LAKELAND, Fla. — As expected, the Blue Jays rode the big bats of Lance Zawadzki and Ryan Goins to a blowout win over the defending A.L. champs in their Grapefruit League opener.
OK, maybe not, but that’s what Spring Training baseball is all about — getting all excited about guys you’ve never heard of.
Goins has some pedigree in the Blue Jays’ system, at least, having been a two-time R. Howard Webster Award winner as a minor-league MVP, but Zawadzki is new to the organization. He spent last year playing AAA for the Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers but had some big-league time back in 2010 with the Padres, getting 35 at-bats. He didn’t go deep, though, like he did Saturday afternoon off Ryan Robowski, his Grand Slam breaking a 3-3 tie in the 6th inning, pinch-hitting for Maicer Izturis.
Goins’ shot came the next inning, off Melvin Mercedes — a three-run jack to right field that cashed leadoff walks to Adam Loewen and Mike Nickeas.
It being a Spring Training game, not one of the names mentioned above is expected to spend any significant time in the major leagues this season.
Despite it being the Spring Opener, the Blue Jays didn’t bring too many of their starters, seeing as the game was on the road and they have to split their squad for a couple of games Sunday afternoon. Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind did make the trip, and both showed well, with Lawrie belting a two-run single off his future Team Canada teammate Shawn Hill and drawing a walk, while Lind singled, doubled (off Tigers’ young phenom closer-to-be Bruce Rondon) and smacked a sacrifice fly to deep centre.
Brandon Morrow got the start and gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work, throwing only 11 strikes among his 23 pitches. The two runs came on one swing of the bat — a mammoth home run by Prince Fielder on a 3-2 fastball, one pitch after Morrow had made Fielder look pretty bad with a change-up. Had it been the regular season, Morrow believes he’d have come back with another change instead of challenging the big lefty with the heat.
Steve Delabar was taken painfully deep as well, giving up a leadoff home run to Miguel Cabrera on a hanging splitter in the third, but the Tigers only managed one more hit the rest of the way.
The game wasn’t without misadventure — the Blue Jays’ first on-field screw-up of 2013 came courtesy of Moises Sierra, who got himself thrown out at third base to end the second inning just before Adam Lind stepped on the plate with what would have been the Blue Jays’ first run of 2013. Sierra made the mistake of trying to take the extra 90 feet on Anthony Gose’s line single to shallow centre, and was easily thrown out.
Sierra made up for the miscue the next inning, gunning down Jhonny Peralta at third base. The Tigers’ shortstop was trying to go first to third with nobody out on Alex Avila’s single, and Sierra made him pay.
There was a scary moment in the bottom of the 7th, when Mike McCoy and Ryan Langerhans came together on a two-out fly ball by Jeff Kobernus. The ball was hit to right-centre and McCoy, the centrefielder, came drifting over and kept drifting, colliding pretty hard with Langerhans, who was almost camped under the ball, still moving to his left. The two of them went down in a heap and stayed on the ground for a while as the crowd held its breath, but eventually both were able to get up, and Langerhans even managed to remain in the game. McCoy had to leave, but only with a bruised quadriceps — probably the best possible outcome when the slight McCoy crashes into 220 pounds of the 6’3" Langerhans.
In a twist of irony (maybe — at least by the Alanis Morrissette definition), Dave Bush got the win for the Blue Jays, throwing two innings of no-hit shutout relief. Bush was the winning pitcher in the last major-league game that John Gibbons managed, back on June 19, 2008, as a starter for the Brewers.