1. There's been much ado about the Toronto stadium recently, ideas about fixing it up and adding wifi. Is this a central focus for the Blue Jays like it is for the Rays?
I wouldn't say it is as huge a central theme as it is for the Rays, but yeah it is an issue. The good parts: Rogers Centre is right downtown, right where you would want a ballpark. It is a great part of town and there are many many bars and restaurants within easy walking distance, as well as several good hotels for people that are coming from out of town. The roof opens when the weather is nice, and with the roof open it isn't a bad place to watch a game. The lack of beer choices and the rather boring food choices (though they tell us we'll have better food this year) isn't the fault of the park.
But it does need some upgrades. Everyone's biggest issue is the artificial turf. They put in new fake turf this year, hopefully that will make things easier on the player's knees. They tell us they are researching how they could put real grass in there. The plan, so they tell us, is for real grass in 2018. I have my doubts, there are a lot of hurdles to clear before then, but that they are talking out it makes us hopeful. It is tough, there is no drainage under the field and they need to figure out how to make it a open air stadium with a roof that closes instead of a roofed stadium that sometimes opens. Everything inside is built for being inside, they would have to make a lot of changes to make it so everything on the inside can handle weather.
Even before that the park needs a big time upgrade. It is getting older. Getting WiFi in there is a start. Getting air flow when the roof is closed would be nice. And just general making it a little more fan friendly would also help.
And , if I could make a suggestion, some decent microbrews would go a long way to make for a better experience.
2. How far can the Blue Jays go without Stroman in the rotation? Do you expect him back from his knee injury this year?
He's talking about being back before the end of the season and I've learned not to bet against the guy. I think, if he does come back, he would come help out in the bullpen, which we could use.
Can they contend without him? I think so. The offense looks to be great and the pitching, I think, can be good enough. To me, what they need is to be healthy. The lineup, as it sits now, is likely good enough to contend in a fair weak AL East, but we don't have much depth, we can't have players going on the DL for long periods of time. If a starting pitcher gets hurt, we can likely survive for a bit, if two go down, then we are in trouble. We aren't deep in any position in the lineup. Bautista, Donaldson, Reyes and Russell have to at least 140 games each or we are in trouble.
3. Who have been the stars of the team after the first week of play? Anyone rising above?
The surprise star, to me, is rookie second baseman Devon Travis. Travis came in trade from the Tigers for Anthony Gose, and he was looked to as the second baseman of the future, but few figured the future would start with game one of this season.
Maicer Izturis figured to be the second baseman, at least to start the season, but he didn't look good at the start of spring and then got injured and suddenly Travis had a job.
We were told that Travis was an offense-first second baseman and we would have to live with his defense. Well, his defense has been great. He turns the double play better than any second baseman we've had since Aaron Hill. And he's look great at the plate. He has a good eye, take pitches, works the count and has surprising pop for a guy his size (he hit a home run in his second big league at bat). He's quickly become my favorite player.
Jose Reyes has also had a great start to the season. And Kevin Pillar, who was to be keeping the left field spot warm until Michael Saunders returned from the DL has played amazing defense.
4. Is Daniel Norris the truth?
Do you mean is he the slightly bizarre guy that lives in a VW van in the winter and gets mistaken for a homeless person? Well, he is that. As far as pitching, he's a good prospect. I think he's been rushed a bit, he started last season at A ball.
In a perfect world, he would have started this year at Triple-A. He's only thrown about 60 innings above A. He'll get his strikeouts, he averaged 11.8 strikeouts/9 innings in the minors last year, but control can be a problem too. The hope is that our new catcher, Russell Martin, can help keep him in the strikezone.
My understanding is he hasn't pitched into the 7th inning in his pro career yet, so he'll have to be treated with kids gloves, especially early in the season. I wouldn't expect him to go more than 5 or 6 innings in a start for, at least, the first couple of months.
And he only threw about 130 innings last year. I wouldn't expect him to get more than 170 innings or so this year.
But I think he's going to fun to watch. He'll have some bad starts, but watching young players improves is part of the fun of being a baseball fan.
5. Has anything changed in the approach of the Blue Jays starters we already know ?
The biggest change, or at least we are hoping that the biggest change is, replacing catcher Dioner Navarro with Russell Martin. Navarro wasn't good at framing pitches and our pitchers rarely seemed to get deserved strikes on the edges of the zone. Russell is thought to be one of the best in baseball at framing pitches. That change, by itself, should be great help to our pitchers.
The individual starters? Well, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, they aren't going to change any. We know what we have there.
Drew Hutchison, to me, is the one that could be helped the most by pitching to Martin. Many have pick Hutchison to have a breakout season this year. Last year, he was coming off Tommy John surgery and he spent most of the year getting the command back on his pitches. Also, last year, Drew had a lot of trouble with left-handed batters, but he and the team have been working to have a better plan against lefties. His first start, against the Yankees, went very well, his second start, against the Orioles wasn't near as good. (Editor's note: The Rays will not face Hutchinson this series. He pitched on Sunday.)
Aaron Sanchez is another young pitcher. Last year he was called up mid-season to help in the bullpen, and he was terrific. This year, with the injury to Stroman, he's needed in the rotation. As a reliever, he basically relied on a 99 mph fastball. As a starter, his fastball more mid-90's, and he needs to uses his very good curve, along with a work in progress change and slider more. Whether he can have success as a starter is still a matter of opinion.
6. The Blue Jays are averaging more than six runs per game after winning two of three against the Yankees and then the Orioles. Is that more a product of Toronto's success or the opposition's mistakes?
I think our lineup could be as good as any in the league. 1-5 I'm sure we are better than anyone. If Justin Smoak, Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis can continue to chip in and help out enough to get us back to the top of the order quickly, I think we are in good shape. Michael Saunders, will be back in a week or two to help out.
I can imagine they'll continue to average over 6 runs per game, but the Jays should be near the top of the league in run scored this season. The offense will be the strength of the team
Many thanks to Tom for stopping by. I hope your team loses.