Tag: Toronto Blue Jays

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka is not having a great day


Let us not freak out a mere hour into the season, but it’s at least notable that Masahiro Tanaka is being beaten up like Loki at the end of the first Avengers movie.

He was doing OK in the first and second inning but in the third he gave up three hits, all of them hard, including a homer by Edwin Encarnacion that looked practically grooved and was smashed. Even a couple of the outs were on hard-hit balls. While I won’t fetish velocity the way a lot of Yankees watchers do, it’s worth noting that Tanaka is sitting 89-90 right now which is not typical for him. He and the Bombers are down 5-0 in the fourth inning.

Oh, and Alex Rodriguez had his first plate appearance of the year. He walked. Typical A-Rod, padding his OBP when his team is down rather than hitting a five-run homer to put his team back in the game.

VIDEO: Russell Martin returns home to Montreal, gets standing ovation in Olympic Stadium

Russell Martin

The Blue Jays and Reds played an exhibition game last night at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It turned out to be a special night for new Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, who spent part of his childhood in the city and used to go to Expos games at the Big O growing up.

Check out the ovation Martin received before his first at-bat last night:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Russell Martin’s father, Russell Martin, Sr. played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” on the saxophone before the game. You can see the pride beaming from Martin’s face as he watches his dad play. Pretty damn cool.

Video: Inside the park home runs are kinda lame

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 3.58.01 PM

I’ve gone about this many times in the past, but as a new season dawns, let me remind you all that inside the park home runs are almost always dumb. Sure, once in a while it’s a matter of pure, burning speed and a bang-bang play at the plate. But most of the time it’s a matter of a random bounce or a physical mistake by an outfielder in which he didn’t get close enough to the ball to even have an error called on him.

Or sometimes both. Like the one Allen Craig hit this afternoon. Made possible by a carom and Jose Bautista falling on his kiester. If Allen Craig scores on an inside the park home run and doesn’t even have to slide, you know it’s way less than the name implies:

Give me triples. Triples over inside the parkers seven days a week.

2015 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

votto getty

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Cincinnati Reds.

The Big Question: Is the fun over in Cincy?

The Reds won a 36-year-high 97 games in 2012 and they finished with 90 wins in 2013, but a combination of key injuries and poor individual performances led the club to a disappointing 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League Central in 2014.

And there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism in 2015.

Joey Votto is fully recovered from his distal quad strain, Jay Bruce is capable of a bounceback, and young speedster Billy Hamilton should take a step forward offensively after batting just .250/.292/.355 in 611 plate appearances as a rookie, but the Reds don’t appear to have the kind of well-rounded major league roster that will allow them to seriously compete in a division that suddenly looks like the deepest in all of baseball.

The rotation is in pretty rough waters, for the upcoming season and especially long term. Homer Bailey had an underwhelming 3.71 ERA (97 ERA+) over 145 2/3 innings last year — the first year of a six-year, $105 million contract — and he will open the 2015 campaign on a minor league rehab assignment following September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Taking his place will be 36-year-old righty Jason Marquis, who didn’t make an appearance at the major league level in 2014. Mat Latos was shipped off to the Marlins in December because he had one year left on his contract and the Reds knew they weren’t going to be able to lock him up to a long-term deal. Extension talks don’t seem to be trending in a positive direction with Johnny Cueto, who is among the best starters in baseball but could very well be leaving Cincinnati for good next offseason. Tony Cingrani was shifted to the bullpen in a curious spring training decision so that Raisel Iglesias — an unproven Cuban right-hander — can slide into the starting corps. Iglesias pitched almost exclusively in relief in Serie Nacional. He gave up six runs to the Brewers in his latest Cactus League start.

Mike Leake is solid, and Anthony DeSclafani — part of the return package for Latos — carries some upside at age 24. But there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding this group and that’s an ominous situation for a team that plays 81 games per year in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati’s bullpen doesn’t offer anything inspiring beyond its flame-throwing closer and 22-year-old top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson probably won’t be ready for his MLB debut until the second half. Maybe the Reds can slug their way into contention, but here’s guessing that won’t work in the NL Central in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The lineup does have a nice mix of dynamic offensive contributors. Todd Frazier finished in a tie with Josh Donaldson for the most home runs by a third baseman (29) last season and he led all major league third basemen in stolen bases with 20. Young catcher Devin Mesoraco was one of Major League Baseball’s breakout stars in 2014, producing an .893 OPS (149 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. Offseason addition Marlon Byrd collected 25 home runs and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last summer. Votto, Bruce, and Hamilton — as mentioned above — should all be very good.
  • Aroldis Chapman has been a steal so far for Cincinnati, boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 430 strikeouts in 252 2/3 innings over the first five years of the six-year, $30 million deal that he signed after defecting from his native Cuba in 2010. But he opted into arbitration this winter and settled with the Reds at $8.05 million. He gets one more year of arbitration in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Will the Reds consider trading him after they get done hosting the 2015 All-Star Game festivities?
  • Brandon Phillips has registered a weak .714 OPS (95 OPS+) in 419 games since signing a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension with the Reds at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was praised for his clutch hitting ability after tallying 103 RBI in 2013, but analytical baseball people knew that lofty total was more the product of Votto and former Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips finished with just 51 RBI in 2014 and he slugged just eight home runs — an 11-year low. Yet the veteran second baseman is still being penciled in as the Reds’ No. 3 hitter behind Hamilton and Votto by manager Bryan Price.

Prediction: A potent offense but messy pitching leaves the Reds with 81 wins and a last-place finish in a loaded National League Central. Go ahead and pencil them in for a last-place finish in 2016 as well.

Roberto Osuna makes Blue Jays’ bullpen, will be youngest pitcher in franchise history

osuna getty

The 20-year-old right-hander announced the news on his Twitter account Tuesday …

Osuna won the spot by yielding just one run and fanning nine batters in 10 innings this spring in the Grapefruit League. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that he will become the youngest pitcher in Blue Jays history when he makes his debut. Osuna, for now, hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game above High-A Dunedin.