Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Vacation Catch Up: A Week's Worth of Blue Jays News
By Ian Hunter
Apparently I picked the second worst week of the season to go on holidays for Blue Jays news, ranking second only behind the week of the Colby Rasmus trade.
A lot happened in Blue Jays Land over the past week, but the three things that stood out in my mind were the handlings (or mishandlings) of Travis Snider and Jesse Litsch, and Brett Lawrie's promotion.
The Snider Saga Continues
Earlier this year, Alex Anthopoulos said once Snider was called back up, he was here to stay. Which is why I was so surprised to learn Travis Snider was sent down to make room for Brett Lawrie.
I guess it was a toss-up between Snider and Thames, and I just assumed that Travis would stay due to seniority alone. Players are sent down to the minors all the time, and it's not always necessarily performance-based.
Had Eric Thames been the sacrificial lamb, I don't think many folks would have said much about it. Thames' time will come, and hopefully he will have a long and fruitful career with the Blue Jays. With his million dollar smile, I can't imagine Eric would be frowning too long about being sent down.
Travis Snider on the other hand has much more to lose by going back down to AAA. It can't be great for a player's psyche to have an organization tell you they believe in you wholeheartedly, only to have the rug pulled from under you only four weeks later and be sent back down to the minors.
So now here we are four years into the Travis Snider experiments, and we still don't know exactly what we have with him. It still is just exactly that ... an experiment.
I know this is the typical cynical approach (however uncommon around these parts) to prospects, but from now on I think I'm setting my expectations for Travis Snider very low.
It really pains me to say this, but at this point in his career, it feels like Snider is still a prospect with just over a year of big league service time.
The problem is the Travis Snider experiment has been a long time in the making, and he's been hyped and built up so much over these past four years that anything less than A+ from Snider feels like a disappointment.
The Litsch is Back ... in the Bullpen
Speaking of potential strained relationships with players, it appears the Blue Jays have soured on keeping Jesse Litsch as parting of the starting rotation ... at least for the time being.
The first red flag that Litsch might not be back immediately as a starting pitcher was when he was sent down to Las Vegas after his rehab stint. The second was the fact the Blue Jays kept him in the bullpen even after Carlos Villanueva's injury cleared a spot.
My initial thought was perhaps they were hoping to reinvent Jesse Litsch as the new Marc Rzepczynski, because the bullpen has been a weak spot for the Blue Jays nearly the entire season and they have the arms to spare from the rotation.
With so much help in the way of starting pitchers, the Blue Jays must have thought Jesse would serve the club better as the new long relief man rather than the fifth starter.
I'm not saying the door is closed forever for Jesse Litsch to be a starter, but it certainly feels like the door is closed at least in the short term. By all indications from the initial results from having Litsch in the bullpen, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
All Aboard the Brett Lawrie Express
The final and biggest piece of news from Blue Jays Land that happened last week was the call-up of Brett Lawrie. It was merely a matter of time before Lawrie would make his debut, and now it's time to see if he can live up to his reputation.
Expectations are astronomically high and for the time being, Brett Lawrie is rising to the occasion. However, as was evident with Travis Snider, we have to be very careful with expectations for Brett Lawrie.
Which is not to say I don't believe Brett Lawrie will fare well in the Major Leagues, it's just that sometimes things don't always go according to plan with prospects. Very rarely do players ever get called up and never get sent back down to the minor leagues.
As was apparent in Baltimore, there are still going to be some growing pains for Brett Lawrie at third base. He hasn't quite mastered the art of the hot corner, and I'm okay with that so long as he continues to improve at the position.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago in the aftermath of the Colby Rasmus trade, but I believe that move pushed up the timetable of contention for the Blue Jays to as early as next season. That's why they need to get Lawrie in there now to see if he can hit big league pitching and if he can hold the fort at third base.
If Major League Baseball indeed adds two more Wild Card teams to the playoffs as early as the 2012 season, the Blue Jays need to get their ducks in a row now to see if they can begin contending for one of those five playoff spots. And there's no question Brett Lawrie would be a big part of that.