A few odds and ends from a weekend of squeezing in some yard work and quality time with the Mrs while watching a slew of major and minor league games:
About Aaron Sanchez: a week ago, we noted his control issues of late, but said that we're not concerned.
His Sunday start for New Hampshire didn't do a whole lot to alleviate that.
Sanchez didn't make it past the first inning, recording 0 outs before being lifted after 29 pitches, as per the organization's unwritten policy of not letting a minor league pitcher go past 30 in an inning. Sanchez didn't give up a hit, but faced only 6 hitters, and walked four. Matched up against the Red Sox Portland affiliate and their ace Henry Owens, it wasn't a good day all around for the Fisher Cats, who were drubbed 18-0. Outfielder Matt Newman pitched the 9th inning, and was the only one of the six New Hampshire hitters who wasn't scored upon.
Sanchez has now walked 32 batters in 41 innings, and threw only 10 of those 29 pitches for strikes in his last start. When he throws his fastball low in the zone, Sanchez induces plenty of weak contact. When he's up in the zone, his fastball tends to move, possibly so much so that Eastern League hitters have learned to lay off of it. We're still not overly worried, because if Sanchez had been allowed to pitch his way out of trouble, he may have put things together, and his numbers are skewed a bit because of sample size. At the same time, the club wants to err on the side of caution. We are reminded that progress is not always measured in a straight line.
Tom Robson, we have learned from Charlie Caskey on the left coast, has been sent down to extended spring training. Assistant GM Tony LaCava told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet that Robson had "a little setback," and was sent to Florida to consult with a surgeon there, and also presumably to rest and rehab his arm.
Robson was removed from his last start after being dinged for 7 earned runs in 3 innings.
We don't have anything to go by as far as a definitive diagnosis or plan for Robson is concerned, but his plight seems to mirror that of Roberto Osuna. Osuna was sent back to EST almost a year ago with elbow soreness. with a prescription of rest and rehab, and we suggested perhaps some Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, although we couldn't confirm that. Osuna went back to Lansing after a month, and was dominant in his first few starts back, then was diagnosed with a torn UCL in July after being shelled in a start before much of the team's senior admin. Osuna underwent Tommy John surgery in late July, and is rehabbing in Florida, with the expectation likely that he will get into some rookie league games late in the summer.
So, if Robson appears to be on the same path, why not get it over with ? Good question. We can't blame a club for trying the rest/rehab path first, but it seems to have limited effectiveness. The bottom line is, we've probably seen the last of the B.C. native for the rest of this year, and much of the next.
Edwin Encarnacion would not normally be the subject of one our posts, as much as we like him as a ball player.
We recently wrote about how developing an MLB player is a long process, and it doesn't necessarily end when the player reaches the bigs. A series of adjustments need to be made on and off the field, and many players need a return trip to the minors to get themselves back together.
Encarnacion could've been had by any MLB team when the Jays DFA'd him in 2010. In fact, Oakland claimed him off of waivers in the 2010 off season, only to lose him as a free agent when they couldn't agree to a contract with him. The Blue Jays did sign him, but Encarnacion's career as an MLBer was tenuous at best.
Encarnacion's defensive struggles at third base were legendary, earning him the nickname "E5" amongst Toronto fans. The club decided to limit his time at third in 2011, and he responded with his best season in 4 years. Sharing first base with Adam Lind the following season, Encarnacion had a breakout season at the plate.
Over the past year he has taken away the majority of the playing time at first from Lind, and the results have been equally as dramatic. Over the course of the past week, he has won games with both his glove and his bat. Our favourite glove gem was this play in the 8th inning of a game against Oakland:
With two runners aboard and only one out in the top of the 8th as the A's were threatening, Yoenis Cespedes fouled a pitch off of Brett Cecil down the first base line in shallow right fied. The Jays had played the righthand hitting Cespedes to pull, meaning that Encarnacion was on his own as he sprinted after the pop up down the right field line.
With the warning track looming in foul territory as he made his way down the line, and with rightfielder Bautista and second baseman Tolleson bearing down on him, Encarnacion kept his focus, and never lost sight of the ball, making a basket catch over his shoulder to record a huge second out. And he had the presence of mind to quickly spin around in case the runners on first and second had any thoughts about tagging.
That play, and the others he's made this season have to be the result of hours of coaches hitting fungoes at him before the game starts. You just don't fall out of bed and make that play - making a catch over your shoulder, with you back to home plate, has to be one of the toughest ones in all of baseball. And it shows that even though Encarnacion has firmly re-established himself as an every day player, he is still developing with his defensive skills.
Kamakani Usui was called up to the Dunedin Blue Jays from extended spring training, and has been perfect so far in his first two Florida State League stints, covering 4 innings.
Usui was an undrafted free agent signee last year to help fill the rookie-level GCL Blue Jays roster. He played collegiately at Vanguard (CA) last season, after pitching for Cal State Los Angeles, and Santa Rosa JC for two years before that.
So, at 24, the Hawaiin born Usui has been around. We had thought that he might end up in Vancouver this season. Kudos for his start to the season, but he's strictly an org guy to us, although we'll keep an eye on him just the same.
The three-time defending Northwest League champs are three weeks away from their season opener, and their roster is starting to take shape. Outfielders Boomer Collins, Jonathan Davis, Melvin Garcia and Brendan Kalfus will travel with the team from Florida to British Columbia, along with infielders David Harris (who was with the team last year) and Christian Vasquez. Matt Hill returns to help handle catching duties along with Daniel Klein, while pitchers Garret Pickens, Ajax (ON) native Sean Ratcliffe, and Jairo Labout have been named to the roster so far. Labourt was sent back to extended spring after opening the season with Lansing, and Caskey says that word is Labourt's been lights out since the demotion.
The rest of the roster is a guessing game at this point. Two-sport star Anthony Alford should make the team until he has to head back to school in July. We fully expect to see shortstop Frankie Barreto with the team, along with pitcher Miguel Castro, who turned a lot of heads in his first pro season.
Canadians broadcaster and Assistan GM Rob Fai has indicated that there will be very few returnees to the Canadians this season. The organization in the past has stocked this team mostly with recent college draftees, but with the lower rungs of the system now starting to produce some quality, we see that trend diminishing somewhat.
It should be another fun summer for Mr Caskey and the C's fans.
And last week we called for the promotion of Deck McGuire to Buffalo, with the rationale that he pretty much has little left to prove in his third year of AA, and lo and behold, the righthander was promoted over the weekend. We had suggested that the time had come to put an end to Ricky Romero's comeback, at least as a starter, but we see that Romero is starting for the Bisons tonight. The Jays feel that leaving Romero in the rotation will allow him to get some instruction on the side between starts. We'd like to believe that, but it doesn't look good.