My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories:
Earlier this month, I mentioned that the good thing about Juan Rivera is that he hits like Geroge Bell. The bad thing is that he also fields likes George Bell. And now, with the Jays’ decision to move him to DH, I’m almost convinced that he is George Bell reincarnated. Fortunately for the Jays, he handled his demotion to DH better than Bell did in 1988.
It’s been a tough week to be a Canadian baseball player with the first name “Scott.” Scott Diamond (Twins), Scott Mathieson (Phillies) and Scott Richmond (Jays) were all demoted by their respective big league clubs.
There has been little to criticize Alex Anthopoulos about during his reign as Jays GM. But the club’s treatment of Jose Bautista has been baffling. First, they threaten to drag the 54-home run hitter through the arbitration process and sign him at the last second in February. Then, despite Bautista’s preference to play right field, they tell him he will play third base. Then, after honing his skills at the hot corner for almost the entire spring, Bautista is told prior to the second last pre-season game that he’ll be the club’s everyday right-fielder. It’s a credit to Bautista that he has taken this all in stride. How many teams could get away with doing this to their franchise player?
Suiting up for the Yankees against the Blue Jays on March 18, East York, Ont., native Russell Martin had one of the worst games of his career. By the end of the game, he had two errors, one passed ball (could’ve have been one or two more without a generous scorer), three stolen bases allowed and in the first inning, he popped up meekly to third after leadoff hitter Brett Gardner had doubled. On top of this, he had to endure the scowl of A.J. Burnett, who was pitching that day. His performance made me question whether he has recovered from the hip injury that sidelined him for much of 2010.
Vancouver-born southpaw, R.J. Swindle was leading the American League in appearances with 10, when he was demoted by the Tampa Bay Rays on March 22. The Canuck lefty made a positive impression on Rays manager Joe Maddon and is likely to be one of the first relievers called up during the season.
Adam Lind was performing adequately at first base this spring until he badly misplayed two pop-ups in foul territory on March 22 against the Phillies. Jays infielding coach Brian Butterfield admitted in a Toronto Star article today that Lind still has work to do to become an average big league first base man.
The Phillies’ lineup on March 22 in Dunedin had a Blue Jay flavor to it. John Mayberry Jr. (son of ex-Jay John Mayberry) and Josh Barfield (son of Jesse) were both starters. And for good measure, longtime Jays GM, Pat Gillick, threw out the opening pitch.
Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu won’t be testifying as a character witness for Barry Bonds at the home run champ’s perjury trial. Wakamatsu played college baseball with Bonds at Arizona State University (ASU) and in Jeff Pearlman’s book, “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of An Anti-Hero,” he points out that Bonds’s sense of entitlement stretches as far back as his freshman year at college. On the ASU ball team, it was the responsibility of freshmen to haul the bags from the team bus into the hotel lobby on road trips. “Barry never carried a single bag,” says Wakamatsu in the book. “Not one.”
That treatment of Bautista does seem surprising. Is it possible that they may look to him as a back-up third-baseman during the season? Or maybe he let them know he wasn’t happy in the infield and they gave in to his wishes. Has he said anything publicly about it?