The day after Brandon Morrow walked eight batters in just two and 2/3rds innings and got the hook, Ricky Romero had a two-inning control meltdown of his own Sunday at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. Facing the Reds Triple 'A' affiliate Louisville, Romero walked the bases loaded in the first inning and again in the second, but he escaped unscathed both times and actually lasted five innings. Romero didn't give up any more walks and didn't surrender a run during the stint.
Earlier in the week, an upbeat Romero was on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor and co-host Dave Hodge and said he felt he was pitching better than he had been in a year and a half. He also said he would welcome a call-up right now if the Blue Jays needed or wanted him. As shaky as the Jays starting pitching has been this season, especially over this just completed homestand, Romero doesn't figure to get called up anytime soon. He simply has to be more consistent with his control.
The largest pitcher I have ever seen in the Majors is C.C Sabathia. Though he has trimmed down now a bit, there were times over the past two or three years where he weighed between 285 and 300 pounds. Well in that same Buffalo-Louisville game on Sunday, the Bats used a closer by the name of Jose Diaz. A year ago, the 6'4 native of the Dominican Republic pitched at 347 pounds and of course was known by the nickname of 'Jumbo'.
This year having just turned 30, he realized it might be time to shave off a few pounds to try and prolong his career. He got down to 278, but the stat sheets now are listing him at 315. 'Jumbo' racked up his sixth save Sunday against the Bisons. He throws with pretty good velocity, too. Cincinnati already has Aroldis Chapman as their closer, but who knows at some point, he may surface in the Majors.
Since the Blue Jays in the Pat Gillick era were one of the very first teams to extensively scout and sign talent out of the Dominican Republic, it only seems fitting that on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre, they became the first team in Major League history to field a starting lineup that included six players born in the Dominican. The starting 9 included Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Francisco and Moises Sierra.
An equally, if not more, historic moment occurred back on Sept 1 of 1971 when the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded an entire starting lineup of African American and Latin American players including Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. The rest of the starting 9 included Al Oliver, who later played with the Expos and the Blue Jays, Rennie Stennett, Jackie Hernandez, Dave Cash, Manny Sanguillen, Gene Clines and starting pitcher Dock Ellis.
The Blue Jays started last season at 10-17 in April and they are already guaranteed a better first month this time around. John Gibbons and company are 12-13 with two games at Kansas City left in this month. But something to remember, there were only two playoff teams with losing Aprils in the American League a year ago.
Tampa Bay went 12-14 but rebounded to finish 91-71 to earn a play in the knockout game with Texas to decide the second Wild Card spot. Cleveland earned the first Wild Card at 92-70 after opening April at 11-13. Conversely Texas had the best record in April at 17-8, but finished the season in that knock-out game at 91-71. All of that means if the Blue Jays are going to need 91 victories to have a shot at the playoffs this year, they will have to go 79-58 the rest of the year or 21 games over .500. That's not impossible, but the starting rotation will have to be far better the rest of the way.
Right now, the Blue Jays staff era is 4.45, 25th in the Majors, just slightly ahead of Baltimore at 4.49. I don't know if this is a plus but the only team in the AL East with a sub -4.00 era is Boston at 3.90 and the BoSox are fourth in the division just behind the Blue Jays.
This and That
It's really interesting to look at the early season gap in some pitching categories between the National League and the American. The Senior Circuit has eight of the top 10 staff ERA's. Only Oakland and K.C. break into that group. The National League has had 10 complete games to just four for the American, including two by Texas. There have been 34 shutouts in the National League to 23 in the American. St. Louis has six and Texas leads the American with six. I guess it just helps to illustrate why Ervin Santana chose Atlanta over the Blue Jays.
After going 7-9 in their 1st 16 game segment against the East, the Jays have a 20-game stretch where they don't play their own division at all. Their next game against the East is May 20 at Fenway Park in Boston. In fact, they only have six games against the East for the entire month of May, getting Tampa Bay at home the week after that Boston series.
The All-Star voting has begun for the Mid-summer Classic Tuesday July 15th at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. If voting closed today, the only Blue Jays on my ballot would be lefty Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera. Jose Bautista could make it as well, but more on his name and All-Star reputation at this point. I also did a rough count and if Buehrle keeps it up, his natural turn to pitch would fall on All-Star Tuesday so their might even be a chance he could start. But that's still a lot of innings pitched and a long way off.