Spring Threat: J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays play the Yankees in Dunedin

It’s Easter weekend, so you know that baseball is right around the corner now. The Blue Jays, led by J.A. Happ will take on the Yankees and Bryan Mitchell today in Dunedin for the final televised Grapefruit game of the spring. After this, the next two televised games will be Friday and Saturday against Boston in Montreal, and then the season gets rolling. 

So, yeah, baseball (real baseball) starts soon! And if a nine inning tie against the Phillies yesterday afternoon didn’t get you excited about that, I don’t know what will. 

Yesterday 

Marco Estrada made his second start of spring yesterday afternoon against the Phillies, and while his back is still sore from the injury that kept him out for a good chunk of spring training, he feels like he’s close to being 100 per cent ready for the season. Estrada tossed 3 2/3 innings (an improvement on the two innings he pitched in his first game last week), surrendering one run on two hits and two walks. He’s got one more start left (one in which he’ll throw around 75 pitches) before the regular season begins, and then him and the team will determine whether he’s good to go or not based how he feels. 

After Estrada was pulled from the game, Pat Venditte worked a clean 1 1/3 innings, further strengthening his bid to break camp in the team’s bullpen. Drew Storen pitched a perfect inning before Brett Cecil came in and struggled, allowing three earned runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Steve Delabar came in to clean up Cecil’s mess after that, ending the inning on a strikeout. Delabar came out again for the next inning, picking up a strikeout and allowing a walk, which was quickly erased when Randy Choate entered the game and induced a double play. Then finally, Ryan Tepera closed the game off with an inning that was perfect save for an error by Jon Berti. So overall, it was a nice game for the pitching staff, aside from Cecil who had a rough time in the seventh inning. 

In terms of offence, the star of the day for the Jays was veteran first baseman Casey Kotchman, who picked up three hits in four trips to the plate including a two-run home run off of Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth inning. Darrell Ceciliani continued his excellent audition, collecting two hits and a solo homer of his own in the sixth inning. Unfortunately for Ceciliani, it’s unlikely he’ll crack the roster because he still has options left, unlike Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake. 

Anyways, when it was all said and done, the Phillies and Jays ended the day in the ever exciting spring training tie that gets everybody all fired up for the regular season to begin. 

News and Scuttlebutt 

Earlier on, I was talking about Marco Estrada and the issue of lingering back pain. If  you’re starting to bite your nails and worry that he won’t be ready for the season, take a look at Gregor Chisholm’s article for MLB.com that goes into some detail about it. 

Gregor also put out an article about the state of the Blue Jays farm system that discussed how some of the team’s key prospects are doing, and also which ones have made a positive impression over spring. 

Speaking of the minor leagues, Gregor also told us that David Aardsma, Chad Jenkins, and Chad Girodo were sent to minor league camp, so those final two spots are coming down to the wire with Steve Delabar, Joe Biagini, and Arnold Leon vying for one of them, and likely Pat Venditte and Randy Choate competing for the other. 

And some really good news on the injury front, as Edwin Encarnacion took batting practice and apparently “put on a show” for everybody. He’s scheduled to play in a minor league game on Monday, and he’s confident that he’ll be totally good to go by the time the season starts. Also, John Lott wrote an article (here!) about Devon Travis and the long, difficult road to recovery he’s had, and how he was thrilled to be back on the field today. 

Today

J.A. Happ grabs the ball and will start against the Yankees today, and he’s expected to throw somewhere in the realm of 100 pitches before handing it over to Roberto Osuna and Roberto Hernandez. In his first two outings of spring, Happ has thrown a combined 4 2/3 innings, scattering four hits, one walk, and one earned run. Today will be his final crack before the regular season begins. 

On the other side, we have Bryan Mitchell, who’s had a really strong spring, allowing just one run in 10 2/3 innings. He’ll be backed up by, like, half of the Yankees regulars, including Carlos Beltran, A-Rod, and Mark Teixeira. 

TV: Sportsnet and MLB.tv 

Radio: SN590

Next game: Sunday @ Tampa Bay (Hutch starting) 

And now, the lineups…

Blue Jays

Ezequiel Carrera CF

Domonic Brown LF

Jose Bautista RF

Justin Smoak 1B

Chris Colabello DH

Andy Burns 3B

David Adams 2B

Josh Thole C

Jio Mier SS

J.A. Happ SP 

Yankees

Aaron Hicks CF 

Carlos Beltran RF 

Alex Rodriguez DH 

Mark Teixeira 1B 

Austin Romine C 

Rob Refsnyder 3B 

Ronald Torreyes 2B 

Pete Kozma SS 

Cesar Puello LF 

Bryan Mitchell SP