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Spring Has Sprung: Five Certainties for Camp
Pitchers and catchers report. Those four abstract words have the power to warm the hearts of die-hard baseball fans. Today marks the first official day of spring training, with position players due in camp by February 16. For the first time in many years, Blue Jays fans enter spring full of optimism and excitement for the new season.
The local baseball media has migrated to Dunedin to report from camp, and with the major league roster largely set, there are fewer unanswered questions for the team than in previous years. However, to whet our whistles, the likes of the National Post’s John Lott, Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy and The Score’s Dustin Parkes each do a splendid job providing rundown of the key stories to unfold.
So rather than redundantly culling a similar list, we’ve decided instead to take the opposite approach. Here is the Blue Jays Way guide to the 100% sure-fire certainties that we can expect this spring:
- Player X is in the best shape of his life. Last year it was Brett Cecil, whose off-season conditioning program caused him to shed 25 pounds and was supposedly going to help his stamina and velocity. How did that work out? He pitched himself to the minors, then to the bullpen, and in the process, posted the worst (5.72) ERA of his four-year career.
- Someone will get injured. As much as we’re led to believe players are in great shape (see point above), it’s almost guaranteed that someone on the projected major league roster will not break camp due to injury. Relievers Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen are both recovering from shoulder surgeries; it’s entirely plausible one of them might require more time to heal and/or return to game form. Sore arms, stiff backs, twisted joints and pulled muscles are all likely to occur at some point.
- Too much attention will be paid to spring training stats. Apart from serving as a tie-breaker for the final bullpens spots, I caution anyone from placing much weight on individual players’ spring performances as well as the overall team won-loss record. These metrics have rarely proven to be barometers of future success. The level of competition in spring games varies widely and players aren’t often used as the would be during the regular season. Furthermore, with the World Baseball Classic running this spring, several key Blue Jays will be absent from Grapefruit League contests.
- Someone will get traded/released/claimed. It’s simply a matter of numbers. With the 40-man roster full, several non-roster invitees, and a handful of players without options remaining, we likely haven’t seen the last of Alex Anthopoulous’ roster tinkering. We know the Jays have an extra catcher and spare bullpen arms. The current plan is to stash major league ready depth at AAA Buffalo, but things do not always go as planned. There simply isn’t room at the dinner table for everybody.
- Dustin McGowan will be placed on the disabled list. As much as fans, including me, have been pulling for McGowan, the odds of him contributing to the 2013 Blue Jays are slim-to-none. Once touted as a can’t-miss prospect, McGowan is now 30 years old and has pitched just 21 innings for the Jays over the last four years, missing three entire seasons in the process. McGowan is to be commended for his resolve and determination, making his plight all the more sad. For these reasons, as well as the inexplicable contract he was given prior to last season, he has remained a glimmer of hope for the team and its fans. I predict this will be the final season he attempts before calling it quits.