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Preview: Jays Seek Fourth Straight in Bounce-Back Game For Dickey

https://i0.wp.com/37.media.tumblr.com/4a67e6a6b6afae6c69e4fa15248b359e/tumblr_mocl5uk4cg1sudiloo1_500.jpg (Thanks Welcometothebanquet.com!)

A 4.5 game lead in first place, a 17-11 record on the road, six guys with eight or more home runs just over two months into the season. All of those things are real. Soak it in, Jays fans.

And after Drew Hutchison responded to his extra three days of rest with another statement game (matching Anibal Sanchez shutout inning for shutout inning) against a quality pitcher (who has thrown a no-hitter), R.A. Dickey looks to take advantage of his bonus day off as the Jays seek their 13th win in 15 games tonight.

And you’ve gotta like their chances against a Tigers squad that is just 4-11 in it’s last 15 games with a starter on the mound tonight whose record makes him look significantly better than he is.

http://cmsimg.detnews.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=C3&Date=20140310&Category=SPORTS0104&ArtNo=303100071&Ref=AR

Scary guy. Anyway, while it’s true that Rick Porcello is 8-2 this season, 63 hits in 63.2 innings is nothing particularly special, and his past two starts (7 ER on 12 hits against the Rangers on 5/24, and six walks in 5.2 innings against the A’s last week) don’t inspire a tonne of confidence. Plus, we all know wins and losses are meaningless (unless we’re talking about Mark Buehrle).

There’s so much to love about this Blue Jays team right now that it’s hard to find negative things to say without coming off as a downer. Having said that…

What the Hell is wrong with Steve Delabar?

I’m no expert, but if you ask me, this guy is hurt. His velocity is clearly down, he seems to have lost command of the strike zone (14 walks in 22.2 innings is unacceptable for a set-up man), and he’s paying for it.

The problem for the Jays is that his ineptitude this season shifts parts around the bullpen and leaves holes in potentially crucial areas.

With Sergio Santos out, Delabar is supposed to be your right-handed set-up man. With Delabar stumbling, Dustin McGowan has gotten more calls for tight situations in the later innings, which thins out your middle relief. McGowan has the potential to pitch more than an inning if necessary, and Delabar has, but really shouldn’t.

As a result, you’re now missing two right-handed flame-throwers and you’ve moved your middle reliever into a set-up role. This is why you wind up with Todd Redmond pitching in tie games in crucial spots. That should be McGowan.

Personally, I’d love to see Esmil Rogers figure it out in Buffalo, because his arm is exactly what you need in either of those roles.

The bullpen has come around for the most part, but it’s warts are less visible with the starters going deeper in games and pitching better as they have.

Don’t be surprised to see the Jays acquire relief help or try to get lucky on the waiver wire in that regard.

And don’t be surprised to see something happen with Delabar very soon.

CENTRE FIELD!

Colby Rasmus is on a rehab assignment. We’ve all talked about it, but what do you do when he comes back?

Anthony Gose is not a better hitter than Colby Rasmus, but he’s certainly a different one – and he brings elements to the lineup that simply aren’t there when Colby is.

Colby isn’t going to win games on bunt singles, he’s not going to play centre field nearly as well, and he’s not a threat on the base paths. There is absolutely no doubt that every time you see Gose on base, the opposing pitcher is more often than not rattled.

But Colby had nine homers in 37 games before he got hurt – and since you’re going to assume that Edwin Encarnacion isn’t going to stay this hot for the entire season, it never hurts to have an extra power bat – oh wait, you’ve already replaced the second base hole in the lineup with Juan Francisco and his nine homers in 36 games.

Do you keep Gose on the team with Colby on the roster? Logically, you shouldn’t. They’re both lefties, and you don’t have any holes in the left-handed lineup that you can sub him in nearly enough to give him the playing time and confidence that he needs.

Kevin Pillar, to my great surprise, has been excellent since his call-up, and would be more practical to hang on to as a right-handed bat and speedster off the bench. Plus, because he was drafted so low and has been constantly over-looked, he doesn’t have the apparent sense of entitlement you get from Gose in his belief that he belongs in the Majors.

It would make more sense ON PAPER to send Gose down when Colby comes back so that he continues to play every day. But would it harm him mentally? We know his numbers in the minors have been sub-par. Could a demotion, even if not deserved at all, be sold to him enough to make him continue to strive to do what he’s told by coaches?

I think you send him down and remind him that it’s highly unlikely that both Colby and Melky Cabrera return next season. You tell him he’s the future, and to keep his chin up. There’s no I in team.

Wow, I just said that…

STARTERS n CATCHERS

A solution to the bench question could be to keep Gose and Pillar and to send Erik Kratz down when Colby returns, but does that have a positive or negative effect on the team?

We know each catcher has had their own positive impact on various starting pitchers, with Kratz getting the most out of J.A. Happ, Dioner Navarro leading Buehrle to the season of his life, and Josh Thole obviously being the Dickster’s personal catcher.

But it’s possible that Kratz is better served to play every day in Buffalo, and to carry an extra outfielder on the bench, seeing as Gose is a valuable base-runner, and Pillar is a decent hitter from the right side. Plus, his .206 average suggests that Kratz doesn’t do so well when he barely plays.

As Matt said a month ago, Josh Thole deserves to play more than once every five days. It’s nothing new to see a guy like Happ who does better with a personal catcher, but you could argue that Kratz fell into that role because Happ always seemed to play against opposing left-handed starters.

I think the Jays should try Happ with Thole. If it works, send Kratz down when Colby returns.

TONIGHT’s LINEUP

Is not out yet, because it’s the middle of the afternoon as I’m writing this. But you can almost bet that it will be some variation of:

Reyes SS
Cabrera LF
Bautista RF
Lind 1B
Encarnacion DH
Francisco 3B
Lawrie 2B
Thole C
Gose CF

I’m guessing EE is DH because he was at first last night, and I assume Lind is in the 4-spot because Gibby seems to prefer that lineup against “though” righties.

But you’ll have to tune in later on to find out if I’m right!

Follow us on Twitter @JaysBalk and follow me @TheAsherRoth.

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