Toronto Baseball Guys
Who Are These Guys? Part II
The second installment in our guide to the Blue Jays' 214 spring training invitees. We'll start by polishing off the "B's."Brian Burres, 27, LHP
Hmmm, let's see, 165 hits - 17 of them home runs, allowed in 129 innings pitched. 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio, roughly 4K/9IP... Ladies and Gentlemen, it's the left-handed version of Josh Towers. Picked up after the Orioles designated him for assignment, the only thing Burres has going for him is that he was able to make 22 starts last season, so he can fill a void in place of a younger, more fragile arm. Hope for a line of 5IP 9H 4R 4ER 2BB 2K and then get him out of there and hope the bullpen and the offense can scrape together a win.Excitement Factor: Fabio Castro, 24, LHP
Are the Jays so desperate for arms that they've resorted to over-the-hill romance novel cover boys? Thankfully, it's not THAT Fabio. This one is the swag from the Matt Stairs trade. He's a little guy, listed at just 5'7", the smallest hurler to suit up for the Jays since the late Ken Robinson. His career strikeout rate is close to 9/game, so he's clearly a live arm. The Jays are already awash in relievers, particularly port-siders, with Ryan, Downs, Tallet and Carlson already in the fold, but Castro did make 18 minor league starts last season, so the Jays may be eyeing him as a starter down the road.Excitement Factor: Dirk Hayhurst, 28, RHP
Ex-Padre Hayhurst has put up some nifty strikeout rates, too, specifically 98 Ks in just 84 innings for AAA Portland last season. But for all that he was still pretty hittable, and was beaten like the Washington Generals in his major league callup (37 runners in 16.2 innings and a tidy 9.72 ERA). His usage pattern was also a little confusing, as he made three starts for the Padres after making only two in 46 appearances on the farm. The Jays may kick his tires as a potential starter, but the odds here are long.Excitement Factor: Bill Murphy, 27, LHP
Murphy has logged a little time in the show thanks to a September callup with the Diamondbacks in '07. Last season he was a swingman with Syracuse. His bio is the kind of mixed bag reminiscent of Homer Simpson's conversation with the cursed Krusty doll salesman:
Agent: He made 24 starts and pitched 142 innings last year.
Jays' management: That's good.
A: But he gave up 155 hits
J.M.: That's bad.
A: But he struck out 152 batters.
J.M.: That's good.
A: But he walked 84 and has averaged more than 5 per nine inning over his career.
J.M.: That's bad.
A: He is
Will he come with free frogurt? Only time will tell, but if he's called on to make a start or two, expect a slow game with lots of deep counts and standing around.Excitement Factor:
Who Are These Guys? Part I
If you can't sign every free agent in baseball like the Yankees, or trade for John Smoltz a la the Red Sox, how do you bolster your pitching? If you're the Blue Jays, you invite 412 pitchers to spring training. In fact, if you've ever thrown a baseball in your life, you might want to get home and check your messages.
It's not a terrible strategy. There's precious little downside, and sometimes you unearth a gem. Frank Castillo was a journeyman hurler who won a job with the 2000 Blue Jays and proceeded to go 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 138 innings. All for the bargain basement price of $375,000.
Sufficed to say, if the Jays can come up with another Castillo, there'll be some Ricciardi hand springs at the Rogers Centre this season. So while the Jays brass starts to sift through all these arms, let's do the same. We'll start with the B's.Rick Bauer, RHP, 32
It's hard to see where Bauer fits into what should still be a very good Blue Jays bullpen. The veteran right-hander had one decent season with Texas in 2006: 71 IP, 3.55 ERA, but his peripherals were unimpressive, to the point that even the pitching-starved Rangers didn't keep him around. Bauer's platoon splits are nothing special and he's only had one major league start in the last four years, so it's doubtful that's in the Jays' plans. If Bauer sticks, it will probably be at AAA.Excitement Factor:
(out of a possible 10 Castillos)
(Note: A score of 10 Frank Castillos doesn't mean the guy is going to be Cy Young, it means he's going to be Frank Castillo)T.J. Beam, RHP, 28
Picked up off waivers from Pittsburgh, Beam doesn't look all that impressive on first blush. The 6'7" reliever put up a decent 4.14 ERA in 45 innings with the Bucs in 2008. He did limit righties to a .210/.260/.368 line, and he put up a 2.81 ERA after the All-Star break, but he did so with fairly pedestrian strikeout rates, meaning that luck may have played a bigger role than ability. Has never made a major league start, so look for Beam to be bullpen filler, possibly the first guy called up in case of an injury. Quick question, how do you get T.J. out of Theodore Lester?Excitement Factor: Bryan Bullington, RHP, 28
Wait a minute, the Jays snagged the first pick in the 2002 draft?!? The Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir draft?? Woo-hoo!! Somebody order me up some World Series tick- oh wait, that was Bryan Bullington. Another ex-Pirate, Bullington's career has been something of a disappointment, to put it mildly. But there are some positives. After missing 2006 with injuries, Bullington rebounded to log 26 starts and 150 innings in 2007 at AAA. Plus, his strikeout rates have been creeping up the last couple of years, he's not over-the-hill and he obviously has something to prove (think Josh Hamilton). Brad Arnsberg might have something to work with here.Excitement Factor:Matt Bush, RHP, 23
Another first overall pick, this time in the 2004 draft... as a shortstop. After washing out there, the former Padres prospect converted back to the mound, and has thrown a grand total of 7.2 innings of professional baseball. The good news: he struck out 16 batters. The bad news: He faced a grand total of one batter above rookie ball. The worse news: then he had Tommy John surgery. Bush was a sly pickup, in that there's a lot of potential here, and the Padres were probably just happy to be rid of him, but there's little chance of him seeing any major league action in 2009.Excitement Factor:
Winter of Discontent
Apologies for the lack of activity on the blog this winter, but there hasn't been too much to write about where the Jays are concerned. With two promising young arms out for extended stretches in Marcum and McGowan, and A.J. Burnett off to the Bronx for Yankee millions, the Blue Jays have not exactly been players this off-season.
Not that they've been idle, but while the Yankees have busied themselves by attempting to stimulate the U.S. economy solely through free agency, the Jays have taken a more fiscally cautious approach. Essentially, they've invited anyone with a working elbow ligaments to spring training. An ecclectic mix of pitchers returning from injury, busted #1 draft picks, aged Japanese hurlers, converted infielders, journeymen and castaways will converge in Florida, in the hope that a couple of worthy arms can be mined to soak up innings behind Roy Halladay and #2 starter Jesse Litsch. Gulp.
For this team at this time, it's the right approach. With the Yankees bent on revenge-spending, a solid young team in Tampa and the Red Sox to deal with, this was not the time to lavishly flail money at the second tier free agent leftovers.
The Jays are capable of great improvement, but it will have to come from within. A healthy Scott Rolen and Vernon Wells. Ditto Aaron Hill. Alex Rios playing like a $10 million outfielder for a full season. Adam Lind and Travis Snider taking steps forward. David Purcey establishing himself as a rotation regular. Dumpster diving and waiting for your young players to pan out aren't the sexiest ways to build a team, but they beat wasting $40 or $50 million on Ben Sheets and the shaman you need to pray that his shoulder holds together. Meanwhile, the only risk involved in inviting Mike Maroth to spring training is that he'll show up.