Image via Financial Post Magazine, March 1980/Torontoist
The “Jays” played the “Pirates” today in Dunedin, and the game was actually televised! Afternoon baseball on my TV? Yes. Fucking. Please.
Of course, it wasn’t actually a baseball game. But that doesn’t mean we can’t key in on a few elements of it as we continue to try to suss out which storylines are going to matter the most over the next five-and-a-half weeks. So… uh… let’s do that…
- Rowdy Tellez stole a base! I probably shouldn’t lead with this, but anybody who saw the pictures of Tellez at the time he was drafted will understand why that’s somethin’. Tellez has clearly worked hard to get into much better shape, and on the broadcast Buck Martinez and Joe Siddall talked about how Tim Raines, the Jays’ minor league outfield and base running instructor, says that Tellez is actually one of the better base runners in the system — not necessarily in terms of being able to steal a bunch of bases, obviously, but that he’s a smart runner. Interesting!
- I still don’t think Tellez has much of a chance of stealing Steve Pearce’s job from Justin Smoak (see what I did there?), but I do think the conversation about it has the potential to become a story. Something to remember, though: Tellez’s stats in New Hampshire last year were gaudy, he was playing in a very friendly park for lefty power hitters — something we heard when Travis Snider and Eric Thames and Dalton Pompey were coming through there as well. Stat Corner has park factors for 177 major and minor league parks, and in 2016, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium was the fifth most favourable for home runs by lefties, and was very favourable for them overall. Let’s maybe pump the brakes a little.
- Aaaaaaand then not long after I wrote the above two paragraphs, Tellez went and hit an opposite field double. There are still five-and-a-half weeks left for the howls to take Tellez north and ditch Smoak to grow louder. This might get fun.
- To be fair, I should note that Tellez’s stolen base came after he entered the game as a pinch runner for Smoak, who had singled (and, therefore, actually made contact with the baseball). Good times!
- To be fair a second time, Smoak really showed off his glove a couple times. He’s a nice defender on batted balls at first, and sure knows how to scoop ’em — a skill that isn’t picked up in the public defensive metrics, which is maybe something the Jays have data on that could explain why they seem to like him more than literally everybody else.
- Marcus Stroman pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts. That’ll play. And, according to Buck like four times that’ll very possibly play for Team USA in their World Baseball Classic matchup with the Dominican Republic — Stroman is part of their roster, and apparently he looks like he might be slotted for that one. So… just in case it wasn’t a must-watch game already.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught both Stroman and Roberto Osuna, who followed him, and had nothing but praise for his new battery-mates when speaking on the broadcast after his day is through. Maybe this was only me, but upon hearing him speak it immediately made sense why John Gibbons (reportedly) likes Salty so much and had pushed for the club to acquire him in the past. They just kinda seem like they’re probably on the same wavelength. Saltalamacchia talked about working, and talking, with Russell Martin, as well, painting him as rather Tulo-like in his willingness to talk the game and impart knowledge to teammates. Apparently Russell almost forgot to hit the other day because he was so immersed in talking to teammates about catcher stuff (my words).
- Salty also had an interesting comment about new age training regimens, and the way the Blue Jays have embraced “high performance” training. “It’s not about going to the weight room anymore,” he said, saying that instead players are working on flexibility, core stabilization, and things that are going to keep them on the field longer, both in-season and in terms of career length. Seems like a good thing that the Jays think so much about this — though at this point, as with so many things in such a hyper-competitive industry, I’m sure that standing still would mean getting left way behind.
- Anthony Alford hit a ball hard and Kevin Pillar took a walk. Moar plz.
- Aaron Loup looked like Aaron Loup. Less plz.
- OK, so maybe I should elaborate on the Loup thing. Honestly, I don’t think Loup is as bad as a lot of Jays fans do — I even came (tepidly) to his defence back in December. But oh man, our first look at him this spring sure as hell didn’t anything that will make us forget his last two seasons, or to actually believe that one of his biggest problems over that span was luck. Our visit to Uncle Loupy’s house today was not fun.
- Uh… a few other guys pitched — some well, some less well — but it’s a little early to bother thinking about what we saw there.