DUNEDIN, Fla. – It was a sister-kisser in Dunedin Tuesday, with the Blue Jays overcoming a four-run Baltimore eighth inning to rally for a 6-6 tie. Dalton Pompey led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run into the trees in left field, his second of the spring, which tied the game. When Junior Lake flied out to left to end the inning, home plate umpire Bob Davidson was already three-quarters of the way to third base, on his way back to the clubhouse – a clear indication that there wouldn’t be any extra innings.
Here’s what stood out to me about Tuesday’s affair:
Michael Saunders continues to impress as we move into the second half of the Grapefruit season, and he’s doing so on both sides of the ball.
Saunders came to the plate twice Tuesday and wasn’t retired. He drew a walk off the shaky Chris Tillman in the first, loading the bases for Russell Martin, who would ground out to end the two-run frame. Next time up, Saunders hit a hard line single to left – one of only two hits the Jays got off O’s reliever Tyler Wilson in his 3.1 innings of work.
More impressive than what Saunders is doing at the plate, though – and he’s hitting .348/.375/.783 in 25 plate appearances – has been how he’s handled himself in left field.
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The Victoria, B.C., native has passed every test as far as mobility is concerned, and he’s shown some serious smarts afield, including a play in the first inning that kept Jesse Chavez out of a dangerous situation.
With one out in the first, Baltimore got back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners for Pedro Alvarez, who smacked a fly ball to deep left. It was headed for the wall, and Saunders knew it, but he cruised back towards the warning track, making it look like he was going to drift into the catch. That made the trailing runner, Jonathan Schoop, go only halfway from first to second, and he couldn’t get to third as Saunders played what should have been a sure double off the wall.
With traffic ahead of him, Alvarez had to hold at first and instead of having runners on second and third and one out with a 1-0 lead, the Orioles had men on first and second, and Chavez managed to pitch out of any further damage.
CONTINUING TO IMPRESS
Darrell Ceciliani had another big day as he fights against the odds to try to break camp with the big club. Ceciliani is in competition for the fourth outfield spot with Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake, both of whom are out of options, and Domonic Brown, who is on a minor-league contract. So both Carrera and Lake would have to clear waivers if they didn’t make the team, not so Ceciliani and Brown.
Ceciliani is separating himself from the springtime competition, and he added to his strong citric resume by hitting a couple of doubles in the tie with the Orioles, both to the opposite field. The lefty-swinger is batting .444/.565/.778 in 23 plate appearances – none of the others vying for that fourth outfield spot is even hitting .250.
He’s also shown well in the field. Ceciliani got the start in right field on Tuesday and made an outstanding diving grab on a sinking liner by Alvarez in the third inning.
Nolan Reimold wasn’t a Blue Jay for very long, getting picked up on waivers in July of 2014 and going on the disabled list a week later, but he came back to haunt his old team in the second inning.
In his second tour of duty with the Orioles, Reimold was in right field when Troy Tulowitzki hit a deep drive his way with the bases loaded, two out and the Blue Jays leading 2-1.
Reimold raced back to the wall, jumped and just got a piece of the ball, knocking it upwards with his glove. He had the presence of mind to stick with it and snatch the ball out of the air as he hit the ground, recording the final out of the inning and taking away a potential three-run double that could have put the game away early.
The Blue Jays will cross the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Tampa for one of only two night games they’ll play down here in Florida, taking on the Yankees Wednesday evening with Drew Hutchison pitching against Nathan Eovaldi. Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and I will be on the air across the country on the Sportsnet Radio Network beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET, joined in progress on Sportsnet 590 The Fan at 7:00 p.m., following the conclusion of Prime Time Sports.