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Daily Duce: Monday, March 20th

Daily??!?!?

For their headline on Mike Johnson’s latest dispatch from Dunedin, Sportsnet went with a quote from John Gibbons, wherein he said that Devon Travis “will be the guy” hitting leadoff for the club once he’s healthy enough to do it. For my money, though, the bigger quote was when Gibbons said, regarding Devo’s health, that “there’s a lot more optimism (than there was a couple weeks ago) I will tell you that.”

Great stuff from Arden Zwelling, also of Sportsnet, as he Writes about the Jays’ high performance department, and the idea that sport science will be the setting for the next big arms race in MLB. Steve Pearce features heavily in it, and one wonders if the Jays signed him thinking that they have an ability to keep him healthier than other teams, and thus the fear of sinking money into a guy who’s always injured was lessened. Hmmm. (Speaking of Pearce, Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star spoke with him over the weekend, as he continues to mend from off-season arm surgery that might limit him to first base duty early on — though, let’s be honest, he was always going to steal Justin Smoak’s job).

John Gibbons says that he doesn’t think Ezequiel Carrera’s leg will be a big deal, as Arden tweeted following Monday’s spring training… game against… someone. But Arden notes that Carrera needed help off the field, and suggests that any injury setback now could put the start of ol’ Zeke’s season in jeopardy — which could give Ryan Goins a lifeline, or… as I was saying before… Kelly Johnson? Anyway, might Carrera start the season on the DL? Dr. Wilner is here with his diagnosis (as part of his ongoing attempt to suss out what the 25 man roster will look like on Opening Day), and he thinks yes.

Outside help, like Johnson, might be a necessity if, as South of the Six wonders, Melvin Upton’s shoulder injury is worse than the club is leading on. Which I’m not saying it is! Just an interesting observation, I thought. Seriously, though: Carrera, Upton, Pearce, and Pompey are all hurt to some extent or another right now. AND YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS A MESS BEFORE!

Oh, and if you’re wondering why the Johnson talk and not on the switch-hitting and offensively superior Ángel Pagán, that’s probably because he failed a physical last week. An Orioles physical, which isn’t quite the same as a normal team’s physical, but still. (Some thoughts on the O’s and their fucking physicals from Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs… a year ago *COUGH*).

Back to Arden, as he spoke with Marco Estrada about the back injury that the hurler dealt with all of last season, and how there seems to be a little more zip on Estrada’s fastball now that he’s over it. “There were a lot of days where I was like, ‘Man, I’m not feeling great out here’,” Estrada told him. Does this mean Marco could be even better this season? I’m not one going to say yes, but I’m not going to say no, either!

Oh, what the hell, one more from Arden, as he tweeted a hell of a John Gibbons quote about Anthony Alford over the weekend. I mean, we expect that team personnel are going to be put a positive spin on what they think of the club’s best prospects, but this is on another level: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much improvement in a year in a young kid as I have in him. Because, to be honest, I had my doubts. It’s tough for football players that go strictly to baseball. He always had a great, powerful swing. But last year he didn’t make the adjustments in spring training. This year, he just sees the ball better. He’s able to foul off breaking balls. He stays alive. He’s hit as many rockets down here as anybody in camp. It was really impressive. He played the outfield really well. He’s got a better arm than I thought he had. So, in a year’s time, I’ve seen as much improvement out of him as any kid I’ve ever seen.”

More from Sportsnet, as Arash Madani tweets that Mat Latos says he’d be willing to accept being assigned to Buffalo, and he says yes! Maybe that’s just because that’s what he has to say, or something. Or maybe the Jays really have him convinced that they’re not going to get through the whole season with just five starters, and that he’s going to be the first in line for a call-up. Or maybe he has an opt-out in his contract that comes farther into the season, so he doesn’t really care about being sent to Buffalo at first. Whichever the case, it’s not a bad situation for a guy like him or for the Jays. Or, most of all, the citizens of Buffalo. Get ready, Anchor Bar!

Yet another from Sportsnet, as Jeff Blair looks at Kevin Pillar’s attempts to become a guy why can use the bunt as a weapon. It… uh… yeah, I don’t know about that. More power to him if he can do it, but much like Justin Smoak’s claims that he’s going to give up his all or nothing approach this season, this is being spun as a positive thing when really it’s an admission that he needs to do something different because what he’s been doing is bad. Trying to completely learn a new big league calibre skill at age 28 smacks of desperation. Which isn’t to say that these guys shouldn’t both be desperate to maintain their viability as big leaguers, or admitting that they need to do more at the plate than they did last season, I just don’t think they should be lauded for it.

