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Blue Jays beat, 5/14

May 14, 2011 Comments off

Lind day to day; Nix ‘making progress’

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Blue Jays manager John Farrell gave updates on Adam Lind and Jayson Nix before Saturday’s game against the Twins, and little had changed with their respective injuries.Both are making progress, and both are still shooting to return on Monday.

While he was scratched from the starting lineup before Friday’s game, Lind — bothered by tightness in his lower back — still did some rehab work that night.

“He went through a full two hours of treatment, exercises and rehab last night during the game,” Farrell said on Saturday. “He felt a little bit relieved, as far as the soreness and the spasms as the night went along.

“He’s still unavailable for today, but I think it’s almost common for us to expect that there’s going to be some soreness after being in such intense spasms for the time that he was. He’s day to day.”

Farrell reiterated that the Blue Jays did not have a set date by which they would need Lind to return before placing him on the 15-day disabled list. The manager also pointed to Monday once again as when the club hoped to get Lind back in the lineup as the designated hitter.

Nix, bothered by a left shin bruise since April 23, got four at-bats on Friday in the first game of the Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays’ doubleheader against Fort Myers. Nix will stay in Dunedin through the weekend.

“He’s making progress,” Farrell said. “We recognize that some of the soreness and discomfort he feels in the leg is going to be a managed situation, at least for the near future, but I think he’s getting closer to being fully ready for game activity — or no restrictions, as far as his range.

“There are no restrictions running the bases; he slid aggressively into second base, but we just want to make sure that if there’s discomfort lingering, it’s manageable and it’s not a detriment more in the long term.”

Farrell: Hill must let hits come to him

MINNEAPOLIS — Since returning from a right hamstring strain on May 8, Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill had just four hits in 22 at-bats entering Saturday, good for a .182 batting average over his last five games.

Hill had one double, a walk, two RBIs and just a .477 on-base plus slugging percentage in that stretch. For the season, the second baseman is batting .226/.261/.274 with four doubles, no home runs and 11 RBIs.

It’s clear that Hill has been slumping at the plate; what does manager John Farrell make of the struggles?

“I’m seeing at times where he’s over-swung the bat, particularly in RBI situations — almost like he’s trying to go 3-for-1 in those spots,” Farrell said. “There have been some situations where he’s relaxed and put some good swings on the ball, much like he did last night, with the double.

“But there’s been, I think, a tendency to try to do too much in situations where there have been men on. He’s not gotten on top of a couple fastballs, and that’s where you see the ball in the air a little bit. To me, that’s a sign of over-swinging. That’s what I see.”

Hill also dealt with a quad injury during Spring Training that forced him out of several weeks of games before he returned in late March. From that return to his mid-April injury, Hill was in the Blue Jays’ lineup for less than a month before hitting the disabled list.

The lack of continuity for Hill is something that may have played a role in this season’s subpar performance at the plate.

“There can be the tendency to try to make up for time lost or try to get back into the groove a little bit quicker and force the issue, rather than continue to play the game and take what the opposing pitcher is giving you at a given time,” Farrell said. “And I think it comes from a place of just wanting to succeed.”

Instincts serve McDonald well at third base

MINNEAPOLIS — Blue Jays infielder John McDonald started his fourth consecutive game at third base on Saturday — an indication that manager John Farrell likes how the veteran fits at the position.

McDonald has been primarily a shortstop throughout his career, having played 469 games there, compared to 306 total games played at second base, third and left field. This season, McDonald was the Blue Jays’ primary second baseman while Aaron Hill was on the disabled list, but he has otherwise spent most of his time at the hot corner.

Last season, McDonald split his time nearly evenly between three spots, playing 23 games at second base and 19 apiece at third and shortstop.

Defensively, Farrell sees McDonald as the team’s best option at third base.

