MacArthur: Blue Jays' reinforcements nearing return

Scott MacArthur
4/13/2014 12:21:48 AM
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BALTIMORE – Jose Reyes ran the bases while Casey Janssen threw a bullpen session at Oriole Park on Saturday afternoon.

Both men are close to being ready to play in minor league rehabilitation games. This is the one time when manager John Gibbons can't wait to see his starting shortstop and his closer leave the team.

"The plan is they're probably going to fly to Florida (on Sunday)," said Gibbons. "I know Reyes will probably start playing a game on Monday. Casey … it's probably Monday or Tuesday."

Janssen simulated a game situation during his side session. He warmed up like he normally would and then had hitters stand in the batter's box to provide a game-like feel.

He estimates he threw 35 pitches in total.

"I think I threw pretty much as hard as I could without facing a hitter," said Janssen. "There wasn't any holding back or any questioning is it going to hurt type of stuff."

While Janssen feels the worst is behind him, including the pain of his abdominal strain, there's still something there, although he struggles to describe it.

"I feel stuff," he said. "It doesn't hurt. They say you're going to feel stuff and as long as it doesn't hurt we'll keep on going forward and that's what I've been doing. I've been able to do everything they've asked me to do to this point and the next part of the progress is a game."

Reyes, like Janssen, simulated game situations on the base paths. He reported feeling "good," much the same as when he first ran sprints before Friday's game.

The plan, at the moment, is for Reyes and Janssen to play their rehab games for Single-A Dunedin, due to weather concerns surrounding both higher minor league affiliates in Buffalo and New Hampshire.

While no firm timetable is set for either player's return to the big league team, the Blue Jays have six games scheduled between Minneapolis and Cleveland through to next weekend. The air is still cool in both cities at this time of year.

"I don't care about that," said Reyes. "If I'm ready to play in Cleveland I'm going to play."

Dealing with the shift

Every time Adam Lind steps into the batter's box, he looks up and sees an exaggerated defensive shift to his pull side.

Lind wonders if the man sometimes credited with inventing the sport is rolling over in his grave.

"They said it in spring training, what would Abner Doubleday think?

"He wouldn't even recognize it," said Lind.

Very rarely will you see hitters change their approach to deal with the shift, which is typically applied against the dead pull power hitters. If they run into one, they'll elevate the ball but if they hit the ball on the ground, the defence will scoop it up.

"It depends on the pitcher," said Lind. "If it's someone that I don't feel, that I'm consistently late with then I just try to hit it to the left side."

"Sometimes you get them tinkering with it and trying to flip balls the other way, I mean it does you a favour in a lot of ways, it takes them out of what their game is," said manager John Gibbons. "The only thing, we have concerns at times doing it, there are a couple of guys out there that will lay down a bunt on you. They don't have to be good bunters. Say it's a tight ball game, leading off an inning, not a one-run game but like a two-run game, you fear somebody might drop it down, it doesn't have to be a good bunt, they beat it out to get an inning going."

In the scenario Gibbons just illustrated, you'll see the shortstop cheat in on the grass to discourage the bunt.

Colby Rasmus is another grip it and rip it left-hander in the Blue Jays' lineup. He said in spring training he doesn't like to be considered a dead pull hitter anymore but old habits die hard.

It used to be a hitter like Rasmus could get a read on the type of pitch and pitch location based on the defensive alignment but that's out the window with the shift.

"I try not to even pay attention to it because then you start thinking about where they're going to play you, where they're going to pitch you, thinking maybe they're going to shift so maybe they're going to throw me in, thinking that I'm just going to hit it into the shift and then they throw you everything away," said Rasmus.

Lind says the part of the shift that's affected him most is when the opposition places its shortstop in line with the pitcher behind second base. On Friday night, against Chris Tillman in the second inning, Lind lined out to the shortstop, who positioned himself right where Lind hit the ball prior to the pitch. If it's anytime earlier in the at-bat, the ball gets through.

Lind understands.

"You've got to do it," he said. "Like, if you show patterns, what's the point of having the third baseman there if you never hit it there?"


Jose Bautista walked three more times on Saturday night, spiking his major league-leading total to 16 on the young season.

"They're not going to give him anything to hit until Eddie gets going," said manager John Gibbons. "Right now, my guess, they're going to make Eddie beat them. When he gets going, then it's a little bit different."

Encarnacion singled in the second inning and went 1-5 on Saturday night. He's hitting .160 through the first 12 games and is still looking for his first home run of the season.

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