By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
On Tuesday, I headed back to the Bobby Mattick complex a little earlier to catch the older group’s batting practice before they headed off to Bradenton. I knew I’d be seeing the Blue Jays younger two groups playing the Pittsburgh Pirates’ A-ball clubs but I didn’t realize how much lower the groups would be.
With the big league club on the road, a lot of minor leaguers from the Buffalo group got the call to play with the big league team, especially with several players on the shelf with injury (like Dalton Pompey, Melvin Upton and Ezequiel Carrera). Therefore, I actually got a chance to see some of the players who are probably going to end up in rookie ball to start the year.
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I was greeted by watching Rowdy Tellez take a round of batting practice and he more than put on a show, hitting a ball onto the top of the batting cage that lies beyond the right-center field fence. I also got to see players who would be headed to Bradenton like Jake Thomas, Gunnar Heidt, Roemon Fields and Reese McGuire.
A group of players with the “Dunedin” working group (many of whom will likely start the year in Lansing) were taking BP at another diamond. Bo Bichette hit a couple of impressive balls to right field (the opposite field), while Vladimir Guerrero sprayed balls all over and absolutely crushed one. Lane Thomas, Edward Olivares and Rodrigo Orozco also looked good.
I saw Lourdes Gurriel taking ground balls but he’s not hitting just yet and I spoke to Mitch Nay who informed me what his injury issue was last year. It turns out he had an infection in his knee that required three surgeries and extensive rehab to regain the strength that was lost. Nay is still working his way back and sees himself getting into games once extended spring training gets under way and onto a roster in May.
I also saw Josh Palacios, Carl Wise and Christian Williams taking BP with the “Dunedin” group while Nash Knight and Juan Kelly were also among the later group of hitters.
I didn’t do any interviews because I needed to run to get a new pair of sunglasses after mine had randomly broken. If you’ve ever been down here, the sun is quite strong and sunglasses are a must!
After my excursion, I returned for the game where Dalton Rodriguez started on the “Lansing” diamond and Osman Gutierrez started on the “Dunedin” diamond. I spent some of my time chatting with some scouts, getting some insight into how they approach the job of scouting in the spring.
Kendrys Morales paid the minor league camp a visit, bouncing back and forth between the two diamonds to get his at bats in.
I also talked to Jordan Romano a bit, getting some insight into why a pitcher will get an extra couple of miles per hour on his fastball when it’s down in the zone.
I got to see a lot of Vladimir Guerrero and Bo Bichette in game situations and also got to see Bobby Eveld, whom he interviewed over the winter, pitch in a game.
Finally, while I was sitting down at the “Dunedin” diamond at the end of the day, I noticed that the Pirates’ lefty on the mound was throwing with quite a bit of velocity. We looked up who he was and it turned out to be former Blue Jays’ prospect Jacob Brentz, who had been traded to the Mariners a couple of years ago in the Mark Lowe deal and is now with the Pirates. He was hitting 97-98 mph on the radar gun but was struggling to throw strikes and made three throwing errors on pickoff attempts in his inning.
Wednesday is a “Camp Day” where the players spend the morning in meetings with two intrasquad games from about 12:00 to 1:30. It’ll be a shorter day for me which will give me time to catch up on some video editing and scouting reports!