The Toronto Blue Jays made their final few decisions and the result caused a ripple effect on their minor league system. The Blue Jays decided to send down to the Chiefs pitchers Geremi Gonzalez and Brian Tallet, catcher Sal Fasano and designate pitcher Francisco Rosario for assignment.
The Chiefs roster currently looks like this with still a few decisions to be made:
STARTING ROTATION: Four kids and a veteran. Dustin McGowan, Josh Banks, Ty Taubenheim and Ismael Ramirez made 60 AAA-starts in 2006. They all should be improved in their second season. Gonzalez a veteran will anchor the staff with Jamie Vermilyea and Jason Scobie also available for long relief or spot staring.
BULLPEN: Tallet is the lone lefty and will be used in situational roles, while newcomer Blaine Neal assumes the closer role. Set-up men include former Red Wing Beau Kemp, who helped Rochester to the I.L. Governors Cup Finals, Matt Roney who recorded an ERA under 3.00 with Sacramento last season, Ryan Houston who pitched exceptional from April-June last year before a terrible month of July balooned his ERA and newcomer Brain Wolfe, who was acquired in the Corey Koskie trade last season and bounced around from A-Dunedin and AA-New Hampshire in 2006. Wolfe could be the sleeper in this group.
CATCHING: Veteran Sal Fasano backs up big league catching prospect Curtis Thigpen. A major improvement over last seasons defensively challenged duo of Mike Mahoney and Jason Phillips.
INFIELDERS: Kevin Barker returns for his third season at 1B, Russ Adams returns to Syracuse this time to play second base, Slick fielding Ray Olmedo takes over at shortstop while John Hattig returns for his third season at 3B. Ryan Roberts will man the utility role and is very good at all three positions 2B, SS and 3B. The Chiefs should be very much improved up the middle with Olmedo and Adams, both have played in the major leagues, while Barker is very good around the bag at first. Hattig’s range is average at best, but should make up for it with his bat (.277 with 30 doubles last season). Roberts had a great spring and will see plenty of action.
OUTFIELDERS: Three spots with five quality players. Jeff Duncan will see most of the action in center field and can play defence. His speed on the turf at home should make him a .300 hitter. Super prospect Adam Lind will play left field while veterans Mike Vento (AAA All-Star at Columbus two years ago) and Chiefs Fan Favorite Chad Mottola share time in rightfield. 2005 MVP John-Ford Griffin is healthy and will get most of the DH at bats.
The Chiefs still need to drop one pitcher and will add Francisco Rosario and Brandon League at some point in early April with more changes yet to be made.
Righthanded pitcher Brandon League who never really was able to pitch this spring has been optioned to Syracuse. The hard throwing reliever has had trouble with his velocity and will likely spend time in Dunedin before making an appearance in Syracuse with the Chiefs.
The Blue Jays meanwhile need to make a few decisions this week now that League will not be part of their plans to start the season.
The rotation is nearly set with Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Gustavo Chacin and Tomo Ohka set. The fifth spot should go to Josh Towers who has pitched well enough to earn another chance.
BJ Ryan, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Jason Frasor also should be assured spots. That leaves John Thomson, Victor Zambrano, Geremi Gonzalez, Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen and Francisco Rosario all fighting for three spots. Zambrano and Janssen look like they are the front runners. While Rosario is out of options, and Thomson won’t begin throwing again until Friday. Gonzalez and Accardo look like they are ticketed to the Chiefs.
The Blue Jays could also help their bullpen by pulling off a late spring training trade or claiming someone off waivers this week.
Jordan Bastian of BlueJays.com is reporting that reliever Brandon League, who appeared to be the heir apparent to Justin Spier as the set-up man this season for the Jays, was optioned to Syracuse today. League has battled a sore shoulder and mechanical difficulties with his arm-angle and has lost velocity.
Former SkyChiefs third-baseman and fan favorite Glenn Williams is one of a few non-roster invitees battling for the final spot on the Twins roster. Former SkyChiefs’ pitchers Zach Jackson and Corey Thurman were both sent down yesterday by the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Syracuse Chiefs won for the 5th straight time today as they roughed up former Chiefs pitcher Justin Miller for five runs in a 5-4 victory. Lefthander David Purcey went 5-strong innings and picked up the win. Purcey is expected to begin the season in AA-New Hampshire after starting last year in Syracuse.
