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  Wed, June 9, 2004


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Blue Jays are no hit with Dodgers pitcher Perez
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

Maybe Odalis Perez would like to reconsider.

When Perez, the Los Angeles Dodger left-hander, found out he was scheduled to pitch Thursday in the series finale against the Blue Jays, he went to manager Jim Tracy to argue that his talents would better be used a day later, in Boston against the Red Sox.

Seems he felt the sputtering Blue Jays were a bit beneath him.

"We sensed disappointment that he was going to start the game against Toronto," said Tracy, "and you could tell by his tone of voice that Boston was the team he was interested in pitching against, so he's going to get it."

POINT OF VIEW

From Tracy's point of view it was a good move, in any event because, by inserting Jose Lima into the mix tonight, it gives Perez, Kazuhisa Ishii and Jeff Weaver all an extra day's rest.

Perez was asked by the L.A. Times if facing Boston was more desirable than Toronto.

"Of course," he said. "It's a good hitting team."

The inference, of course, is that the Blue Jays are not. Right or wrong, that assessment smacks of professional disrespect which is one of the worst sins a ballplayer can commit in the game-within-a-game.

Mostly, it's just a dumb thing to do, especially before a series, because it's the kind of thing that come back to haunt you and, more importantly, your team. The thing about a 162-game schedule is that games against contenders don't get any extra weight in the standings. This isn't college football.

There isn't any evidence that the Jays were even aware they had been dissed by Perez last night but, however inadvertent, they proved him a rather poor judge of talent as baseball's interleague season got underway with a resounding 7-1 Toronto win.

Maybe they just proved that Hideo Nomo's best-before date has come and gone. More to the point, the Dodgers veteran was making his first start coming off the disabled list after recovering from a split fingernail. While he wasn't terribly sharp, especially early, he didn't get any favours from an uninspired Dodgers defence. He gave up three Toronto runs in the first inning, two more in the third and that was more than enough for Ted Lilly to get his fifth win of the year.

Lilly worked into the eighth, departing after Shawn Green's one-out homer snapped the shutout. An inning earlier, the Blue Jays defence let him down when shortstop Chris Woodward threw a certain double-play ball into right field, yet Lilly survived. With nobody out and runners at second and third, he pitched out of it unscathed.

Perez could perhaps be forgiven for underestimating the Toronto offence, especially with Carlos Delgado still laid low by a ribcage muscle. Delgado is expected to be back in the lineup when the Jays head for the West Coast next week for games in San Francisco and San Diego.

The Jays have been a pale imitation of the team that was the second most prolific offence in baseball last year. They have hit just 43 home runs to this point, including Howie Clark's eighth-inning two-run shot, the very first dinger of his major-league career. By the end of June last season, Delgado and Vernon Wells had combined for 46.

Last year, Toronto averaged 5.5 runs per game. So far this season, they are scoring, on average, more fewer run. It all tends to add up to fewer victories.

A year ago today, they were three games over .500. This season, they are six games under, attributable in large part to that depleted offence.

It's one of those glass half-full or glass half-empty things. Are they destined to crank it up to last year's levels? Or was that an aberration?

However you look at it, Perez is not impressed. He's looking for a bigger challenge, so he'll leave the Jays to others and take on the Red Sox and Fenway's Green Monster.

Some teams might consider that an insult. With the Blue Jays, who can tell?