As the Yanks head north of the border for a two-game set with the Blue Jays, my man Jared McDonald of Jays Journal joined me to do a series preview.
Toronto Blue Jays
2011 Regular Season Record: 7-9, T-2nd in A.L. East (3.0 GB)
New York Yankees
2011 Regular Season Record: 9-5, 1st in A.L. East (0.0 GB)
April 19: Kyle Drabek vs. A.J. Burnett
J-Mac: Drabek continued his streak of not allowing more than 3 earned runs in any of his Major League starts, as he allowed just 2 earned runs and 6 hits in his last start against the Mariners. He continued to struggle with his control, as he issued 4 more walks, bringing his season total to 11 in three starts. He’ll look to cut down on his walks against the Yankees and go deeper into the game. In one career start against the Yankees, Drabek took the loss despite allowing only 3 earned runs in 6 innings of work.
Me: A.J. gave up four runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings last Wednesday against the Orioles. He’s averaging just over 5 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per start. In his three seasons as a Yankee, AJ is 8-0 in 13 starts in the month of April. Lifetime, he is 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA against his former team.
April 20: Brett Cecil vs. Bartolo Colon
J-Mac: A step in the right direction, Cecil regained some of his lost velocity from Spring Training in his last start against the Red Sox, allowing just 3 earned runs and striking out 5 in 6 innings of work. It was his first quality start of the season, and the 2 home runs he allowed were the only hits the Red Sox were able to manage off of him. He wasn’t content with his 4 walks from that outing so, like Drabek, Cecil will look to cut down on his walks and go deep into the game against the Yankees. In 7 career starts against the Yankees, Cecil is 4-1 with a 4.32 ERA in 41.2 innings.
Me: Colon is making his starting debut for the Yanks after coming out of the bullpen for three relief appearances of an ineffective Phil Hughes, who was placed on the DL with a dead arm. He’s averaging just under four innings per appearance while pitching to a 3.97 ERA. It will be interesting to see how the big guy does in his first start.
Blue Jays: Carlos Villanueva
J-Mac: Obtained from the Milwaukee Brewers for just cash, Villanueva has been very effective in the Jays’ bullpen after having a very good spring, where he allowed just 3 earned runs in 13 innings. Villanueva has appeared in 5 games so far for the Jays and gone more than 2 innings in 3 of them, and has allowed just 1 earned run in 9.2 total innings. His last appearance against the Red Sox was particularly impressive, when he pitched 3 innings without allowing a hit. He has issued 6 walks already this season (5.6 BB/9), but his strikeout totals are already shaping up to be like the ones he put up last year, with 11 Ks in 9.2 innings this season (10.2 K/9).
Yankees: Robinson Cano
A: Robbie currently has a nine-game hitting streak and is batting .351/.351/.730 with three homers, five doubles and nine RBI over that span.
Blue Jays: Juan Rivera
J: While Travis Snider deserves honorable mention in this section, Juan Rivera has found a way back here again. After being benched for two of the four games against the Red So this past weekend, Rivera went 0-for-6 in the games he did appear in, lowering his season average to an atrocious .103. He did manage to draw a walk in both of those games, bringing his season total to 7, but Rivera’s performance at the plate so far this season definitely has to concern John Farrell.
Yankees: Brett Gardner
A: Gardy hasn’t drawn a walk in seven games, hasn’t had a hit in four games and has two stolen bases on the year, he is hitting just .140/.213/.209 on the season and is pretty much a lock to make an out. He was benched in lieu of Andruw Jones numerous times this year and was even dropped from the leadoff spot to the nine-hole. If you’re a fan of the opposing team, Gardner is the guy you want to see coming up to bat.
Reliever Frank Francisco was activated today from the 15-day DL, and starter Brandon Morrow is set to start either on Friday or Saturday. They both made their final rehab appearances on Sunday.
15-day DL: OF Scott Podsednik (plantar fasciitis in left foot), CF Rajai Davis (aggravated right ankle sprain)
60-day DL: RP Jesse Carlson (left shoulder), RP Dustin McGowan (right rotator cuff)
Alex Rodriguez — day-to-day with lower back/oblique stiffness
Pedro Feliciano — out indefinitely. Petey will opt for rehab (torn shoulder capsule) instead of surgery
6-pack of questions
J-Mac: With Phil Hughes’ velocity vanishing and him going on the DL because of a “dead arm”, are management and fans seriously concerned, or is it a general feeling that Hughes should rebound from this and be just fine?
