Baseball Is Back! Thoughts from Watching Spring Training Games


A photo of the sign announcing the presence of the Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Facility
The sign announcing the presence of the Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Facility


Having been able to watch a couple of ballgames on TV, I thought I’d post a few of my thoughts. It’s a great time of year because while, up here in Canada, we’re dealing with another Polar Vortex (-17 celsius in Toronto), there’s baseball being played. We really can’t jump to any conclusions but it’s terrific to be able to watch baseball again.


Marcus Walden photo with the old lens
Marcus Walden photo with the old lens


On Thursday, we saw Marcus Walden pitch a 1-2-3 inning to close out the game and earn a save. Announcers Buck Martinez and Jerry Howarth raved (somewhat condescendingly on Buck’s part) about the downward movement and how Walden’s heavy sinker will probably make him a better pitcher at the major league level, thanks to having better defense behind him. Still, Walden was very effective, showing very good location, especially while striking out Leandro Castro and Zach Collier to finish the game.


We also saw Rob Rasmussen make his first appearance in a Blue Jays’ uniform. I’m not sure what to think of the young lefty. He didn’t look particularly sharp but wasn’t helped by his defense. I’m not enamoured by his mechanics as he seems to have a big arm swing to help rotate his upper body but it was hard to tell as I was watching on my computer and not TV.


We’ve all got to love how ready Jose Bautista is looking with his two doubles and a home run over the first couple of games. If he stays healthy and plays with a chip on his shoulder, he could have another huge year. Melky Cabrera is looking fairly mobile out on the bases and in the field and is reminding me a lot of the player that I saw in Spring Training last year. He looked good, was hitting doubles all over the place and even played center field a bit (last year). I had a conversation on Twitter yesterday where I said that I think that if Sierra is the fourth outfielder (and the club only carries four), Melky would be the guy most likely to play center field in order to give Rasmus a day off against a tough lefty.


Anthony Gose, in his first at bat on Friday, held off on a tough Gerrit Cole pitch (a cutter/sinker/slider or something like that) down and put the next pitch in play (a groundout). He later was out on a bunt attempt and walked to go oh for two on the day.


We saw our first awkward play at the plate with Munenori Kawasaki so concerned with not hitting the catcher, he almost forgot to touch the plate. It was a throw from Jose Tabata that took the catcher up the line and Kawasaki appeared unsure of how to react to the play.


Brandon Morrow was getting hit hard but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about at the moment. In a first outing, it looks like Morrow was just trying to locate his fastball in the zone and the fact that the opposition was making good contact isn’t an indicator of anything. It’s just good to see him throwing.


Moises Sierra
Moises Sierra


Moises Sierra is making a real case in the early going for a spot on the 25-man roster. The out-of-options right fielder is showing off his tools by hitting with some power (no home runs yet) and throwing out a runner on the bases. Just by what he’s doing now, hitting with patience and focus and playing mistake-free on the bases and in the field, he’s going to make the decision for the Blue Jays to keep him fairly easy. If he keeps it up.


I’m wondering if the everyone around baseball has seen the success that the Boston Red Sox had in winning a championship with everyone wearing a beard and it’s going to be the big copycat trend of 2014. So far, Adam Lind‘s is pretty rockin’ while Steve Delabar has let his grow and is now approaching “epic” status.


Chad Jenkins made an appearance on Friday and made a quick, 1-2-3 inning out of it. He throws easily and is a big and durable guy. I wrote about him back in November and I feel like he’s the forgotten guy who has done nothing but pitch well at the big league level in the past couple of years. Like Walden, Jenkins is a ground-ball pitcher but has more experience at the major league level.


Sean Nolin
Sean Nolin


Sean Nolin looked really good, working quickly and confidently. When he hit his spots well, he looked but but when he left pitches in the middle of the plate (on one occasion), the ball was hit hard. He gave up a walk and a hit but he induced weak contact for two fly outs. For a fly-ball pitcher like Nolin, that’s going to be important. I’d rather have the fly balls be bloops to the outfield rather than hard-hit ball that fly over the fence.


Aaron Sanchez made his first appearance in the Grapefruit League on Friday and threw an inning. Sanchez looked like he was having a lot of trouble locating but the quality of stuff made it difficult for batters to hold off. When the ball was up, the batters were able to put it in play (even if they weren’t able to really get around of it). He went back to just throwing fastballs (and maybe a changeup or two here or there) and managed to get out of the inning without giving up a run after loading the bases.


I was a little busy with other things when Liam Hendriks was pitching but I did see Andy Burns‘s outstanding play in the top of the ninth on Friday. Burns’s defense is outstanding and, as I said on Twitter, he reminds me of Brett Lawrie at third base. He’s very athletic and regularly makes plays that make you say wow. I saw him make at least two highlight-reel plays when I saw him in New Hampshire last year.




Don’t forget about The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, available March 31 as an ebook at, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers for $7.99. Come back in early March for pre-order information.