By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Day 3 in Dunedin has a little more breath to it. The minor leaguers had the morning off so I ended up having some time to write and work on The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook.
I made my morning stop at the Blue Jays' office at Dunedin Stadium to pick up my credential and sat in on the John Gibbons scrum. Gibbons spoke eloquently about Justin Smoak's "wrist thing," Marcus Stroman's pitch limit for Saturday's game against the Junior Canadian National Team and answered Rosie DiManno's questions about Teoscar Hernandez's chances of making the team.
After that, I was hoping to see some BP and drills at the minor league camp but unfortunately, that wasn't happening on Friday. I went and did some writing and returned for the two games that afternoon with the class-A squads taking on the lower level teams from the Atlanta Braves. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had the day off but he did sign some autographs before the games started for fans who were wishing him a happy birthday.
It was nice to see some of the newly drafted players in action like Donny Sellers, Logan Warmoth, Riley Adams, Cullen Large, Kacy Clemens and Joe DiBenedetto while I also saw some of the more recently signed international free agents like Alejandro Kirk, Joseph Reyes (who both signed in 2016) and Alberto Rodriguez (who signed in 2017).
I finally saw Justin Maese. His arm was in a sling with an IV-like dripping tube-like substance connected. He posted on Instagram that he underwent shoulder surgery and hopes to be back next year. From seeing the contraption that he's strapped into, I knew that it wasn't good and an estimated return next year fits the bill.
I stepped away from the games for a bit to interview Drew Muren. Muren is also coming back from an injury that he claims was from overexerting himself in some of the fitness tests at the beginning of camp. He was selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft over the offseason and, like Josh Almonte and Carlos Ramirez, he's a converted outfielder.
We talked about the Rule 5 draft, his conversion (to pitching), his time in the independent leagues and his taste in food in a wide-ranging conversation. You'll hear that conversation in an upcoming podcast and I'm sure that you'll agree that Muren, now 29, is a very well spoken man who (I think) has a career in broadcasting when he's done playing. Now if only there was a position on the radio open . . .
I went back out to watch the rest of the games and bounced my way back and forth between the diamonds. When the games ended, I headed back to the office to await my two remaining interviews. I talked to 2017 Appalachian League MVP Ryan Noda about his time with the Jays and his season last year. I also talked to 2017 second-round pick Hagen Danner. Despite his young age (he's 19), Danner is also very well spoken and well traveled, having played with the US Under-18 National Team at a number of international tournaments.
That was my day! Saturday is for the Junior Canadian National Team versus the Baby Jays, featuring a team of second-generation professional ballplayers with Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Kacy Clemens (who had a phenomenal day at the plate on Friday), Dwight Smith Jr., and Brandon Grudzielanek.
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The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is coming soon! Visit the Handbook page for more information!