In fact, they should be mocked for it — as Dave Brown of VICE Sports outstandingly does, in a piece noting right in the headline that Pillar went 0-for-7 in his bunt attempt experiment over the weekend. He gets to the nut of the matter, ruminating on what else Pillar could do given how badly the bunt thing went: “It’s easier to say than do, but he could try to draw more walks and use his speed after he gets on base. But at age 28, it’s highly unlikely that his hitting approach is going to change much. And ‘just hit better’ is not really the sort of thing that qualifies as advice. So, bunting it is!”

Aaaaand we go back to the health-related stuff, as Jeff Odom of BlueJays.com talks about José Bautista’s return from the WBC and the fact that he was scratched with a sore back over the weekend — something the Jays are insisting is minor.

Elsewhere at BlueJays.com, Odom also looks at how Steve Pearce says he felt good following his first reps of the spring at first base over the weekend (get used to it, Steve), and how Mike Bolsinger — yet another guy on the fringes of the Jays’ 25-man roster who is out of options — looked good and pitched well over the weekend, despite an early exit for a very minor ankle injury that the Jays wanted to be extra cautious about.

Travis Sawchick of FanGraphs ranks each teams’ catchers by projected WAR, with the Blue Jays’ crew of Jussell, Salty, and Vitamin-G coming in a respectable 7th. I’ll give you the best part of his synopsis on the Jays, and spare you the part that comes after and begins with “But…”: “While some are leery of the term ‘winner’ in the sabermetric community, Martin make a pretty strong case for deserving the label. He’s competitive, a tireless worker, and he has the respect of teammates. When Martin began wearing the Zephyr Bionharness in 2014 in Pittsburgh, a wearable technology that monitors workload, a number of his teammates adopted the practice. He’s also simply a really good player one of the few catchers in the game to contribute on both sides of the ball. As a co-star of ‘Big Data Baseball’ he will always occupy a place in my heart.”

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Craig Edwards takes a deep look at the best projected one-two punches in baseball, according to projected WAR. The Jays’ Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez rank 7th, and Donaldson’s projected 6.1 WAR is third best in baseball, behind only Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout (both of whom I’ve heard are quite good).

Back to Morgan Campbell in the Toronto Star, as he tells us that Darrell Ceciliani is making some noise down in Dunedin and ohmygodisspringtrainingoveryet???

Over at Jays Journal, a headline tells me that the Jays “need to repair relationship with Aaron Sanchez,” which… no. They also have one on the merits of the Jays bringing back Brett Lawrie — of which there are definitely some, and the piece is not poorly reasoned, yet… also no. They’ve got their SEO game in mid-season form over there, tho.

“Nick Cafardo going and having sex with himself? It’s not too early to talk about it,” was a thing I definitely thought after reading the headline on the Boston Globe man’s latest, A Cubs-Red Sox World Series? It’s not too early to talk about it.

Underlining how astutely the Blue Jays played the market in their first winter of the post-Anthopoulos era, Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at just how bad a raft of last winter’s free agent mega-deals look already — chief among them the Red Sox’ seven year pact with former number three Blue Jays starter David Price.

Lastly, as I’ve been noting every time I do one of these lately, if you’re an aspiring writer looking for exposure for your Blue Jays content, I’d love to help you out in whatever small way I can. My advice: start your own site. Once you do that, send me the link (or if you already have one and I haven’t been linking it, send it too!). I can be reached at via email at stoeten@gmail.com (I will respond… eventually), or on Twitter at @AndrewStoeten. I will put your site in the RSS feed I use when compiling these posts. I will read what you write. If it’s good, I will point people to it. If it’s consistently good, we can definitely talk about having you do stuff for us. If we agree to work together and I don’t have it in the budget at that moment to pay for it, you’re welcome to do some things for us anyway, and if its gets good traffic and demonstrates value, I’ll certainly be able to make a business case to bring you on for pay.

  • AJ

    Kudos for the new mobile friendly format. Loved the Zwelling piece on the High Performance team, even if it had a tinge of the annoying best shape in their life angle, that is too common during spring training.

    Hope that they can do their magic so that Pearce can throw a baseball more than 90 feet. Having as Smoak be the starting 1st baseman is just wrong.

  • RADAR

    There’s a tweet out there that said the pitchers caught on, quite quickly, to what Pillar was trying to do and threw him a steady diet of breaking balls. Not to excuse 0-7, but there is more to the story.