DUNEDIN, Florida – Ryan Goins' 35th-career major league game will be his first on an Opening Day.
"Yes he is the second baseman," said manager John Gibbons, confirming Goins has made the team. "That's official today."
The Blue Jays love Goins' glove. General manager Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this spring he believes Goins is the best defensive second baseman the club has had since the days of Orlando Hudson, going so far as to call Goins Gold Glove-caliber.
Goins' offence, specifically his lack of offensive production, is where the concern lies, although you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the organization to admit to it publicly.
Instead, there is great optimism, most notably from hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who's developed a bond with Goins dating back to a week spent together in Kansas City during the offseason. The two continue to work on adjusting Goins' swing, the latest tweak made Sunday morning before a trip to play the Yankees.
Goins has changed the position of his hands in his stance on multiple occasions, first bringing them down and then bringing them in closer to his body. The latest adjustment involves the elimination of a small hitch as Goins cocks his bat, allowing him to get his bat through the strike zone quicker and better square up the pitch.
The hitch wasn't happening during soft toss and batting practice but would appear in game action. Far too often, Goins was rolling over on pitches. He hit into a double play in his first at-bat against the Yankees on Sunday but his contact was solid, which is viewed as a positive step. The pitch was a 94 mile per hour cut fastball. The club says it isn't just about results.
"I just took a chance yesterday of getting (his hands) back even further and then just saying, feel like they're not moving, which they're still going to move but mentally he's thinking they're not doing anything, load with your body, and his BP was probably the best it's been yesterday," said Seitzer.
"I feel like I'm in a good place," said Goins. "Going into the season I feel like I'm ready to go, ready to get it going. The hits haven't come in spring training but I've really made some strides and had some production and really been working on stuff so that when the season comes I don't have to worry. That's kind of what spring training is for, to get your timing and get everything ready for the season so I think I'm in a good spot."
The Blue Jays held their annual minor league awards banquet at the Bobby Mattick complex on Monday morning. Goins took home the Triple-A MVP award for his 2013 season at Buffalo. He acquitted himself well defensively with the Blue Jays in 34 games following a mid-August call up. He'll bat ninth, where his .609 OPS from last season belongs and Gibbons has said Goins will need to "hold his own."
The club is willing to trade some offence for defence at the bottom of the order.
"That's my job is to make productive outs," said Goins. "Whatever way I can help the team. Hitting a ground ball to the right side to get a guy over, bunting guys over, getting them in from third, just however I can get them in I'm willing to do it. Whatever I need to do to stay here."
"He's doing everything that he needs to do to give himself the best chance against big league pitching," said Seitzer. "I'm ecstatic from that standpoint. He's seeing the ball good, recognition's good, plate discipline's been much better than what I understand it's been in the past. He's very confident on what's going on."
REYES UNDERGOES MRI
While Jose Reyes insists he's not concerned about the tightness he's feeling in his left hamstring, it's enough of a concern that he underwent an MRI on Monday afternoon.
Reyes was lifted after the third inning of Saturday's game against Detroit.
Is this something he would play through if the games mattered?
"It's not the regular season," said Reyes. "The regular season hasn't started yet so I can't think that way. Right now, that's my goal is to be ready for opening day."
Manager John Gibbons says Ryan Goins likely will be the club's shortstop on days when Jose Reyes needs a rest or is injured.
Goins is a natural shortstop.
Brandon Morrow pitched five innings and threw a personal spring high of 74 pitches in Monday's 6-3, rain-shortened loss to the Phillies.
His line was mixed: four earned runs on five hits, three walks and four strikeouts.
"Obviously I would have liked to not have walked the two guys in the two scoring innings," said Morrow. "That kind of set up the scoring innings for them."
Morrow has one more start before he's penciled in to pitch either the fourth or the fifth game of the season. He'll make that start on Saturday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal and the plan is for Morrow to exceed the 74 pitches he threw on Monday.
Manager John Gibbons says the club will closely monitor Morrow's pitch count during his early regular season outings.
JANSSEN MAKES FIRST GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE APPEARANCE
Casey Janssen, who's been on his own program this spring as he battles stiffness in the back of his pitching shoulder, stranded two Phillies' singles over a scoreless inning in his first Grapefruit League appearance this year.
A control artist not known for his velocity, Janssen wasn't concerned that his fastball topped out at 86 miles per hour.
"I think as I continue to challenge my arm the velocity will come," said Janssen. "Still kind of feel like you're kind of breaking through some stuff from the winter and each and every day you kind of hit a new high and continue on like that."
Janssen plans to pitch on back to back days on Thursday, against the Phillies in Clearwater, and on Friday versus the Mets in Montreal.
It's been quite the odyssey for Matt Tuiasosopo, who was finally in a Blue Jays' uniform on Monday morning.
"A little crazy," he said. "Flown a lot of miles."
Tuiasosopo was in Sydney, Australia, where his former team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, played two season-opening games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He was placed on waivers and picked up by the Blue Jays on Friday, necessitating a Sydney-to-Dallas-to-Tampa trip, 16 hours all told, not to mention the time change.
Tuiasosopo is a right-handed hitter with some pop. He has a career .638 OPS hitting against left-handers in a limited major league sample size. He offers the Jays some defensive versatility, able to play the two corner outfield positions as well as first base and third base.
"Not a lot of time, just a couple of days," said Tuiasosopo. "Better make the most of every opportunity I get."
The Blue Jays pared down their major league roster by four bodies on Monday.
Outfielder Anthony Gose was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Infielders Chris Getz and Steve Tolleson, and catcher Mike Nickeas were reassigned to minor league camp.