DUNEDIN, Fla. — There was a hard, cold wind a-blowin’ in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon, and while the Philadelphia Phillies’ hitters took advantage of it early, the Toronto Blue Jays took advantage early and often on the way to their third straight springtime win.
R.A. Dickey ran into a spot of trouble right away. After getting Ben Revere to ground out to lead off the game he gave up back-to-back doubles to Kevin Frandsen and Michael Young, which were followed by a two-run bomb by Ryan Howard.
Shirley Cheek was in our broadcast booth to witness the carnage. Tom’s widow stood in place of her late husband in a pre-game ceremony honouring the newly-decorated Hall of Famer and could barely get the word “emotion” out as tears welled up when Jerry Howarth asked her what she felt when she heard the ovation for Tom.
Mrs. Cheek also said, after the Howard homer, that if Tom were here he’d be telling the Blue Jays to get it in gear, and so they did.
Jose Reyes doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and a hard-hit out later, Melky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion each took Cliff Lee off the wall to get the Blue Jays back within one. Emilio Bonifacio tied it up with a two-out solo shot in the bottom of the second.
Dickey settled down after the homer, as well — the next batter singled and that was it. From that point through the conclusion of his three scheduled innings (he’s the first Blue Jay to pitch more than two in an outing this spring) only two more Phillies reached base, both on errors. One on a pop-up to shallow centrefield that Rajai Davis dropped and another on a poor throw by Brett Lawrie off a ground ball.
After the game, Dickey was pleased with his strike percentage and how often he was pitching ahead. He said that early on in the spring, it’s about “getting my body prepared to grow from here”, that his mechanics are good and his body feels as though it’s where it needs to be for his spring to progress in a positive fashion. He added that he won’t be concentrating on actual on-field results until his last two or three outings of the spring.
That just applies to his work with the Blue Jays, because the results of Dickey’s next start will actually matter. That start will take place on Friday, March 8 when Dickey takes the mound for Team USA in its World Baseball Classic opener against Mexico. That’s good news for Team Canada, because it means they won’t have to face him when they play the U.S. two days later.
It was the final game (for now) for all the Blue Jays who are going to take part in the Classic — J.P. Arencibia will join Dickey on Team USA, and likely catch him in the Mexico game; Lawrie , Adam Loewen and Trystan Magnuson are headed to Arizona to train with Team Canada and there’s a foursome headed to Miami for Team Dominican Republic’s camp ( Reyes, Encarnacion, Ricardo Nanita and Moises Sierra).
Lawrie will get some high-fives from his Team Canada teammates, no doubt, having lit up Russell Martin when I interviewed him on Blue Jays Pre-Game. I asked him what he thought about Martin’s decision not to play in the Classic, and Lawrie pulled no punches, saying, “The ultimatum was there that if he wasn’t going to be able to play shortstop, he wasn’t going to come, and in my mind that’s not right, because that’s weak. I’m out there going 100 miles an hour, any position. I don’t care if I’m pitching, I’m playing centrefield or I’m catching, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as I get an opportunity to help my teammates, help my country.”
Lawrie added that “we’re going to find someone who’s more than willing to go out there and get it done and not have anything to say about it, no matter where he plays.” John Suomi, the Phillies’ minor-league catcher who will likely be on Lawrie’s flight to Phoenix, will no doubt be happy to hear that.
Arencibia heads west having caught Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle every time they’ve pitched in a Grapefruit League game, as John Gibbons wanted to make sure he was as familiar as possible with the new guys before abandoning Dunedin for at least a couple of weeks (one would think).
Reyes leaves on some kind of hot streak — he went 3-for-3 in Saturday’s win, missing the cycle by a triple, and has eight hits in his last 10 at-bats. His three-run homer broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Blue Jays the lead they never relinquished.
Leather was flashed in this game, as well. Sierra made an incredible running catch in the gap in right-centre on a Revere line drive leading off the fifth. Sierra reached as far as he could at the least second and flagged the ball down at the apex of his stretch. He had a big smile on his face as he came into the clubhouse, and after I wished him well at the WBC, I congratulated him on the catch. He said, in his stilted English: “Yeah. Superman!”
There may be some magic at work, as well – the Blue Jays were in the throes of a four-game spring losing streak and being shut out on Thursday afternoon when Dirk Hayhurst bought some blue cotton candy live on air in the middle of our broadcast. The Jays scored a run, won that game and haven’t lost since.
The home-and-home with the Phillies wraps up Sunday afternoon, and we’ll have the game for you on The Blue Jays Radio Network starting at 12:30 p.m. ET. Ricky Romero makes his second start of the spring — he would have thrown two shutout innings last time out had Maicer Izturis been able to make a good throw on a textbook double-play ball — and Aaron Cook will oppose. Join us, won’t you?