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Photo Credit: © Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Weekend Recap: Blue Jays Struggle in Grapefruit Play, Shine at World Baseball Classic

It’s World Baseball Classic season right now. No matter how much you told yourself (and the deep, unforgiving depths of Twitter) that this tournament is flawed, the rosters are nowhere near as good as they should be, and that you don’t care about the results, my god the 2017 WBC has been a hell of a good time.

The tournament has been so exciting, in fact, that it’s perfectly distracted us from any possible hot takes suggesting the Blue Jays are in for a rough 2017 season because of how dreadfully bad they’ve performed so far in spring. And for that, we should be thankful!

Enjoy the fruits of silly season, high stakes international baseball while you have the opportunity, because it’s much more entertaining and worthwhile than trying to make conclusions about how a team will perform during the regular season based on their warmup games.

But anyways! Here are some thoughts from the weekend:

Saturday: 8-2 loss to Philadelphia

  • Marco Estrada made his first start of spring training on Saturday, and Aaron Sanchez came in relief for his first appearance of 2017. The numbers will tell you that neither of them was particularly good, but both said to Arden Zwelling after the game that they felt great on the mound.
  • Estrada was strong in his first two innings, allowing nothing more than just a walk, and inducing a lot of outs on soft contact from his well-placed fastball, but had a rough time in the third inning, allowing a couple of doubles before reaching his pitch count. Estrada said after the game, in that same Zwelling interview I linked above, that he was surprised at how good he felt physically on the mound. Last season, he dealt with a linger back issue that somewhat derailed his season in the second half, so his health was a concern coming into the season.
  •  Sanchez came into the game in the fourth inning, and got two quick outs before giving up a walk, double, and single. He had a much more controlled showing in his second inning, stranding a double while picking up a couple of strikeouts. According to Zwelling, Sanchez was working on his secondary stuff during his outing, specifically his changeup and curveball, both of which he plans to use more in 2017 now that he has more experience as a starter. This is an important thing for Sanchez, of course, because he relied primarily on his fastball last season.
  • The team only managed five hits over the course of the game, and two of them came from Kevin Pillar, who’s been dynamite all spring. He now has a .500 batting average and 1.315 OPS so far, and will more than likely get serious attention from John Gibbons as the guy who bats leadoff to begin the season again. Meh.

Sunday: 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay

  • Sunday’s game was a, uh, pretty easy one to ignore. It was a B lineup featuring bench hopefuls and baby Jays and a pitching staff comprised of depth relievers and minor leaguers. And the score reflected that!
  • Ryan Borucki got the start, and allowed one (a solo homer) run over two innings, scattering a hit and a walk while collecting two strikeouts. It was his first run allowed of the spring, but all good things must come to an end!
  • Tam Mayza, who’s suddenly on the radar to be the second lefty out of the pen, came in and tossed a perfect inning with a couple of strikeouts. Competing with him for that lefty role are Brett Oberholtzer and Chad Girodo, both of whom had a rough time today. Oberholtzer, who’s been getting lit up all spring, allowed one run over two-and-a-third, while Girodo, who hadn’t allowed a run prior to today, allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning.
  • The Jays gloves certainly didn’t make life easy on the pitchers, though, as three different fielders made errors in what has sort of become the theme with the baby Jays over the course of spring training.
  • Offensively, there wasn’t much to talk about. The team mustered five hits, and the only two runs came on a Dwight Smith double in the fifth inning.
  • The key news out of today’s loss is that Lourdes Gurriel, who’s looked quite good in limited spring action, left the game with a thumb injury. Mike Wilner tweeted out saying the team didn’t think it’s serious. So that’s that!

None of that was very interesting! But you know what was? Marcus Stroman pitching to Jose Bautista in Saturday’s USA vs The Dominican Republic game!

Stroman was excellent for Team USA, who ultimately blew the game despite the effort of the Stro Show. Stroman tossed four clean innings, picking up four strikeouts and scattering three hits. And holy shit, this Bautista game-saving throw from LEFT field was something straight outta pre-2016!