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Ferguson: Trials and tribulations of Jays' minor league arms

Scott Ferguson
5/26/2014 11:44:59 AM
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Every day pretty well, I check out the Blue Jays minor league stats to see who's trending upwards and who's tailing off. Saturday, the boxscore for Double 'A' New Hampshire really caught my eye. Boston's farm club, the Portland Sea Dogs throttled the Fisher Cats right in their own ballpark. It was the most lopsided defeat in franchise history and the biggest shutout loss.

That wasn't the biggest story though. It was the young man who started that game for New Hampshire, Aaron Sanchez. Regarded by many as the Blue Jays' top pitching prospect, Sanchez didn't get out of the first inning. In fact he didn't even record an out. My first though was that maybe he was injured, but I called the Fisher Cats early Monday morning and was assured Aaron is alright. He just struggled mightily with his command.

Sanchez's line was pretty ugly. He faced only six batters, walked four and a hit another, and the only batter to make contact reached on an error by first baseman Mike McDade. Though he didn't give up a single hit, Sanchez was charged with six runs, though only three were earned.

Sanchez's entire season so far has been rife with growing pains. He's 1-3 with a fairly respectable 3.54 ERA. However in just 48.1 innings, he's walked 34 men while hitting another seven versus 41 strikeouts. It's hardly time for the Blue Jays to panic. Sanchez looked great at spring training this year and won't turn 22 until July 1. Still, I wouldn't be looking for a quick call-up to the "Big Club", if any of the Jays starters falter or get hurt. Sanchez still has a ways to go on the developmental curve.

On the flip side of that coin is right hander Deck McGuire. The Jays drafted him number 11 overall in 2010 out of Georgia Tech.

In 2012, at Double A, he seemed to hit a wall and had a terrible season. Last year, again at Double A with New Hampshire, he had a bounce-back season and has continued to grow this year with the Fisher Cats. On Saturday after two strong starts with the Fisher Cats, McGuire was promoted to Triple A Buffalo. While not as highly regarded a prospect as Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, the Jays may yet get something out of McGuire, who turns 25 on June 3.

After detailing Kyle Drabek's struggles over the past two columns, it's only fair to mention how good he was last Thursday at Louisville. He pitched eight shutout innings, striking out five and walking only two in what became a 4-2 victory for the Bisons.

Ricky Romero, whose struggles have been epic this season at Buffalo, was due to rejoin the club Monday after spending a few days in California to attend his brother's college graduation. Ricky is pencilled in to start the Memorial weekend holiday Monday game at Indianappolis.

The Blue Jays' Mark Buehrle is well on his way to a 14th straight season of pitching 200 or more innings. As things stand right now, only three other pitchers have put together a string like that of 15 years or longer. The trio includes Gaylord Perry (15 years), knuckleballer Phil Niekro (15), and lefty Warren Spahn (17). All three are Hall of Famers. They also won over 300 games each. Buehrle (8-1) on the season has 194 wins at age 35.

With their recent spurt, including six straight wins, the Blue Jays only have to go 62-49 the rest of the way to finish with 91 victories. That's a number that should put them in the post-season for the first time since 1993.


Around the Majors

What in the name of Bobby Valentine has gone wrong with the Red Sox? The defending World Series champs, making like Valentine's team of two years ago, have dropped 10 in a row and have been swept in consecutive series by Detroit and the Blue Jays at home and Tampa Bay on the road. They're in last place in the AL East, eight games back of the Blue Jays and six games out of the second Wild Card position. On the plus side, Boston's farm system is reputed to be strong, especially at Double A Portland. The Sea Dogs' second baseman, Mookie Betts, is a sparkplug speedster who because of the presence of Dustin Pedroia may ultimately wind up in Boston's outfielder sooner rather than later.

From the "go figure" file, the Texas Rangers have used a Major League-high 39 players so far this season and have utilized the disabled list 17 times. Yet in the same week they found out that Prince Fielder and Jurickson Profar were gone for the season, the Rangers went into Comerica Park in Detroit and took three out of four from the powerhouse Tigers, outscoring them 35-15.

Houston's rookie right fielder George Springer has had his moments defensively, but he is really picking it up at the plate. He's slugged four homers in the last three games, including two on Sunday to give him seven on the season to go with 22 runs batted in. The Astros though still have the worst record in the Majors at 19-32.

Until the other day, I did not know that in his pitching days Babe Ruth threw sidearm. In his relatively brief time on the mound as a full-time starter, he was regarded as the best lefty in the Majors. The best pitcher period, in those days, was Walter Johnson. "The Big Train" also threw sidearm. Makes you wonder why that style barely exists in the Majors today.




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