Marchant in Lakeland. Just gorgeous and it seems to give the Tigers whatever they need.

I also like Pirate City in East Bradenton -- which isn’t a stadium but it’s where they train and some of the players stay. It looks like a high-end La Quinta with half a dozen baseball fields attached. Inside, there's a game room with pool tables and artwork of famous Pirates (not including Blackbeard).
5.) You are starting off in Florida covering the Grapefruit League teams and then heading west to Arizona to take in some Cactus League action. Is there one league you prefer over the other?
I grew up an American League fan, I think the DH makes sense and the best teams are in the AL. But I like the National League for some reason. Maybe it’s just the overall personalities of the players and managers? I’ve never added up why, but I’ve noticed it about myself. I’ve been covering baseball since 1998, so if it’s cyclical, it’s been long-ass cycle.
6.) What do you think is the most compelling storyline coming out of Blue Jays Spring Training camp?
I just finished the Jays preview, so I am knee-deep in this right now. Big-picture, it’s if AA is the right guy to lead the organization but maybe more specifically, will ownership enable him to do it?

I like most of the moves he’s made so far, considering his position, and I just get feel a confidence about him that wasn’t the cockiness that J.P. had (I thought).

Short-term, it’s Randy Ruiz. At 32, can he make his first opening day roster, get playing time, do well, make himself stick and hit 25 homers and .300 as a rookie? That would be just awesome if he could.
7.) Can you give us one name on the Blue Jays roster that will keep the flame of eternal hope burning this season?
Aaron Hill is a great Jay in the Gruber, McGriff, Moseby tradition. He’s 28, so there’s a chance he’ll still be around when the team is good again.
8.) I noticed that the Blue Jays and Phillies Spring Training facilities are only 3 miles apart. Do you think there is any possibility the Blue Jays try will try to kidnap Roy Halladay in the middle of the night and bring him back to Dunedin?
I like this question; someone should make a Youtube drama of it. I actually wish I had asked someone this question down there, even though the answers probably wouldn’t have been as witty.

Even if they managed to sneak him into Dunedin, once they try to get him over the border into Toronto, they’ve got some major issues. I mean, look at those missionaries in Haiti who stole those kids.
9.) Is there one player in particular (Blue Jay or otherwise) that has impressed you the most so far this Spring Training?
Phillies’ rookie Domonic Brown is going to be a star. It’s too bad the Jays couldn’t have squeezed him out of Ruben Amaro too.
10.) Last year, the most inventive Spring Training autograph surfaced on Big League Stew known as the "Tacograph". Which food item do you see as being then next big "edible autograph"?
I would like to see Randy Ruiz sign a McRib, which is back for a limited time at Florida McDonalds.
A big thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions. Check out his coverage from MLB's Spring Training camps during Big League Stew's "Spring Swing", and be sure to follow him on Twitter as "AnswerDave".

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