John-Ford Griffin hit a monster home run at the Blue Jays complex today, while Chad Mottola collected 3-hits.
Blue Jays will hold a camp day on Sunday with the Chiefs playing New Hampshire-AA and Dunedin-A taking on Lansing-A.
The Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in Dunedin, 10-6, on a beautiful 70 degree night at Knology Park. Righthander Josh Towers took the loss, allowing 5-runs in 4 2/3 innings. Towers, who is battling for the 5th spot in the Jays rotation, actually pitched better than his line would indicate. With John Thomson now out of the mix with tightness in his shoulder, Towers could claim that spot behind Halladay, Burnett, Chacin and Ohka.
Ryan Roberts launched a 400 foot double off the center field wall and was robbed of a base hit in the 9th. Rob Cosby, Justin Singleton and Jeff Duncan all saw action in tonight’s game.
Righty Jeremy Accardo was touched for a two-run shot by Chase Utley, while Blaine Neal also gave up 2 runs in the ninth on 4 hits. Brian Wolfe pitched another scoreless inning and remains in the mix as a non-roster invitee. Wolfe was acquired from Milwaukee last season in the Corey Koskie trade. Last season he began the year in Dunedin and finished up with New Hampshire.
Chiefs season ticket holder Peter White and his lovely wife attended tonight’s game in Dunedin – his second contest of the day. Peter tells us that he will be at tomorrow’s game,Pirates vs Blue Jays, before his return to Syracuse for the Home Opener on April 14.
The Syracuse Chiefs and Ottawa Lynx played to a 4-4 tie on Sunday in Dunedin, Florida. The Chiefs lineup included many players just sent down by the parent Toronto Blue Jays. They included: Russ Adams 2B, Sergio Santos SS, Adam Lind LF, John Hattig 3B, David Smith RF, Rob Cosby 1B, Chip Cannon DH, John Schneider C, Justin Singleton CF.
The Chiefs scored three runs in the first inning and one more in the sixth. Rob Cosby went 2 for 4 with an RBI and David Smith went 1 for 3 with an RBI double in the first inning. Manny Mayorson replaced Sergio Santos in the 6th inning and picked up two singles in his only two at bats.
Ismael Ramirez went three innings allowing only 1-run, while Josh Banks gave up three runs in 3-innings of work. Jason Scobie pitched two scoreless innings and struckout 3. Ryan Houston finished in the ninth with one scoreless inning.
Chiefs are off to Tampa today to take on Scranton at 1:00 PM.
Don’t forget to listen to “Inside Pitch” in drive time on 1260 AM ESPN Radio today and all week from Dunedin, FL. Bob McElligott will be at Knology Field today covering the Yankees vs Jays game and will have his report.
The Syracuse Chiefs picked up their first spring training victory on Saturday 4-1, with the help of former Cy Young pitcher Roy Halladay. The Chiefs took on the Ottawa Lynx (Phillies farm team) and with the Jays major league club playing the Tigers, the Jays brass thought it would be better if Halladay got his work in a AAA-game instead. The Phillies countered with big league righty Jon Lieber who pitched against the Chiefs.
The lineup for the Chiefs included:
Jason Phillips C, Russ Adams 2B, Sergio Santos SS, Chip Cannon 1B, Ryan Klosterman DH, Dustin Majewski RF, Justin Singleton CF, Luke Hetherington LF and Brad Hassey 3B.
The Chiefs scored two runs off Lieber in the 4th on solo home runs by Jason Phillips and Sergio Santos. They scored two additional runs in the 10th-inning (the teams agreed to play 10) on a fielders choice and error.
Halladay went 5-innings allowing only 3-hits and struckout 7 batters and threw only 56 pitches. Mike MacDonald followed that up with 2-shutout innings with relievers Jamie Vermilyea and Lee Gronkiewicz tossing one shut out inning each. Jean Machi also pitched one-inning and allowed one un-earned run.
The Chiefs did committ 4-errors in the field, two by shortstop Sergio Santos. The Chiefs take on the Phillies (Ottawa) again today in Dunedin.
In just two weeks the major league baseball season begins and clubs are now beginning to set their rosters. After three weeks of playing minor league prospects and invitees to their camps, big league teams need to get serious and start playing their starters at least 7-innings.