“He’s got great feet, great hands, a great inner clock that allows him to always seemingly get the ball in the right position, the right hop,” Farrell said. “Even the backhand play that he made last night — not an easy play with the game on the line. He’s done an excellent job for us.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After flirting with history, Romero twirls gem

May 13, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — After being on the losing end of a no-hitter last time out, Ricky Romero took a run at a no-hitter of his own Friday. The southpaw came up short, but he dominated the Twins in his best outing of the season.

Romero held the Twins hitless through 5 2/3 frames, before giving up a pair of singles. He allowed just two additional hits in his 8 2/3 innings of work as the Blue Jays picked up a 2-0 win at Target Field.

“Ricky was outstanding tonight, there’s no doubt about it,” manager John Farrell said.

With a runner on in the ninth, Romero was one out away from his second career shutout. But after getting Delmon Young to hit the ball on the ground, it was just beyond the reach of second baseman Aaron Hill.

That forced Farrell to call in his closer.

“He handled Young in the first two at-bats, and I felt like he’s up two, and in the worst-case scenario, he’s not looking at a loss,” Farrell said. “But that was his last hitter he was going to face, regardless of what happened. After that, it was a matter of us finishing out the game and winning it.”

With the potential for a loss at that point even after such a dominant performance, would Romero have liked to stay in there to finish it out for his fifth career complete game?

“Absolutely,” Romero said. “I think that’s your goal any time you’re a starter — you want to finish what you started. I felt good, and obviously you understand why you’re coming out in that situation.”

Despite collecting 13 hits in the game, the Blue Jays managed just two runs, while leaving 14 runners on base and going just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Corey Patterson scored the first run for Toronto in the seventh, on a Juan Rivera single.

In the ninth, Jose Bautista smacked his 12th long ball of the season on a 3-2 fastball from Twins reliever Joe Nathan.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to handle, something to hit,” Bautista said. “He gave me a lot of them, I just kept fouling them off. That one, I just got ready a little bit earlier, and luckily he threw a fastball middle-in and I was able to connect well with it.”

With the win, Romero improved to 4-0 in five career starts against the Twins, including the Blue Jays’ 13-3 victory on Opening Day at Rogers Centre. Romero has allowed just eight earned runs on 33 hits in 38 innings of work against the Twins.

The dominant outing for Romero came after he had his shortest outing of the season against the Tigers last Saturday, when he went just 3 1/3 innings and allowed six runs as Justin Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays.

“I prepared well all week to kind of get to this point,” Romero said. “After a little rough outing, I think it motivates you even more to come out and just have a good outing for the team and for a much-needed rest for the bullpen.”

Romero pitched that game on seven days’ rest after his start was bumped back due to an oblique injury, but he was on regular four days’ rest on Friday against Minnesota. The lefty faced the minimum through three innings, and he had allowed just two baserunners — both on walks — through 5 2/3 innings.

Center fielder Denard Span ripped a single through the infield to left for Minnesota’s first hit of the game in the sixth, and was followed by shortstop Trevor Plouffe, who beat out a weak grounder for an infield single. Romero got out of the inning with a grounder to short to keep the Twins off the board.

Romero struck out eight batters against just three walks.

He primarily used his fastball throughout the game, only mixing in offspeed pitches as necessary.

“It was unbelievable,” catcher J.P. Arencibia said of Romero’s performance. “What’s crazy is he threw probably 80-85 percent fastballs and he commanded both sides of the plate.

“He’s got so many different weapons. One day, maybe his changeup is on and everyone’s just swinging at his changeup, or his breaking ball. But today, he threw cutters and sinkers, and his ball was moving so much in the zone that it’s really all he needed to do.”

For the Blue Jays, the shutout was the first for the club since Sept. 23, 2010, against the Mariners.

The win was Toronto’s third straight, the first time this season the Blue Jays have won three in a row. Now they’re looking to improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.

“Yeah, we hope so,” Bautista said, “and not necessarily bang out that amount of hits like we did tonight and get all those baserunners. Just cash in and get the timely hits when runners are on base. That would be huge; I know our pitching staff would appreciate it if we could score more runs, so hopefully we can get the offense rolling.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.