Spring Training is underway and the Toronto Blue Jays are off to a 0-4 start in 2017. Thankfully, the games do not count but this will not help Toronto in their quest to become Grapefruit League champions. As the Blue Jays partnership with the Vancouver Canadians now six years in, we’re seeing more and more players with Vancouver connections playing for Toronto this spring.
Quite a number of former C’s have been seeing action saw action including big league graduates – Kevin Pillar (2011), Marcus Stroman (2012), Roberto Osuna (2012) and Matt Dermody (2013) – all appeared in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Dunedin. Stroman struck out three over two shutout innings and Osuna worked a scoreless third despite two hits but he struck one. Dermody – one of many candidates trying to earn a spot in the bullpen – made an error and gave up a hit but he got three groundball outs to keep the Bucs off the board.
Rowdy Tellez is 2-for-6 with two walks, a double and a stolen base this spring.
Pillar was 1-for-2 had a double and a walk before giving way to Lane Thomas (2015) in center field, who was 0-for-1 with an error. However, the best batting line of the day belonged to Rowdy Tellez (2014) as he doubled, walked and stole a base. Other former C’s to get an at-bat today were Dwight Smith Jr. (2012) and J.B. Woodman (2016). The duo were both 0-for-1 but Smith scored the lone Toronto run on a Jose Bautista base hit.
Three other former Vancouver players made defensive appearances in Joshua Palacios (2016), Christian Lopes (2012) and Jon Berti (2011) in right field, second base and third base respectively.
At least today’s game was close because yesterday’s games were anything but. Sunday saw the Jays in split squad action by visiting the New York Yankees in Tampa and hosting the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin.
In the Jays 7-2 setback to the Yankees, only Lopes had a hit among the former Canadians while Roemon Fields (2014) was hit by a pitch in Tampa. Berti walked twice but was caught stealing. Tellez had a rough time of it by going 0-for-3 with the hat trick but the 30th round pick of 2013 did start and complete a 3-6-3 double play with shortstop Yeltsin Gudino (2016), who was 0-for-2 with an error. Shane Opitz (2011) was 0-for-3 and Ian Parmley went 0-for-2.
Things were much worse in Dunedin as the Phillies pounded the Jays 10-3. The game did mark the spring debut of Burlington, Ontario native Mattingly Romanin (2016), who played second base but struck out in his lone at-bat. I’m sure it must have been a thrill all the same for the Chicago State product to play in a Blue Jays uniform.
Richard Urena (2014) – celebrating his 21st birthday – had a hit in two at-bats but he was shaky with the glove as he committed two errors at short. He had to leave the game after taking a ball off the shin on a throw by Thomas from center field. That led to Carl Wise (2015) entering the contest at third base and Jonathan Diaz taking over for Urena at short. Wise would go 0-for-2. Palacios made his spring debut as a pinch-runner and later went 0-for-1 as did Thomas.
Even though Urena had a tough day with the leather, Toronto manager John Gibbons wasn’t overly concerned.
“He had a tough day. He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be a good one.”
Tim Mayza struck out a pair of Phillies in a scoreless seventh inning Sunday.
Justin Shafer (2014) only pitched one-third of an inning but was saddled with the loss as the result of an unearned run on an error by Urena, which eventually scored on a wild pitch. Three other pitchers with 2014 C’s ties saw action in this one. Lefties Tim Mayza and Jose Fernandez managed to post scoreless frames with a pair of strikeouts. Mayza worked around a hit and a walk while Fernandez issued one free pass. Alberto Tirado – who the Jays traded to Philadelphia in the Ben Revere deal of 2015 – tossed two no-hit frames, striking out two and walking one.
Jose Fernandez recorded a pair of K’s in the ninth inning Sunday.
On Saturday, the Jays opened their spring schedule by dropping a 7-4 decision to the Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee.
Tellez had a double and walk to turn in the best batting line on the box score. Urena was 1-for-3 with a run scored and helped turn a 1-6-3 double play. Berti was 0-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base while Smith was 0-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base. Lopes was 0-for-2 while Thomas and Opitz were 0-for-1.
Gibbons was impressed with Tellez’s double against Bartolo Colon.
“Rowdy’s right at the head of our list, knocking at the door. You just watch him more and more. There’s something there. Something special there.”
Two former C’s saw the mound in this one. Ryan Borucki (2014, 2015) pitched a shutout inning with one walk, one strikeout and two groundouts. Wil Browning (2012) was nicked for a run on a hit and a walk but struck out one.
Ryan Borucki – added to Toronto’s 40-man roster – pitched a shutout inning Saturday.
Borucki is expected to start against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in Dunedin.
If my math is correct — and that’s always a big IF — there have been 23 former C’s that have suited up for the Jays this spring. Dalton Pompey (2012) is under the weather but is expected to play soon according to this story.
It’s neat to see all these ballplayers who played at Nat Bailey Stadium playing in Dunedin. Hopefully, we’ll see some of then with the big club in the near future.