Yesterday the Blue Jays sent the Chiefs four more players who will begin the season in Syracuse. One of them, Adam Lind will be welcomed BIG TIME. Lind has captured MVP honors in two different leagues on his way up and will likely continue his early career success in Syracuse this season. Hopefully, he’s here for more than just a month. Two of the Blue Jays other top prospects Alex Rios and Aaron Hill never saw June.
Also sent to the Chiefs was Russ Adams who will play everyday at Second base and corner infielders John Hattig and Rob Cosby. Hattig who can play 3rd base and 1st base batted .277 for the Chiefs last season – his first in AAA with 32 doubles. The line driver hitter with gap power needs ro improve on his power numbers (only 4 HR’s last season) to make the next jump.
Cosby not only played 3rd base and 1st base but also right and left field for the Chiefs last season and after hitting 18 home runs in his rookie season at AAA.
Also sent to the Chiefs was righthanded pitcher Ty Taubenheim who came over from the Brewers last season and was impressive early as a starter and earned a promotion to Toronto in June.
Taubenheim now joins Josh Banks, Ismael Ramirez, Dustin McGowan and youngsters Michael MacDonald, Kyle Yates, David Purcey and Ricky Romero in a crowded fight for five or six spots in the Chiefs rotation.
Still with Toronto are righties Casey Janssen, Shaun Marcum and Josh Towers who are all battling Tomo Ohka and John Thomson for the final two spots in the Jays rotation.
Sounds like no matter what happens the Chiefs will be stacked with starting pitching.
Don’t forget that on Monday 5-6 PM The Voice of the Chiefs Bob McElligott will be broadcasting live from Dunedin, FL on 1260 AM ESPN Radio.
All week look for up-to-the minunte reports from Spring Training.
The Syracuse Chiefs starting pitching is beginning to take shape as righthanders Josh Banks, Ismael Ramirez and Dustin McGowan all returned to the Chiefs minor league complex this week.
Banks spent all of the 2006 season in Syracuse and finished with 10-wins in his rookie season in AAA. On the positive side Banks made 29-starts, pitched 171-innings and walked only 28-batters and struck out 126. He was also 5-5 with a 4.80 ERA in his final 12-starts and allowed only 14-home runs during that period. On the negitive side he did give up 35 home runs and recorded a 5.17 ERA. In his second season at AAA Banks should improve on those numbers.
Ramirez begin the season at AA-New Hamphsire and was 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA before an injury forced him to miss a month of the season and a trip to AAA-Syracuse, most likely in July.
He did join the Chiefs in late August and was 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 3-starts. Ramirez now 26 should be ready for the International League after three really good years at A-Dunedin and AA-New Hamshire.
Three years ago Dustin McGowan was the Phillip Hughes of the Blue Jays organization. With AA-New Haven in 2003, McGowan was 7-0 with a 3.17 ERA in his first 14-starts. During his last appearance with New Haven he injured his arm and needed Tommy John surgery. Missing almost all of 2004, and still not sharp in 2005, Dustin returned last season and split time between Syracuse and Toronto.
Bounced around from the bullpen to starting and back to the bullpen in 2006, McGowan should return to the Chiefs starting rotation this season.
Still in major league camp that could bolster the Chiefs rotation are righties Ty Taubenheim, Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen. Those three would provide the Chiefs with six solid starters to begin the season.
Tomorrow the bullpen.
Lefthanded reliever Davis Romero was lost for the season yesterday after suffering a torn left labrum. Romero had surgery performed on Thursday and will miss the entire 2007 season.
Last season Romero began the year with AA-New Hamphsire and went 6-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 12-starts before joining the Chiefs rotation in mid June. In Syracuse, he was 0-3 with a 8.59 ERA in 3-starts. He was moved to the bullpen and went 4-1 with 1-save and a 1.50 ERA as a reliever.
As a releiver, Romero walked only 3-batters and struckout 25 in 30 innings of work. His contract was purchased by the Blue Jays on August 17th and he spent the next 6-weeks in Toronto where he appeared in seven games and was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 16-innings,
Romero had an outside chance of making the Blue Jays this spring, but was being counted on as a key member of the Chiefs bullpen from the left side for the 2007 season.
The Chiefs still have lefties Jesse Carlson, Jo Matumoto and David Purcey in minor league camp.