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  Sun, June 13, 2004


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Elliott on baseball column
J.P. has an A's up his sleeve
By BOB ELLIOTT, TORONTO SUN

Not that we think the Blue Jays should make a managerial change.

Rather, since he has worked with a depleted lineup so long and is in the final year of his two-year contact, Jays manager Carlos Tosca should be given an extension.

Either healthy with the opening day lineup or with a M*A*S*H unit -- five everyday players, plus Roy Halladay on the disabled list -- the Jays have played hard for Tosca from the game's first to final pitch.

Yet, if things go south, if general manager J.P. Ricciardi begins second-guessing his manager, as he did after a blown 4-1 lead ended in a 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on April 27, we've heard who the Jays have at the top of their charts.

It's Oakland A's third base coach Ron Washington.

Washington is in his ninth season in Oakland.

After playing parts of 10 seasons with Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros, Washington managed in the minors for 275 games.

In 1993, he guided the single-A Columbia Bombers to a 64-76 record and in 1994 was 59-76 with the same team.

ONLY THE BEST

In 1958, broadcaster Jaime Jarrin began his Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers.

L.A.'s Spanish announcer has seen more than a few ground balls handled in the hole at shortstop.

In 46 seasons, Jarrin has seen opening day shortstops Pee Wee Reese (1958), Don Zimmer (1959), Maury Wills (1960-66, 1970-72), Gene Michael (1967), Zoilo Versalles (1968), Ted Sizemore (1969), Bill Russell (1973-1979, 1981-1984), Derrel Thomas (1980), Dave Anderson (1985), Mariano Duncan (1986-87), Alfredo Griffin (1988-92), Jose Offerman (1993-95), Greg Gagne (1996-97), Jose Vizcaino (1998) Mark Grudzielanek (1999), Kevin Elster (2000), Alex Cora (2001) and Cesar Izturis (2002-04).

"The best shortstop I've seen since I began with the Dodgers has been Izturis," Jarrin said of the former Jays prospect. "He plays defence better than anyone and is hitting over .300."

FIRST COMES 14

Now that the Kansas City Royals have signed their No. 1 pick, Billy Butler, a Jacksonville, Fla. high school third baseman, for $1.45 million US, the Jays have an idea of what it will cost to sign their No. 1 pick.

They selected lefty David Purcey of the Oklahoma Sooners with their 16th overall pick. Since Major League Baseball slotted first-round bonuses in descending order, Purcey will get less than Butler and less than the 15th pick -- Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

IT'S RIDLEY, BELIEVE IT OR NOT

THE MINNESOTA Twins were not major players in the June draft.

Twins scout Jim Ridley selected two Canadians -- third baseman Rene Tosoni of Port Cotquilam, B.C., in the 34th round and lefty lefty Nicolas Bleau of Mercier, Que., in the 49th round.

Yet, this being an Olympic year and the fact that Canada will compete in Athens at a time when some North American countries will not, factor into our annual post-draft decision.

Ridley, who is from Burlington, is our 10th annual scout of the year. During his days with the Jays, Ridley was involved in signing three players who helped Canada qualify -- Cambridge's Rob Ducey, who played 14 years in the majors; Brampton's Matt Logan and Mississauga reliever John Ogiltree.

The late Jim Kane of Brampton (who signed Peter Orr and Scott Thorman), former Jays scout Bill Byckowski (Mike Johnson and Logan) and Florida Marlins scout Alex Agostino (Pierre-Luc Laforest and Shawn Hill) each signed two players who helped Canada qualify.

Ridley is a lifer. He taught full time and in his spare time spent summers with the Jays until 2002. He coached at rookie-class Medicine Hat from 1978 to 1980 and scouted under the late Bobby Prentice.

He coached the Milton Mustangs to the 1996 Prentice Cup, Team Canada in the 1988 Olympics at Seoul and ran clinics.

Ridley signed Paul Spoljaric of Kelowna, B.C., Oakville's Clint Lawrence, London's Sean Grimes, David Corrente of Chatham, Laval's Denis Boucher, Ajax's Nigel Wilson, Rich and Rob Butler of East York and Pickering's Lee Delfino and Central Michigan grad Chad Pleiness.

In 1976, Ridley ran the Jays' first tryout camp in Utica, N.Y. His twin sons attended Ball State University before signing Shayne with the Baltimore Orioles and Jeremy with the Jays.

With the Twins, he signed Burlington's Mark Zamojc to a contract in 2003.

Former winners are Bill Scherrer of Buffalo, N.Y., (Marlins); Bill McKenzie of Ottawa (Rockies); Tim Harkness of Oshawa (Padres); Walt Jefferies of Paris, Ont., (Jays); Cambridge's Ed Heather (Jays); Claude Pelletier of Ste-Lezare, Que., (Mets); Ken Lenihan of Beford, N.S., (Major League Baseball Bureau); Dick Groch of Marysville, Mich., (Yanks) and Kane.

RETURN OF N.Y. PENN TO ONTARIO POSSIBILITY

SINCE 2004, work visas were limited to 66,000 by the U.S. Congress. Most thought unsigned draft choices in 2003 would be hurt more than draft-eligible Canadians in 2004. Not so.

The New York Mets signed shortstop Jonathan Malo before the draft, giving him $125,000 US -- the 24th highest bonus given to a Canadian in draft history.

Malo, who is from St-Roch-de-l'Achigan, Que., was drafted in the 48th round in 2003. He starred for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Norsemen this spring and became a first team all-American, Northeastern's first since Scarborough's Todd Betts in 1993.

And the Minnesota Twins signed righty Adam Hawes, who was given a $118,000 bonus. A 40th-round pick, the Victoria Harbour, Ont., native signed after excelling with the Connors State Cowboys.

CAN'T GO SOUTH

Neither can head south until instructional league opens in the fall when players are not paid.

Counting London catcher Brian Blackburn, who went in the 42nd round to the Baltimore Orioles, 38 Canadians were selected in the draft.

If the work visa situation is not resolved, there is talk of bringing back the defunct Canadian wing of the New York Penn loop. Co-op teams could be fielded in Hamilton, Welland and St. Catharines, with possibly a fourth in London's new Labatt Park.

The loop would be similar to the rookie-class Dominican summer league teams where no visas are required.

Canadians have always needed visas to play. However, since 1999 visas for Canadian didn't count against the quota. Then, MLB president Paul Beeston argued and won that since two teams were based in Canada, Canadians should receive special consideration.

EX-JAY OF THE WEEK

TONY BATISTA, MONTREAL EXPOS

MONTREAL EXPOS third baseman Tony Batista was often described as one-gaited during his Blue Jays days, especially by his detractors.

Batista went about his business with the same pace, no matter the score, no matter what was going on around him.

Well, Batista put it in cruise control and went into his home-run trot not once, but twice as the Expos beat the Kansas City Royals 7-2 Thursday night.

For Batista, it was his seventh homer of the season. It also earned him ex-Blue Jay of the week honours.

Batista and his wide-open stance were acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 12, 1999 along with reliever John Frascatore for reliever Dan Plesac.

Batista hit 80 home runs in his 324 games in parts of three seasons with the Jays. On June 25, 2001, the Baltimore Orioles claimed Batista on waivers. This off-season he signed with the Expos.