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Ferguson: On the Jays, Mariners, and Bonifacio's fast start

Scott Ferguson
4/4/2014 12:01:59 PM
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Their season is just four days old, but the Seattle Mariners are off to an impressive 3-1 start. They swept the Angels, then lost a 3-2, 12-inning heartbreaker to the Oakland A's on a Coco Crisp walk-off home run.

The biggest story in my mind though was the performance of their number three starter James Paxton, in an 8-2 victory over the Halos. He pitched a two-hitter over seven innings and immediately threw himself into the mix for those to watch in the Rookie of the Year race this season. Paxton is a 6'4", 220-pound lefty who hails from Richmond, BC.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, he's one that got away. Paxton was originally drafted by the Blue Jays 37th overall in 2009, but he chose not to sign. He intended to return to the University of Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible because he had signed an agreement with agent Scott Boras.

Paxton went on to pitch briefly for the Independent Grand Prairie Airhogs of the American Association in 2010. That year he was drafted by the Mariners in the fourth round. With Hisashi Iwakuma and top prospect Taijuan Walker rehabbing from injuries, Paxton may be around for awhile and could be a key part of the M's resurgence.

Seattle has another impressive young lefty in their rotation in Cuban-born lefty Roenis Elias, who pitched well, but got saddled with a no-decision in the Mariners' loss to the A's. The only question coming into this season was over their ability to score runs, even with the addition of ex-Yankees star Robinson Cano. With this seeming wealth of starting pitching, the M's may be able to deal for the bats they need as the season unfolds. Cano, by the way, is off to a decent start with Seattle, going 6 for 16 with a pair of intentional walks.


Here and Now

There's no sense fretting now over the Jays not getting Paxton. Better to concentrate on the top two pitching prospects they do have. Marcus Stroman started the Buffalo Bisons' season opener on Thursday against the Twins' Rochester farm club, the Red Wings. He was on a pitch count and over four innings, made 73 pitches - 47 for strikes - gave up four hits and two earned runs, struck out three of the first four batters he faced and got a no decision in the Bisons' 6-3 victory.

The Bisons are veteran team, with 16 players on their roster who played in the Majors last season. Matt Tuiasosopo, who was just picked up on waivers last week from Arizona and then three days later was outrighted to Buffalo, led the attack with three hits.

After Stroman, the rest of the Buffalo rotation consists of Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, lefty Sean Nolin, who was briefly with the Jays, and Liam Hendricks. J.A. Happ is expected to join them as well in the near future on a rehab assignment. Bisons closer Neil Wagner, who figures to be up with the Jays at some point this season, struck out three of four batters and racked up the save.

Blue Jays blue chip prospect Aaron Sanchez started opening night for Double "A" New Hampshire at Trenton. He was described as being dominant over his five-inning stint, giving up just one hit and striking out five while walking two. He also got the victory in the Fishercats' 6-0 victory over Trenton.


Fresh Start

Emilio Bonifacio, who was a bust with the Blue Jays last season and eventually moved on to the Royals, signed with the Cubs as a free agent and is off to a torrid start at the plate with Chicago. He's 11 for 16 with four stolen bases on the young season. He's been batting lead-off and playing centre field.

The Cubs - weather permitting - will be marking the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon in their home opener against the Phillies. Great trivia question on Wrigley: name the only person to hit the scoreboard. Here's a clue, it wasn't a ball player. It was golf legend Slammin' Sammy Snead.

He teed off from homeplate in a publicity stunt and hit the 89' high scoreboard, which was 420 feet away on the fly. On his next try he hit it right over the scoreboard.

Wrigley has also hosted two of the wildest games in Major League history. In the highest scoring game ever, the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23 on August 25, 1922. The Phils got their revenge in 1979, 57 years later, when they edged the Cubs 23-22 in 10 innings. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt hommered off Cubs closer Bruce Sutter to win it. The teams combined for 11 homers, including three by the Cubbies' Dave Kingman.
 

Roy's Return

Great move by the Blue Jays to get Roy Halladay to throw out the first pitch for their home opener Friday night at sold-out Rogers Centre against Derek Jeter and the Yankees. It makes you wonder if they will put Halladay's name up on the "Level of Excellence" tonight or at some point down the road. The pitching match-up couldn't be more intriguing with the comeback king Dustin McGowan facing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who will be making his first Major League start.



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