Running down the rosters: Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has made a bunch of smart moves since taking over after the 2009 season and he was presented with one of the greatest gifts in major league history when the Angels took Vernon Wells’ contract off his hands and sent back Mike Napoli in return, yet his Blue Jays are still a fourth place team. This winter has to be regarded as a disappointment, as the Jays simply wouldn’t go the extra mile to land a star. In time, they may be better off for it — Prince Fielder wasn’t worth a nine-year deal and Yu Darvish certainly came with some risk — but right now, fans have to be wondering what good that new-found financial flexibility is actually doing.

At least the future is promising. All of the Jays’ best players are under control beyond 2012, and there’s quite a bit more talent on the way.

Rotation
Ricky Romero – L
Brandon Morrow – R
Brett Cecil – L
Henderson Alvarez – R
Dustin McGowan – R

Bullpen
Sergio Santos – R
Francisco Cordero – R
Jason Frasor – R
Darren Oliver – L
Casey Janssen – R
Carlos Villanueva – R
Jesse Litsch – R

SP next in line: Aaron Laffey (L), Kyle Drabek (R), Nelson Figueroa (R)
RP next in line: Luis Perez (L), Joel Carreno (R), Trystan Magnuson (R), Jesse Chavez (R)

It’s the rotation that figures to prevent the Jays from making a run at the AL East. Romero may be one of the game’s most underrated hurlers, but there are no sure things beyond him. Morrow ended up with a 4.72 ERA last season, while Cecil came in at 4.73. Since the Jays were unable to add anyone through free agency, the 21-year-old Alvarez appears to be nearly guaranteed a place, with McGowan, Laffey and Drabek competing for the fifth spot.

The guess here is that McGowan is the fifth starter, even though it might make more sense to stash him in the pen initially to manage his innings. The problem there is that the bullpen is simply too crowded after the late additions of Cordero and Oliver. Villanueva and Litsch seem redundant now that both are being viewed strictly as relievers, so perhaps one will be traded this spring. That’d open up a place for Perez as a second lefty.

Lineup
SS Yunel Escobar – R
2B Kelly Johnson – L
RF Jose Bautista – R
1B Adam Lind – L
DH Edwin Encarnacion – R
3B Brett Lawrie – R
CF Colby Rasmus – L
C J.P. Arencibia – R
LF Eric Thames – L

Bench
C Jeff Mathis – R
INF Omar Vizquel – S
OF Rajai Davis – R
OF Ben Francisco – R

Next in line: 1B David Cooper (L), INF Mike McCoy (R), INF Luis Valbuena (L), INF Chris Woodward (R), OF Travis Snider (L), OF Moises Sierra (R)

The only real question of the Jays here is left field. Either Thames or Snider will win the job as a starter against right-handers, with the other returning to Triple-A. Francisco figures to play against lefties regardless, with Davis also available off the bench.

There’s also some chance that McCoy or Valbuena could beat out Vizquel for a bench spot, but it seems unlikely.

The lineup has a great deal of upside, and I’m pretty optimistic about the group as a whole. Lind drove in 114 runs in 2009 and is still just 28. Encarnacion may have finally put it together when he hit .291/.382/.504 in the second half of last season. Lawrie looks like one of the game’s best young talents. Rasmus had an .859 OPS as a 23-year-old for the Cardinals in 2010. If two of those guys play up to their potential, then the Jays should be able to win a bunch of 7-5 games. If the Jays instead end up with Bautista and a cast of .700-.750 OPS guys, then even matching last year’s 81-81 record will be difficult.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Hi. Happy to back. Let’s recap, shall we?

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 7, Red Sox 1: The Braves salvage one against the Sox to avoid the sweep thanks to an outstanding performance from Mike Foltynewicz (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) and a three-run homer from Tyler Flowers, but got bad news in the form of a Ronald Acuña knee injury. That was quite a tumble. Here’s hoping the fact that his body is young will keep him from missing much time. Young people can bounce back from anything.

Yankees 3, Angels 1: The Yankees take two of three from the Angels thanks to a strong performance from Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed one run and struck out eight over six innings. Garret Richards pitched for the Angels. He threw 70 pitches in two and a third and walked five guys. That’s U-G-L-Y, he ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly. His momma say he’s ugly, HEY.