Me: When a Yankee goes down, there is always concern among the fans. The New York media always trying to stir ish up doesn’t help the cause. However, I think that most rational fans (yes there are civilized Yankee fans, believe it or not) realize that Hughes is young and these things are going to happen. I also believe that management knows that Hughes’ velocity was down at this time last year; the kid didn’t make his season debut until April 15 last season.
J-Mac: With Bartolo Colon taking Hughes’ spot in the rotation, how has he looked so far with the Yankees, and what should the jays expect from him when he toes the rubber on Wednesday in Toronto?
Me: Colon has been great in relief of the aforementioned Hughes in three appearances this season. He got a little dinged up in his first appearance against the Tigers, but then against the Red Sox and Orioles he was lights out more or less. However, the most he threw was 4 1/3 innings, so I don’t know how long he will last on Wednesday. I expect about five-plus decent innings from him and then for the bullpen to take over.
J-Mac: Canadian Russell Martin was linked to the Yankees, Red Sox, and Jays this offseason before ultimately signing with New York, and he’s played very well in pinstripes so far. What, to you, has been your favorite aspect of his game so far this season?
Me: My favorite aspect of Russell Martin’s game has been his durability. He played every inning of the first 12 games (including two 10-inning affairs) and 13 of the first 14. Obviously the rain outs have enabled him to do so, but I think it’s impressive for someone who is coming off surgery with so many question marks about his health (now that I wrote that, watch him get hurt). Of course, his ability to rake doesn’t hurt; the guy is hitting .289/.333/.600 with four homers and 11 RBI this season.
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Me: Can Kyle Drabek continue his hot start through the course of a 162-game season? Do the Blue Jays have any plans to ruin him with an innings limit like the Yanks did with Joba?
J-Mac: There’s little doubt in my mind that Drabek will continue his hot start over the course of a full 162-game season. He has been throwing all of his pitches very well, especially his cutter against left-handed hitters that he has been working on, as well as his signature spike curveball. He has looked very mature on the mound, and has worked to keep his emotions in check as well.
The reason why I say I have little doubt, is because a part of me is still nervous about his ability to command the strike zone. Like I mentioned up in his pitching preview, he’s allowed 11 walks in 18.2 innings so far this season, and fortunately none of them have come back to haunt him. Can he continue to walk batters all season and not have them negatively affect him? I’m not sure, so that’s an area he’ll definitely have to work on. Overall though, Drabek has been a delight to watch and will definitely get better with every start he makes in the Majors.
As for the innings limit part, Drabek’s situation is a lot different than Joba’s. Chamberlain was a converted reliever and Drabek has always been a starter in the minors. Drabek pitched a combined 179 innings last season between Double-A New Hampshire and Toronto, so with a 15-20% increase in innings this year, there’s no reason why Drabek couldn’t exceed 200 innings.
Me: Do you think Jose Bautista will duplicate his 2010 power numbers? What are your thoughts on his contract?
J-Mac: While I initially rolled my eyes when the contract was announced, I have since warmed up to it and wrote about many reasons why the contract makes sense in a longer article back in February. The amount of money in the contract is irrelevant to me really, I’m just moreso concerned with the length of it, given the strong outfield prospects we have coming up in the minors, and some kid named Brett Lawrie in Triple-A who will certainly ingrain himself at third base for years to come. The contract is good on many levels though, from showing fans that the Jays are willing to not only pony up some money, but to retain their players as well.
As for whether or not Bautista will duplicate his 2010 power numbers, I don’t think 54 home runs is a realistic scenario, but then again, anything can happen. Bautista has made enough adjustments in his swing, and it’s doubtful he’ll just completely forget how to hit this season, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to be a power threat in the lineup. Power isn’t just all of Bautista’s game either, as he’s already drawn an impressive 12 walks this season, and a few from being down 0-2 in the count.
Me: How do you feel about the David Purcey trade?
J-Mac: The David Purcey trade makes a lot of sense for the Jays. They felt pressure to make sure that Purcey lived up to his first-round draft pick status, but he never did. He didn’t cut it as a starter, and thrived in a bullpen role last season, but continued to have issues throwing strikes. Given the Jays’ excess of quality relievers and the fact Purcey was out of options, it made sense for the Jays to cut ties with Purcey and open up a valuable bullpen/25-man roster spot for Frank Francisco.
I’m content with what the Jays got for Purcey, as Danny Farquhar is an effective relief prospect that is young and controllable for many years to come. The Jays actually shipped Farquhar to the A’s in the Rajai Davis offseason deal, so management is probably content they have him back in the organization. While he can be wild at times and be prone to walks like Purcey, Farquhar can rack up the strikeouts with his unique ability to pitch from two different arm slots.
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I’d like to thank J-Mac for joining me. Do yourself a favor and check out his site.