Jays watch Cubs for naught, Birds, Donald S

 * The Blue Jays were all set to scout RHP Jeff Samardija on Saturday except the Chicago Cubs dealt him to the Oakland A's and he showed in time to pitch seven innings in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays to complete an Oakland sweep of Toronto. ...  2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

Toronto Blue Jays pro scout Danny Evans was at Nationals Park Friday to watch Chicago Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel beat the Washington Nationals 7-2. Hammel pitched six strong innings allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out seven for his eighth win.

And Evans was set to watch right-hander Jeff Samardzija face the Nationals Saturday afternoon.

Change of plans ... unless Evans had orders to watch second baseman Darwin Barney.

The Oakland A’s beat the high rollers like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves and the Jays by trading for not one, but both Cubs starters late Friday.

Oakland moved blue-chip prospect Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, a first rounder in 2013, minor leaguer Dan Straily and a player to be named for Samardzija and Hammel.

Evans, the former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager, was the 11th set of Jays eyes to watch the Cubs going back to last September.

The closer the Jays get to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline their shopping list seems to expand rather than shrink.

Let’s see now: a front-line starter, either a second baseman or a third baseman, a reliever and now do they need a right-handed hitter for the outfield?

Check out the final third of the Jays lineup -- Munenori Kawasaki, Anthony Gose and Josh Thole -- against Sonny Gray Thursday in Oakland. Kawasaki, Gose and Thole have combined to hit .246 with zero homers, 13 RBIs, striking out 57 times in 243 at-bats.

Or the final four in Saturday’s lineup -- Brad Glenn, Steve Tolleson, Darin Mastroianni and Kawasaki. That foursome has hit a combined .195 with three homers, 11 RBIs and 50 whiffs in 174 at-bats.

And in 39 innings in Oakland the Jays managed four runs.

The Jays hope they get out of town before the A’s insert either Samardzija or Hammel into the rotation.

Not so lucky. Samardzija, the starter the Jays wanted, pitched seven innings allowing one run in a 4-2 win over the Jays.

So what number David Price will wear with the Jays or will they counter by promoting Bobby Korecky?

Or could they try to bring back right-hander A.J. Burnett from the Philadelphia Phillies.


Bird watching: How ‘bout them Birds.

Not the Jays, but the Baltimore Orioles which seem to be flying in the proper direction: onward and upward in the AL East.

Buck Showalter’s Birds lost three of four at home against the Tampa Bay Rays, who had the worst record in baseball at the time. The Orioles then learned third baseman Manny Machado’s five-game suspension appeal was rejected and played a man down this week.

They won the first four – against the Texas Rangers, their first four-game sweep of the Rangers in Baltimore since 2004. The Orioles hadn’t registered a four game sweep at home since 2008 against Seattle and a four-game sweep anywhere since 2011 in Minnesota.

The Orioles don’t have catcher Matt Wieters and they were without Chris Davis for a time.

Yet they have a powerful lineup in right fielder Nick Markakis, left fielder Steve Pearce, centre fielder Adam Jones, DH Nelson Cruz, first baseman Davis, shortstop JJ Hardy along with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, catcher Nick Hundley and Machado, who has a game remaining in his suspension.

Cruz, the former Ranger, has 26 homers and should have had 27. His buddy Leonys Martin, made a went up and over the wall Wednesday to steal a Cruz home run bid. That night Cruz got a text from Martin reading “I’m sorry.”

The O’s have the second highest team batting average (.266) behind only the Detroit Tigers, second in homers (105) are seventh (369) in runs scored.

The Jays lead in homers (113) going into Saturday night, are third in runs scored (404) and sixth (.258) in team average.

Fans fret about the Blue Jays schedule, but those Birds of Baltimore don’t have an easy road:

After this weekend’s three-game series at Fenway Park against the Red Sox (Friday’s opener was rained out) the Orioles play 29 straight against teams with winning records; four straight against the Washington Nationals, three against the Yankees before the all-star break, then a trip to the coast with three games in Oakland, three in Anaheim and four in Seattle, three at the Rogers Centre, three with the St. Louis Cardinals and three with the Yankees before playing the Cleveland Indians.

And your second-place Toronto Blue Jays, heading into Anaheim play teams with winning record 15 of the next 31 games. They play the final two against the A’s, three against the Angels, three at Tropicana Field, then the Rangers come to Rogers Centre after the break, then a road trip to New York, Boston and Houston, next Baltimore and Detroit visit Toronto, before the Jays head to Seattle.


Quelle surprise: Watching the Jays pre-game show on Canada Day from Moncton I was both impressed and surprised at Sportsnet’s opening. Impressed at the content and shocked that Don Cherry will now be part of the baseball package after coming over from CBC as part of the hockey deal to duel Gregg Zaun with knowledge, collars and sports jackets. Haven’t seen another pre-game show yet but it’s going to be a fun summer with Zaun analyzing catchers failing to block balls and Kingston’s own telling us which Scandinavian will go into the left field corner. Or at least that's the way it appeared. You know Donald was really good player. My father told me so ... And MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm should know that the sign reading “home province of MLB.com’s best” is no where to be found at the Moncton airport.

Farewell: You may not know the name Luca Messina. He worked in the Blue Jays amateur scouting department, after being hired as associate scout in 2011. He was responsible for video work with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Jays in 2012 with the noon starts and 95-degree temperatures. He was at triple-A Buffalo last year. The Jays moved him to Toronto on Dec. 1 and he began working at the Rogers Centre last fall. He worked long hours preparing for the draft and then was unexpectedly let go on June 24. Messina was popular amongst Jays minor league coaches, cross checkers, scouts and developmental people, who have called, emailed and send texts of support. He grew up in New York as a Mets fan watching the likes of Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Bob Stanley, Robbie Alomars Hall of Fame father Sandy Alomar, and Jon Nunnally ... and then got to work with them. Good luck to you Luca.