* Bob Elliott talks Colby Rasmus, Mark Buehrle, Jonathan Diaz and more in his Blue Jays notebook. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
Who did the Blue Jays scout this spring in Florida?
The Jays have two of the first 11 selections in this year’s first-year player draft, selecting ninth and 11th.
Side trips to view high schoolers and collegians leading up to the June 5-7 draft included:
* Shortstop Trea Turner of the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Turner was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011. The Perfect Game scouting service ranks Turner fifth overall.
* Shortstop/RHP Nicholas Gordon, a high schooler from the Orlando suburb of Windermere, who is headed to Florida State if a pro career doesn’t work out. He’s ranked 11 by PG.
* Right-hander Aaron Nola of LSU, whom the Blue Jays drafted in 2011 in the 22nd round, but did not sign. He’s 16th on the PG list.
* Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, a high schooler from Jacksonville, Fla., who also signed a letter of intent to Florida State. He’s listed 19th.
* Right-hander Touki Toussaint, a high schooler from Coral Springs, Fla., who has committed to Vanderbilt. The Haiti native is listed 25th.
* Right-hander Cobi Johnson, who attends high school in New Port Richey, Fla. He’s the son of Jays roving minor-league pitching co-ordinator Dane Johnson, and he has signed to attend FSU. He is ranked 30th by PG.
* Lefty Kyle Freeland, who pitches for the Evansville Purple Aces. He was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round in 2011. He’s listed 31st by PG.
* * *
Come along, now, as we try to follow the logic of Colby Rasmus’ hitting approach.
On Saturday, the Blue Jays were down to their final strike in the ninth when Rasmus hit a solo, game-tying homer off Orioles closer Tommy Hunter to force extras.
Rasmus almost was rung up on his check swing with an 0-2 count with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Third base ump Jeff Gosney ruled Rasmus did not go around, and the centre fielder hit the next pitch from Baltimore closer Hunter for his 100th career homer.
Hitting in the No. 2 hole in his first at-bat on Sunday, Rasmus bunted a fastball, the third pitch from Ubaldo Jimenez, down the third base line. The ball rolled foul.
Why does a hitter with a home-run stroke bunt?
“I didn’t think they’d throw me a fastball,” said Rasmus while eating a bowl of cereal after the Jays' 11-3 win. “I figured they would throw me splitters, that they wouldn’t throw me fastballs. Splitters are easier to bunt than a fastball. I was just playing ball. It almost stayed fair.”
But it didn’t.
So, Rasmus got back into the box, down 1-2 in the count to Jimenez.
Three pitches later, he hit a 3-2 pitch (an inside fastball) which carried the right-field fence landing on Eutaw St.
“I keep trying to make adjustments, relax and play,” said Rasmus, who left in the bottom of the sixth when his hamstring tightened up.
Rasmus became only the 78th player, and 47th visiting player, to reach the street. He was the fourth Jays hitter (the previous was Eric Thames in 2012) to deposit a ball onto Eutaw.
“He went from bunt to bomb in three pitches,” said catcher Dioner Navarro.
Whether the logic -- bunting after hitting a home run -- was flawed, the eventual result certainly was not.
* * *
Mark Buehrle had not beaten the Baltimore Orioles since Aug. 11, 2011.
That’s when he pitched for the Chicago White Sox.
And one pitch in on Sunday afternoon, it didn’t look like his chances were all that good. Nick Markakis hit Buehrle’s first pitch of the game off the right-field wall for a single.
Two pitches later, it looked worse. Delmon Young doubled, putting runners on second and third. Markakis later scored on a ground-ball out.
However, with the help of third baseman Brett Lawrie and centre fielder Colby Rasmus, Buehrle put up six zeroes as the Blue Jays scored a pair in the fourth and five in the sixth to break the game open, eventually winning 11-3.
“Hitters look for fastball from him and he throws them a curve,” catcher Dioner Navarro said of Buehrle. “They look curve and he throws a changeup.”
The one run allowed in seven innings RAISED Buehrle’s ERA to 0.86.
That’s how good he is going this season.
“My buddies text from at home asking: ‘What I am doing differently?’ “ Buehrle told reporters on the way to St. Charles, Mo., where he planned to spend Monday, the off day, at home with his wife and children.
“Man, I’m lucky, I keep fooling people,” said the self-deprecating Buehrle, who had the third-lowest ERA going into the game.
“We have Jose Reyes coming back next weekend,” Buehrle said. “We’re going to be OK.”
In his previous starts, Buehrle came within a caught liner by Lawrie of a complete-game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays, and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in beating the Houston Astros.
“The defence behind me has been outstanding and we scored some runs,” Buehrle said. “You can go out and give up a solo homer it’s like: ‘So what? No big deal’ when you have a big lead.”
Buehrle was on the mound in the fifth with a 3-1 lead when Jonathan Schoop lined a ball down the third-base line. Lawrie back-handed the ball, spun, and made a strong throw for the out.
“I saw Joe Crede in his prime (with the White Sox) and Brett’s right there,” Buehrle said. “You almost get spoiled when balls are hit over there. When one gets through, you think: ‘What happened?’"
After his 432nd career start without going on the disabled list, Buehrle now is 8-8 with a 3.31 ERA against the Orioles in his career.
* * *
You never know where you are going to see a fine fielding play -- the upper deck, third base or in the bullpen.
The Baltimore Orioles have a ball girl to chase foul balls down the left-field line at Camden Yards. The woman sits on a chair halfway between the third-base dugout and the left-field corner.
And in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game, she was off the chair in a heartbeat and made a fine stab. One problem: The ball, struck by Edwin Encarnacion, was fair.
Adam Lind, who had opened the inning with a walk, was awarded third base by umpire Paul Emmel, who placed Encarnacion at second base as the ball girl rolled the ball back into the infield.
“Lind would have scored if the ball gets down there and kicks around the corner,” Brett Lawrie said.
* * *
Jonathan Diaz slid onto the outfield grass, bounced up, and made the play of the game on Saturday, throwing out Steve Lombardozzi from the hole in the seventh inning.
“I never thought he was going to get the runner out on that play, only Diaz makes that play,” Encarnacion said. “Jose Reyes congratulated Diaz and said: ‘No way I make that play,’ Jose has a different approach to balls in the hole.”
Reyes confirmed Encarnacion’s point saying: “I can’t make that play.”
“I totally black out on plays like that,” Diaz said jokingly. “I caught my spikes on the grass and popped up. The No. 1 thing I always try to do is catch the ball.”
Drew Hutchison, who played with Diaz in the minors, called the play “routine ... for him.”
* * *
Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow couldn’t believe it when he heard that teammate Dustin McGowan’s win on Friday was his first since June 2008.
“How long is that?” asked Morrow in terms of starts (nine) and appearances (35) between wins as a starter. And surgeries (three shoulder, one elbow, one knee).
“In 2008, I was closing for the Seattle Mariners. Was Brett Lawrie even drafted yet (yes, earlier that month)?” Morrow asked. “If I was Dustin, I’d be very proud of that.”
Much has been made from the Orioles’ side how a drive by Adam Jones would have gone for a home run on most nights and ditto for a Chris Davis fly ball.
“Davis’ ball sounded real good off the bat,” Morrow said. “I don’t think it was wind, the heavy air from the rain kept the ball in the park.”
* * *
Hall of Famer Jim Palmer to Dioner Navarro: “Hey, I know you’re feeling good about your stolen base, but Jose Molina was 2-for-3 stealing bases last year.” Replied Navarro: “It’s still early.”