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Grapefruit Notes: Matt Shoemaker’s return, pitchers getting lit up, Vlad’s incredible slide, and more!

We’ve reached the slog-stages of spring training and I haven’t done a post about the actual games in a week, so there’s quite a bit to talk about this time. The Blue Jays Jays have dropped four games in a row and have featured some uuuuuugly pitching performances.

Things worth mentioning…

  • All the way back on Monday, Matt Shoemaker made his first start since last May when he suffered an unfortunate season-ending injury running down an Oakland Athletic on the bases. Shoemaker suffered an ACL injury unrelated to the multiple arm-related injuries the oft-injured hurler had dealt with many times in his career previously, so there was optimism he would be able to bounce-back without issue. While rehabbing, Shoemaker spent time building up his strength, going on a similar program that Marcus Stroman did in 2015 when he had his ACL injury. On Monday, Shoemaker looked like he was in mid-season form rather than a guy who had gone over nine months without being on a mound. He tossed two-and-two-thirds innings against the Pirates, allowing just one hit while striking out five. Of the 32 pitches he threw, 22 of them were for strikes, and eight of them were swinging. Shoemaker is a wild-card in this year’s rotation. Obviously, the hope is that he can be anywhere near as good as he was in his five starts last season.
  • After Shoemaker, we saw Trent Thornton come in and toss three clean innings of his own. Sean Ried-Foley threw a scoreless frame, as did Mark Rzepczynski and Rafael Dolis. It gets ugly from here on out.
  • The aforementioned Dolis underwent an appendectomy procedure and will be sidelined from any kind of action for a week. With the season just two-and-a-half weeks away, it’s difficult to imagine Dolis being ready for opening day. The recovery time for this kind of procedure is apparently anywhere between three to six weeks.
  • On Wednesday, a couple of young Blue Jays pitchers got roughed up by the Tampa Bay Rays. Anthony Kay, who had been excellent through his first two outings, got tagged for four earned runs while recording just one out. He struggled with command, walking four of the six batters he faced. Patrick Murphy came in later on and also had a bad time. He allowed four runs, three earned, over an inning-and-a-third of work, though he did record three strikeouts.
  • On Thursday, Tanner Roark made his Blue Jays debut, putting together a decent two-inning outing in which he allowed a run on two hits and two walks while also striking out two. After that Shun Yamaguchi came in and got lit up again. Yamaguchi went two-and-a-third, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks. Through six innings so far in spring, Yamaguchi has allowed eight earned runs. There will inevitably be a difficult transition period as Yamaguchi gets used to pitching in North America for the first time in his career.
  • The ugliest outing of the week came on Friday when the Jays managed a wild 19-13 loss to the Pirates. Chase Anderson made his third start of the spring and threw some absolute batting practice to the Pirates. Anderson tossed three innings and allowed six earned runs on three home runs, putting his spring ERA at a whopping 17.47. Later on in the game, T.J. Zeuch came in and allowed six runs, three earned, in just one inning of work. In four-and-a-third innings through spring, Zeuch has allowed 10 hits while recording just two strikeouts. Both outings looked great in comparison to Ryan Dull, who allowed six earned runs without recording an out.
  • Good lord, that was ugly to talk about! I apologize if you actually read all of that! Finally, we have Saturday’s game, which wasn’t so bad. Trent Thornton got the start and got hit for the first time this spring. Thornton went two-and-two-thirds, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out two. He’s only allowed two runs over seven-and-two-thirds innings this spring and seems firmly in command of a rotation spot.

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  • Okay, fuck alllllll of that. Let’s get to some Good Stuff. How about Nate Pearson? He made his third outing of the spring and continued to kick ass, collecting three strikeouts over two innings of work. All told, Pearson has pitched five innings and he’s struck out nine batters. The only “damage” he’s allowed has been two walks, both of which came against the Red Sox on Saturday. Nobody can touch him yet.
  • Another positive is Sean Reid-Foley, who had a couple of scoreless outings this week. He’s thrown four scoreless innings this spring, and, most importantly, he hasn’t yet issued a walk. I know the plan is to keep using him as a starter, but I’m a big fan of seeing Reid-Foley out of the ‘pen. Like Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano still hasn’t allowed a run through four relief innings this spring. Another under-the-radar bullpen hopeful, Travis Bergen, has quietly had a strong spring, tossing three-and-a-third scoreless frames.
  • In terms of hitters, there hasn’t been that much to talk about. All of the key names are slowly starting to find their groove, which generally happens as pitchers start spring ahead of where the hitters are at. One guy who has consistently been hitting all spring and could very well hit their way into a roster spot has been Joe Panik. Panik has gone 4-for-12 in Grapefruit play thus far and two of those hits have been home runs. Ruben Tejada, another guy digging for a bench role, also has two homers. He’s 2-for-11 on the spring.
  • Anyways, let’s finish things off with this hilarious Vlad Jr. video we’ll be seeing for years…