DUNEDIN, Fla — It seemed like an easy way for the Blue Jays to pick up their first Grapefruit League win since the weekend, throwing out their regulars against a young Houston Astros squad that has a chance to be one of the worst teams in major-league history this year.
Before the game, I got an e-mail from our dearly departed former broadcast partner, the great Alan Ashby, who now plies his trade down Houston way. It said, quite simply: "Watch out for those mighty Astros."
I should have forwarded it to the clubhouse.
The “mighty Astros” came out swinging and put a big-time hurting on the home side, beginning early and often against starter Brad Lincoln.
Before the game cut Lincoln’s two scheduled innings in half, pitching coach Pete Walker told me there’s nothing wrong, but they want to rein him in a little bit and take longer than originally planned to stretch him out.
Acquired in the midst of a dominant run out of the Pittsburgh bullpen last summer in a trade for Travis Snider, the Jays’ brass decided over the winter that the team is likely better served having Lincoln in the rotation at Triple-A Buffalo, ready to help out as a starting pitcher should the big club need him. He still may make the team out of the bullpen, but he’ll be treated like a starter this spring.
The Astros treated him like lunch, smacking Lincoln all over the yard in his short stint. He lasted just six hitters, allowing a pair of long doubles, an RBI single and a walk. The runner he left was cashed when Carlos Corporan took reliever Trystan Magnuson’s first pitch off the right-field wall for an RBI double.
Jeremy Jeffress, one of the relievers who could take advantage of the open spot created by Lincoln’s move out of the bullpen, got smacked around as well. He worked the 4th inning and gave up hits to the first four hitters he faced — the bottom of the Astros’ order going single-double-homer-single against him. He also walked a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Claudio Vargas, pitching for a rotation spot in Buffalo, gave up a two-run homer in his three-run frame.
There were some highlights for the Blue Jays in the otherwise ugly affair — Jose Reyes went three-for-three, singling from each side of the plate (twice as a lefty), and J.P. Arencibia crushed a first-pitch fastball from Wesley Wright over the wall in right-centre for his first spring home run.
Justin Germano had a great two innings of work, striking out four — mostly with his big overhand curve — and allowing only one hit. But he was the only one of eight Blue Jays’ hurlers to pitch even remotely well.
Moises Sierra showed off his big throwing arm yet again, erasing Trevor Crowe trying to score from second on a Marc Krauss single in the ninth, though Josh Thole had to leave his feet to go up and get the high throw. That’s three outfield assists already this spring for Sierra, who has started only two of the five games in which he’s played.
Arencibia also threw out a pair of runners on the base paths, both at third. One was trying to steal, the other attempting to advance on a pitch in the dirt that he didn’t let bounce far enough away from him.
Arencibia will be part of the travel squad for the Blue Jays as they hit the road to Tampa to meet the Yankees Thursday afternoon. While the Jays are winless at home this spring, they have yet to lose on the road. Brandon Morrow, who gave up a two-run homer to Prince Fielder in Saturday’s opener, is slated to throw two innings and be followed by J.A Happ, Brett Cecil, Sergio Santos and the young-and-so-far-very-impressive John Stilson, among others. It’s going to be a tough day for Happ, whose pitch broke the forearm of the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson on Sunday in Tampa.
Among the other position players scheduled to make the trip are Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Maicer Izturis, Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes.
Dirk Hayhurst and I will be bringing you all the action beginning at 1:00pm Eastern, so make sure to tune in!