DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays and Team Canada are at very different stages of their spring preparation and it showed Tuesday afternoon as the Red and White overwhelmed the Jays in Canada’s first tuneup game for the World Baseball Classic.
Canada is getting ready to play meaningful games that begin on March 9, as opposed to the Blue Jays, whose first meaningful game isn’t until April 3, so one would hope that Team Canada’s levels of intensity and urgency would be higher, and they were.
Here’s what stood out to me about a Blue Jays loss that doesn’t count in the Grapefruit League standings:
The Jays managed just two hits against six Canadian pitchers (plus two more who were loaned to Team Canada for the day by the Blue Jays), a well-struck line single to right-centre by Melvin Upton Jr. off Andrew Albers in the first and a soft line single to right by Kevin Pillar off Eric Gagne in the third.
It’s still early spring, of course — only Tulowitzki’s second appearance and Pearce’s third — but even taking into account the differing levels of intensity, you would have expected a little bit more from the Blue Jays’ bats. Especially given the fact that only one of the Team Canada hurlers has a good shot at breaking with a big-league team.
It’s been a rough spring for Upton Jr., but he had his best day at the plate so far in Tuesday’s loss.
Upton Jr.’s bat has looked slow, just as it did in his stint with the Jays in the second half of last year, and he hadn’t been on time to hit the fastball. That changed on Tuesday.
In his first at-bat, Upton had his best swing of the spring, hitting a hard line drive over second baseman Pete Orr into right field for a single. His next time up, Upton Jr. was robbed of another hit by a terrific defensive play from Team Canada third baseman Jamie Romak. Upton popped up in his next trip, but it was a big step forward for a player who a lot of people forget was a 20-20 guy last season.
Upton Jr. says he likes where he is right now, relative to being ready when the bell rings, and feels good with his swing. Never having seen him go through spring training, we have to take his word for it, and he certainly looked better at the plate Tuesday than he has all month.
NOT A BLUE JAY THIS WEEK, IF NOT LONGER (GO CANADA!)
Dalton Pompey is hard-pressed to break camp with the Blue Jays, but he’s going to be Team Canada’s leadoff man and centre fielder, and he played the role to perfection on Tuesday.
Pompey led the game off with a tricky grounder to third that Gregorio Petit bobbled, and was able to reach easily. He moved to second on a short wild pitch by J.A. Happ, reading the ball perfectly, went to third on Justin Morneau’s grounder to the right side and scored on a Freddie Freeman fielder’s choice.
Next time up, Pompey hit a line single to centre off T.J. House, and then beat out a dribbler up the third-base line against J.P. Howell. He walked in the sixth against Ryan Borucki, went to second on a Morneau single and stole third.
Out on the field, Pompey made a sensational diving catch of Jake Elmore’s sinking liner to his right, ending the fifth inning and stranding a runner on third.
Pompey will play more with Team Canada than he would have had he remained in Blue Jays’ camp, with more on the line and more eyes on him. That can only help the 24-year-old as he tries to establish himself as an everyday major leaguer, and he got off to a good start.
The Blue Jays get back to playing fake games that count on Wednesday, when they open up a three-game “road trip” in Sarasota against the Baltimore Orioles. Mat Latos, who has faced the minimum over four spring innings, will get his first start for the Jays. Lefty Wade Miley answers for the home side. There’s no TV or radio for this game, so make sure to join me and Kevin Barker on the webcast — listen here.