Blue Jays Takeaways: Floyd exceeding what club has asked of him so far

Marco Estrada was shaky in his first start of the spring, while Gavin Floyd pitched well as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Blue Jays and Pirates traded two-run homers in the opening frame of Sunday’s game and that was about it as Toronto picked up its 12th win against four losses this Grapefruit League season. Pittsburgh slugger Andrew McCutchen got Marco Estrada in the top of the first and Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returned the favour against A.J. Schugel in the bottom. Only one more run would be scored as the Jays bullpen combined for seven shutout innings of relief.

Here’s what stood out to me about the afternoon win:

CAN YOU TOP THIS?

Aaron Sanchez had a brilliant outing on Friday afternoon and Gavin Floyd was supposed to follow with a start on Saturday, but that game was rained out. Floyd waited a day and worked in relief of Estrada and Arnold Leon on Sunday and was pretty terrific himself.

The 33-year-old with the thrice-rebuilt right arm threw 4.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out two.

Three of the four hits Floyd allowed were on ground balls as he flashed a fastball that sat around 93 miles per hour with gusts to 95 and a pretty 12-to-6 curveball; similar to what he's shown basically every time he’s taken the mound this spring.

The veteran has made just 21 major-league appearances in the last three seasons, having undergone Tommy John surgery and then breaking his right elbow twice, but he’s doing everything the Blue Jays have asked and more. In four appearances, two of which have been starts, he’s thrown 12.1 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits. He has walked three and struck out 11.

More importantly than the results Floyd has achieved this spring, his arm has been healthy. He came out of the game Sunday after Josh Harrison lined a single off his foot with one out in the eighth, but he walked off the field under his own power and it was likely his last batter anyway.

LET IT GO-GO

Ryan Goins has had a very good spring at the plate (and on the field, of course), showing a more disciplined approach, not getting himself in bad counts and rarely chasing bad two-strike pitches.

For his good work, Goins was rewarded with a green light when the count reached 3-0 on him with two out in the bottom of the fifth and Russell Martin on second base, even with a southpaw on the mound. The left-handed hitting Goins rewarded his manager’s faith in him by pounding a Josh Luebke fastball off the top of the centre-field wall for the double that drove in the winning run.

UTLEY FOR THE WIN

The game ended on a one-out ground ball to shortstop by Jason Rogers. Jio Mier flipped it to Blue Jays teammate Darwin Barney for a force at second, but there was no return throw to first because the runner, Antoan Richardson, went hard into the bag in an attempt to take Barney’s feet out from under him.

It was the first application of the "Chase Utley rule" the Blue Jays have seen. Richardson was determined to have started his slide too late – he hit the second base bag at the same time as he hit the ground, if not before. Even though the slide didn’t injure Barney, the infielder did get his feet tied up and wasn’t able to make a relay throw to first to try to complete the double play. Second base umpire Eric Cooper went right up with his fist, though, pointing at Richardson and then pointing at first base to indicate that Rogers was out as well and the game was over.

The Blue Jays will enjoy a full day off Monday before heading out on the road to Lakeland, Fla., to visit the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday afternoon. Drew Hutchison, who grew up in Lakeland and was a high-school star there, will get the start for the Jays against Detroit’s Mike Pelfrey.

We’re back on the interwebs, through the MLB.com audio package – it’s free for the spring, I promise! Kevin Barker and I will have all the action for you beginning at 1:00 pm ET Tuesday!