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Preview: Blue Jays Open Roadie in the Heart of Texas

The Toronto Blue Jays (21-21) kick off a six-game road trip tonight against the Texas Rangers (20-21), at 8:05 on Sportsnet. But that’s not really what I want to talk to you about.

When we started this blog a little over a month ago, we told you our goal was to give sometimes brutally honest analysis of our favourite ball club. Pete did so last night, in this excellent piece about Dustin McGowan, and the illusion of hope. Unfortunately, I’m going to follow it up with a little more negativity today.

Even though the Jays currently sit at .500, which is a marked improvement from this point last season, and they are well within striking distance of first place in the division, there’s still a bit of a sour taste in my mouth today.

This has mostly to do with the Dustin McGowan-to-the-bullpen saga.

Here’s a quote from Alex Anthopolous, from roughly a week ago. It’s in Scott MacArthur’s game preview from last Friday night, but the quote itself might be from a few days before that.

“I never understood the whole McGowan watch,” Alex Anthopoulos said. “I kept hearing every start is for his job. I don’t know that we’ve ever said it. It’s been three starts in a row, every start is for his job. I just don’t know that ever came from the organization.”

Well, just two starts after that (one mediocre, one awful), he’s out of the rotation.  There was also the whole notion of aligning Marcus Stroman’s AAA starts with McGowan’s. That couldn’t have been a coincidence.

Yesterday morning, around 11:30, manager John Gibbons was asked POINT BLANK, if there would be any changes to the rotation. Keep in mind, this is a weekly radio hit that Gibbons does. He has a very good relationship with Blair.

Blair: Right now as it stands, does the rotation stay the same?

Gibbons: Uhh, yes. We’re gonna stay with it and roll with it right now, yeah.

Blair: That depends on what happens tonight, to a certain degree, doesn’t it? Or are you gonna let (Happ)–if (Happ) scuffles tonight, will you let him go out there the next time?

Gibbons: Well we need J.A. to be good. I’ve got a good feeling about tonight.

So was he lying? Did something change in the next five hours until we were told McGowan is going to the bullpen? Did Anthopoulos make this decision? Who really calls the shot here?

On the flip side, McGowan has admitted that he broached the subject of being removed from the rotation, citing longer than normal recovery times, as outlined by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

“After the Pittsburgh start (May 4), I just noticed it was getting more and more sore after every start,”he said. “When I started noticing stuff out of the normal, I knew it was time to probably say something to them about it. … I just didn’t want it to lead to something worse.”

Personally, I believe this is the best move for the team, and for McGowan. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. I’m just getting sick and tired of the constant misinformation, or flip-flopping being spouted by the team’s administration.

For the time being, the Blue Jays have NINE guys in the bullpen. They have an off-day on Monday, which would allow them to reset the rotation on Tuesday by keeping everybody on normal rest. If they don’t believe Stroman or Todd Redmond (the two “public candidates”) are ready for a start on Tuesday, they can send a reliever down to the minor’s with the hope of having a four-man bench for at least a couple of days.

And don’t get me started on that. It’s mid-May, on a team that is one of the healthier in the league, and these guys are still keeping three guys on the bench. It’s absolutely ludicrous. They’ve spent half the season, or so it seems, with an injured guy on the bench. First there was Colby Rasmus, then Adam Lind before his DL stint, then Dionner Navarro, then Brett Lawrie, then Rasmus again before a DL stint. They’ve had a four-man bench in the American League for I think maybe all of two, maybe three days. I’m done talking about this.

As for McGowan’s replacement, I thought it would be a no-brainer that Stroman get the call. Redmond has been good out of the pen, but we know what he is–a guy who can come out and pitch threw the order once, and do so very effectively. But after that, the effectiveness drops of significantly.

Stroman hasn’t been great, and his last two outings have been awful. Part of me thinks that being able to get back into his regular routine of starting might reset his mojo a little bit. Former Blue Jays pitcher/analyst Dirk Hayhurst disagrees with me.

The stats he uses there make a very good point. And the thing is, once you put Stroman into the rotation, you’re kind of committed to him. I don’t think it would be a good idea to jerk him back and forth this much during his rookie season. But we’ll see. It could very well be someone else that we won’t see coming.

In March, if we’d said the rotation in mid-May was going to be Dickey, Hutchison, Buehrle, Happ, and Stroman, most people would have been fine with that. But you wouldn’t have expected Buehrle to be this good, or Dickey to be this average, and Happ to have only made three starts. But for the time being, this is what we’ve got.

The Legend of Johnny McFrank

Okay, enough negativity. Let’s focus on the positive of the offense for right now. Juan Francisco went DEEP again last night, one of three Blue Jays long balls. He’s hitting home runs at a pretty prodigious pace right now, as outlined by Sportsnet’s Barry Davis this morning.

That’s some pretty fantastic company. Like I said earlier this week, it’s probably not going to last, but considering the uncertainty of the pitching staff, you need to score as many runs as possible. And you do that by keeping this guy in the lineup EVERY DAY. Even if it means Lawrie at second base every day.

We’ve talked for the last year and two months about second base being a black hole. It’s not a black hole with Lawrie there. Until Francisco cools down CONSIDERABLY, Lawrie is your starting baseman against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, whom McFrank is terrible facing, you probably start Tolleson at second and Lawrie at third.

Before Francisco went deep last night, Buck Martinez mentioned (in between sales pitches for various Blue Jays charity packages*), that Francisco was working with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer in the cage and said “I’ve got it.” Which obviously means he’s locked in. So, uhh, yeah. Ride that.

*I’m not hating on the Blue Jays Charity Broadcast Auction. Not at all. They raised over $250,000, which is tremendous. But listening to Buck and Pat try and be “salesmen” all night was painful. Just dreadfully painful. There’s got to be a better way to do that.

Tonight, it’s off to Texas to start a six-game roadie which sees three against the Rangers (J.P. Arencibia alert!!!), and three against the Boston Red Sox. Here’s this evening’s lineup, which is the same as last night’s:

Blue Jays 05/16 (21-21)
OBP HR RBI
SS 7 Jose Reyes .301 3 9
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .353 6 17
RF 19 Jose Bautista .426 10 29
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .331 8 30
DH 26 Adam Lind .408 2 11
3B 47 Juan Francisco .379 7 18
2B 13 Brett Lawrie .301 7 24
C 31 Erik Kratz .226 2 6
CF 8 Anthony Gose .538 0 2
WHIP W – L K/BB
P 36 Drew Hutchison 1.30 1 – 3 49/15

They have the task of going up against Yu Darvish tonight, which is never fun. But when these boys are swinging, look out.

Okay, I know I’ve rambled quite a bit today, so you get an awesome reward for making it down the entire way. Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s outfielder, with quite possibly the best walkup music in the history of Major League Baseball.

For the real gold, jump to 1:30. And enjoy the game tonight.

Follow along on Twitter @jaysbalk.

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