Grapefruit Notes: Spring training is over, but the Blue Jays went out with a bang

Well, spring training is over. Unfortunately, instead of gearing up for two exhibition games in Montreal and actual, real Major League Baseball games following shortly after, we’re sitting in purgatory.

As we know, Opening Day has been pushed back by at least two weeks due to the global pandemic known as the Coronavirus. The NHL and NBA have paused their seasons, March Madness has been cancelled, and people around the world are going into quarantine. There’s no end in sight so we have no idea when things are going to return to normal. All we can do now is wait.

Anyways, let’s talk about what we witnessed over the final few games of spring training, as we likely won’t have any games to talk about for quite some time.

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Things worth mentioning…

  • Shun Yamaguchi had his best start of the spring on Tuesday in a win against the Yankees. First, Tanner Roark tossed four strong innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out four. Yamaguchi came in after that and went three innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. The damage came in the form of a solo homer surrendered to Kyle Higashioka, but, otherwise, Yamaguchi was strong. After the game, Charlie Montoyo spoke about Yamaguchi’s slow start in North America, which he believes comes down to learning how to grip a slightly different ball. “It’s all about [him getting] used to the baseball,” Montoyo said. “It’s a process. The only way you’re going to get used to it is by facing hitters, and he’ll be all right. … Today his fastball was coming out of his hand a lot better, so that’s great. He really looked good today. He made a mistake on a fastball up. … It just wasn’t as up as he wanted and that’s why he gave up the home run, but other than that he was good today.” I still believe Trent Thornton will be Toronto’s fifth start when the season begins, but having Yamaguchi stretched out in the ‘pen as immediate insurance is ideal.
  • Speaking of struggling starters turning a corner, Chase Anderson had his best outing of the spring on Wednesday against the Orioles. Anderson, who had surrendered 10 earned runs (and three homers) in five-and-two-thirds innings in his first three outings, settled down on Wednesday, tossing three-and-two-thirds innings, allowing just one earned run. That one earned run came in the form of a home run off of Stevie Wilkerson’s bat, but, still, it’s an improvement. Keeping the ball in the park has always been an issue throughout his career.
  • Finally, in the Blue Jays’ last game of spring, the one that they snuck in right before spring training was cancelled, Trent Thornton allowed three earned runs over three innings of work against the Pirates. Down the road in Dunedin, the Jays also slammed the Canadian Junior National Team by a score of 22-6.
  • Some relief performances from the past few days worth mentioning… A.J. Cole tossed another scoreless inning against the Orioles, giving him six scoreless frames over the course of spring. I had figured Cole would get a spot on the team because Rafael Dolis was sidelined, but now that things have been pushed back, it’s hard to say if that’s how it’ll shake out. Sean Reid-Foley also tossed his sixth scoreless inning of the spring against the Pirates on Thursday. For a guy who the Jays are apparently sticking with as a starter, Reid-Foley sure saw a lot of one-inning outings in Grapefruit play. Hmmmmm. And then we have Nate Pearson! We were able to squeeze in one final Pearson outing before the curtain was pulled. Pearson was good, but not untouchable this time. He went two innings, allowing an earned run, his first of the spring, on two hits and a walk while striking out two. He left us with this amazing clip…

  • These three games also provided us with some offensive fireworks. The Jays beat the Yankees 4-2 thanks in part to a homer from Santiago Espinal, who quietly had an amazing spring. Espinal ended up going 10-for-24 with three homers over the course of spring. I don’t think he could have done anything to crack the roster because the Jays would likely not want him sitting on the Major League bench than playing in Buffalo, but he certainly helped put himself on the grid for those who viewed him as some random scrub traded for a World Series MVP.
  • And then there was the absolute shit-kicking of the Trash Birds on Wednesday. Good lord. The Jays pounded Baltimore 14-2 and the whole box score looks like something out of a video game. Bo Bichette was 2-for-3 with a homer, Espinal went 2-for-2 with a homer, Lourdes Gurriel went 2-for-2, Randal Grichuk went 3-for-3 with two homers and five RBIs, and Danny Jansen went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs. Hopefully, the season starts soon so we can kick the shit out of the Orioles in real life.

  • Finally, there was Thursday’s sad game against the Pirates. We all knew while watching it that this would be the final game for a while, making it a tough pill to swallow. Bo and Vlad both hit dingers and clutch hits in the eighth inning from Espinal and Kevin Smith led the Jays to a 7-5 victory.
  • Now, we wait.