DUNEDIN, Fla. – The tendency after a long, sloppy spring training loss is to look for silver linings, and the Toronto Blue Jays could point to a few of those after losing their Grapefruit League home opener 10-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday.
Among the positives for the Blue Jays after a split-squad loss: Joe Biagini’s strong start. The right-hander recorded five outs, three of which were strikeouts, while allowing two singles and a walk. Along the way, he mixed in more change-ups than usual and confronted some early-spring jitters.
“You have to remember how to pitch,” Biagini said. “It felt pretty good. The arm’s still attached.”
“Some guys who have done this for a long time still talk about getting a little nervous,” Biagini added. “I think that’s a good thing.”
Biagini was primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher in 2016, but he relied on his change-up more heavily while starting in the San Francisco Giants’ system. Now that he’s assured of a spot on the Blue Jays’ staff, he can experiment a little with his third offering. In all likelihood he’ll return to the bullpen this year, but refining an existing weapon can’t hurt and this is the best time to experiment.
Here are some other takeaways from the Blue Jays’ loss against the Phillies…
ROUGH BIRTHDAY FOR URENA
Richard Urena, the Blue Jays’ fifth-best prospect according to Baseball America, made two errors in the field Sunday, his 21st birthday. He ultimately exited the game after taking a throw from centre field off of his left shin/knee area.
“He had a tough day,” manager John Gibbons said. “He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be a good one.”
Urena made some big strides last year, batting .295/.335/.434 with 24 doubles in 127 games between class-A Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire.
VETERAN BATS PRODUCE
Bautista contributed with a single and a double, perhaps an early indication that he’s finding his timing at the plate. Meanwhile, Morales hit his first home run in a Blue Jays uniform and even showed off some savvy baserunning, advancing to third base on a fly ball to right field.
“As painful as that game was, there were also a couple good things in there,” Gibbons said.
SOLID DEBUT FOR LATOS
Mat Latos allowed one run, a home run to Andres Blanco, in two innings of work Sunday, reaching 92 mph on the radar gun. The veteran right-hander struck out two batters while walking one in a Blue Jays debut that Gibbons characterized as “pretty solid.”
Hours before the game, Gibbons spoke highly of Conner Greene’s potential, but the right-handed prospect struggled in his Grapefruit League debut, allowing five earned runs while recording just three outs.
His potential was evident, as his fastball lit up the radar gun at 99 mph, but he allowed four hits and a walk while striking out two.