Indians 10, Astros 9: That was a wild one. The Indians trailed 8-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, tied it up to force extras and then came from behind again in the 13th via a Yonder Alonso homer, holding on to win it in the 14th with a Greg Allen walkoff homer. Keying the ninth inning rally: a 17-pitch at bat from Jose Ramirez, who is having an absolutely fantastic year. All of that buried the fact that the Astros only had that lead because the Indians’ pen has been a garbage fire of late, letting Houston put themselves ahead in the first place. Let us dwell on that another day, however.

Tigers 3, White Sox 2: Blaine Hardy outdueled James Shields, allowing one run over seven to Shields’ three runs over seven. Hardy is really a reliever, by the way, but no one tell him that or else it’d be like when Wily E. Coyote looks down after running off a cliff. If he never knew, would he have fallen?

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: The Nats beat the fish for the 11th time in a row, completing the sweep in this series. Bryce Harper homered and hit a sac fly. He’s not been hitting great of late, but he’s hitting homers. He said after the game that he’d take a .230 average if he could hit 40 homers. He’s hitting .232 and is on pace for over 50, so I guess he’ll take that too.

Rays 8, Orioles 3: I missed the back and forth about Sergio Romo and his role when I was on vacation. I don’t have super strong opinions about that, but it didn’t work great yesterday as Romo gave up three runs in a third of an inning. Since his relief — Vidal Nuno and Austin Pruitt — combined to throw 8.2 scoreless innings after that, however, no one is going to dwell on it all too much. A six-run third inning also helped spackle over that mess. Brad Miller homered, doubled and drove in three. The Rays may be the world’s foremost test lab for the concept of getting cool with “bad ideas-good outcomes vs. good ideas-bad outcomes” this year.

Blue Jays 5, Phillies 3: The Jays took two of three from the Phillies, winning this series just like they won the 1993 World Series. Well, not just like that, because Joe Carter wasn’t playing, but you get that. Devon Travis and Dwight Smith Jr. each hit two-run doubles, Curtis Granderson — who was 12 during the 1993 Series, so at least he remembers it — homered and J.A. Happ, who turned 11 during the series — beat his old team.

Oh, and while I’m talking about the Phillies, I think you all need to know about the fact that, right around the corner from the place where I stayed in London was a Philadelphia Phillies theme bar. I am not making this up:

They later got on Twitter and asked if I was going to come by and watch the Phillies-Braves game with them. I declined, but only because the game didn’t start until midnight local time. And because I’m never going to a Phillies bar, ever, even if it’s in dang England.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 4: St. Louis was down 4-1 heading into the seventh but rallied with two that inning and three in the eighth to take two of three from the Pirates. Harrison Bader‘s RBI single tied it and the Cards then went ahead on a bases-loaded walk. That’s a pretty depressing way for a team to lose.

Brewers 8, Mets 7: New York had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 and still woofed it away. Domingo Santana‘s two-run double in the Brewers’ four-run seventh inning aided that woofing, as did Jesus Aguilar, who hit a three-run homer and drove in four. The Brewers take three of four from the Mets, who have lost five of six.

Royals 5, Rangers 3: It was Hammel vs. Hammels here, and Jason outpitched Cole, striking out ten and getting backed by homers from Drew Butera and Sal Perez. Texas went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Oof.

Rockies 8, Reds 2: Carlos Gonzalez had four hits including an upper deck blast off of Matt Harvey, who gave up four over five and a third. David DahlNolan Arenado and Ian Desmond also homered for the Rockies, who took two of three from the Reds.

Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 1: Zack Greinke was pretty good until the sixth, when he issued a couple of walks and then gave up a tie-breaking RBI single to Matt Chapman. Coming into that inning Greinke had issued only seven walks all year. Frankie Montas pitched three-hit ball over six innings to snag his first win in his first start with the A’s.

Mariners 3, Twins 1: Mike Leake allowed one run over eight and Ryon Healy doubled home two runs in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Alex Colome made his first appearance as a Mariner and locked down the save. He won’t usually close for Seattle, but Edwin Diaz had a day off. The Mariners sweep the Twins and have won eight of nine.

Dodgers 6, Padres 1: Walker Buehler allowed one run over seven and struck out eight and Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger each homered. The Dodgers started out the season like total trash but have now won eight of ten and are only three and a half back in the West somehow.

Cubs 8, Giants 3: Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood didn’t have much, but neither did Giants starter Ty Blach, and the Cubs’ bullpen shut down the Giants for the final six and a third innings. Javier Baez‘s three-run shot in the fourth inning broke a 3-3 tie. This game lasted three and a half hours after which the Cubs got on an airplane to go play a day game today in Pittsburgh, which sounds like a load of fun. Not as fun as Pablo Sandoval playing second base, of course: