Copeland picks up Janssen, Scout ranks Jays prospects

* Casey Janssen, on a rehab assignment, opened things Monday for the Fisher Cats. After facing five batters, he turned things over to Scott Copeland, who dominated with eight scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over the Binghamton Mets. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2015 Canadian draft list


Previous weeks: Pompey burning bases, Scout ranks Jays prospects Week I .... Matt Boyd.

By Bob Elliott

The nightly ritual of batting practice was about to begin at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, N.H. Tuesday night.

Hitters like Jon Berti, Andy Burns, A.J. Jimenez and Mike Crouse headed towards the batting cage, while the pitchers ambled into the outfield.

Scott Copeland passed Casey Janssen and couldn’t resist saying to the Blue Jays closer: “since you started last night, are you on the bucket?”

The day after a start, pitchers collect balls thrown in from the outfield, place them in a bucket behind second base and then when needed, deliver the balls to the mound

“He just kept laughing and kept walking,” said Copeland.

Janssen started Monday against the Binghamton Mets on a rehab assignment, worked a scoreless first and then Copeland, 26, put up eight zeros as the pair combined on a 6-0 New Hampshire shut out win over the Binghamton Mets.

Was this a new thing: starting the reliever and finishing with the starter, as some sabermetricians say might be a good idea?

“What’s a sabermetrician?” asked Copeland.

OK, no point heading down that path.

How did Janssen look? There is a bullpen around that needs his help.

“He gave up a couple of jam shots, had second and third, but threw strikes and he got out of it,” said Copeland. After Janssen’s 17-pitch start, Copeland needed only 87 pitches (60 strikes) to set down Binghamton. He’s now 3-3, lowering his ERA to 3.66. He has walked 10 and struck out 18 in 32 innings.

“I try attack to hitters and keep the ball down,” said Copeland. “Pound down -- that’s our theory.”

Janssen had made 237 appearances in relief since 2009 outside of one start earlier at Dunedin. He’ll pitch again Wednesday.

“Casey hasn’t bought the post-game spread yet, but he said he would,” said Copeland, who watched Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Josh Johnson and Darren Oliver on rehab assignments last year at Dunedin, but this was the first time he’d ever worked a combined shut out with a big leaguer.

Copeland is not your typical high-profile minor leaguer. He wasn’t in demand as a high schooler with scouts standing guns raised four and five deep for each start his senior year for the White Oak, Tex. High Roughnecks. His graduating class consisted of 100 students.

Scouts didn’t come to see the Roughnecks, located 2 1/2 hours east of Dallas. His mom, Janet Copeland, wrote coach Don Clinton a letter for a tryout with the Panola College Ponies. Copeland made the drive, threw a simulated game and was on the team.

After two years, he transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles and worked three scoreless to get the win in a 7-6 decision over the Florida Gators as Southern Miss earned a berth in the College World Series in Omaha.

He pitched 10 2/3 scoreless in the 2010 Conference-USA tourney, beating the Memphis Tigers in the opener and the Rice Owls in the final. He lost to Clemson at the Auburn regional, falling to 11-1.

Teammates included Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins, and other draftees: B.A. Vollmuth (Oakland A’s), James Ewing (Cincinnati Reds), Bo Davis (San Diego Padres) and Collin Cargill (Miami Marlins). The Baltimore Orioles drafted Copeland in the 21st round.

After 2 1/2 seasons with the Orioles and stops at class-A Aberdeen, class-A Delmarva and class-A Frederick, Frederick manager Orlando Gomez called him in and told him he was being released.

Copeland jumped in his car on a Thursday, returned to his host family, packed his gear and drove 16 hours to Mississippi listening to Eli Young and the Adam Doleac Band (his former Southern Miss first baseman) and thinking what next? Did he want to coach, finish his degree or work the oil fields?

“Whatever the choice, I was going to have to grow up,” said Copeland. And on the Saturday, Charlie Wilson of the Blue Jays called offering him a job in the Dunedin rotation. The Colorado Rockies phoned saying he could pitch out of the bullpen in the class-A California League.

“Jackson (Miss.) to Tampa was a shorter flight,” said Copeland, who has no idea when or where the Jays saw him pitch or when he impressed them.

He made six starts at Dunedin in 2012, and 23 last year as he made the Florida State all-star team.

He’s a hunter, like most Texans, but unlike most Texans his brother-in-law Nathan Skeen is a game warden in Shelby County.

Now in his fifth season in the minors, he’s hoping to get to western New York as the next step on his progression.


Minor league power rankings A former scouting director gives us his take on top 10 Blue Jays prospects:

1. RHP Aaron Sanchez, N.H.

“I know things have been lean since the days of Pat Hentgen, Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay but this is a home grown one to hold on to and they may see the same results.”

2. LHP Sean Nolin, Buffalo.

“It always takes left-handers a little longer and tall lefties (6-foot-5) even longer to get all those moving parts working. Ask the Expos about Randy Johnson.”

3. 3B Mitch Nay, Lansing.

“Judge yourself what it says about an organization when it’s best homegrown position player is this far away: too many concentration on arms or not a good job on every day guys?”

4. LHP Daniel Norris, Dunedin.

“I can’t see him staying at Dunedin much longer.”

5. RHP Alberto Tirado, Lansing.

“Think they’re trying to manage his innings (six games, three starts after only 48 1/3 last year).”

6. OF Dalton Pompey, Dunedin.

“I saw him in Bluefield and I saw him this year. He has made some strides.”

7. C A.J. Jiminez, N.H.

“He started at Buffalo and now Eric Kratz is up. I’m not sure why he’s at double-A, they like him.”

8. OF D.J. Davis, Lansing.

“A lot of strikeouts for a speed guy (190 in 647 plate appearances) and he’s still learning how to steal (42-for-65, 65%), but I like him.”

9. OF Anthony Gose, Buffalo.

“You said anyone in the minors? I’d like to see him next time is just go -- use his speed. He has amazing speed, but he waits for favorable counts to steal. A better defender than Colby Rasmus.”

10. INF Dawel Lugo, Lansing.

“Maybe I should have him higher. We’d take him. He’s a pup, still a teenager. He might be better than Adeiny Hechavarria.”


Around the horn ...

At Buffalo: LHP Sean Nolin is 2-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his first five starts of 2014 (29 innings), with 28 strikeouts, 11 walks, while holding opponents to a .154 average ... OF Kevin Pillar extended his consecutive-game hitting streak to 16 games, he’s batting .385 (25-for-65) with seven doubles over that stretch.

At N.H.: RHP Aaron Sanchez has a 2.55 ERA in his first seven starts with 29 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings ... OF Brad Glenn is hitting .271 with five doubles, one triple and five home runs and .863 in his 26 games.

At Dunedin: OF Dalton Pompey is hitting .349 (38-for-109), with a .900 OPS, four doubles, three triples, one home run, 14 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 18 runs scored in 28 games ... LHP Daniel Norris has pitched 24 innings in his first five starts, posting a 0.75 ERA holding opponents to a .193 average. He has walked six and struck out 26.

At Lansing: 3B Mitch Nay is hitting .294 with seven doubles, one triple, one home run, 17 RBIs, and a .748 OPS in 29 games ... 3B Justin Atkinson is hitting .354 (23-for-65) with three doubles in 20 games.