Romero digs deep

Ricky Romero (Reuters)

Ricky Romero (Reuters)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 PM ET

DUNEDIN - Ricky Romero’s day didn’t begin quite how he wanted, but even in the midst of a little crisis in the first inning of Friday’s intersquad game, he showed why he’s become an elite pitcher in the American League.

And don’t call it a meaningless intersquad game, because Romero certainly doesn’t.

Romero gave up singles to Rajai Davis and Omar Vizquel to start the game, then compounded the matter by throwing a pickoff attempt into centre field. When Colby Rasmus overthrew third base, Davis scored.

With nobody out and Vizquel at third, Romero stranded the runner by striking out the next two men and inducing an inning-ending fly ball.

“That’s where you have to slow the game down and make pitches,” Romero said. “I know it’s pre-season but I’m a competitor and I take it serious. I don’t want that guy to score if it’s a practice game or whatever it is. My job is to leave that guy at third.

“You’re going all out. For one thing, you don’t want to hear about it from all these (teammates) and two, I compete. I’m in full game mode. I was a little excited to get out on that mound and see hitters and see an umpire in there, all that good stuff.”

Let's play ball

Unless there’s something on the line, most every pro athlete has the attention-span of a gnat.

That’s why just about everybody in the Blue Jays camp is thrilled to be turning their attentions now to actual competition with today’s Grapefruit League opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates before a full house at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

“Everybody is looking for some different colour to show up and see a different team across the field and begin that next phase of spring training,” said manager John Farrell.

Now the competition for jobs will start to take shape as players have to start facing real game situations.

“We’ll go with, as best we can say what a set lineup would be, and still there are some jobs to be won. Through the first four or five days, everyone is going to get on the field. You can expect the guys who start (Saturday) will get three at-bats and then we’ll fill in behind them.”

Brett Cecil gets the starting assignment Saturday against the Pirates’ James McDonald.

For Farrell, the goals for the next month are simple.

“One we stay healthy,” he said. “Two, we get the answers from a personnel standpoint and three, we set the tone with a mindset from the pitchers to attack the zone and pitch to contact.”

Round 1 to Snider

Both Travis Snider and Eric Thames are both going to be under a microscope for the next month as they each vie for the chance to start the season as Toronto’s regular left fielder.

It all started Friday during the intersquad game. Round 1 goes to Snider by an eyelash by virtue of a linedrive double off Rick VandenHurk to right-centre that came within a couple of feet of leaving the park. Thames also hit the ball hard once, lining out to third base.

“I know that’s going to be the daily watch and it was good to see the guys come out and swing the bat with aggression,” said manager John Farrell.

Snider’s attitude reflects that of most every player, anxious to get back to playing baseball.

“It was nice to get out and compete without a batting cage around you, just get out and play the game,” Snider said. “It gets a little — I don’t want to say — monotonous, but when you’re facing batting practice, it’s hard to get locked in.

“I got some things to take away from (the game), and some things to work on that are important. I’m looking forward to (Grapefruit League games).”

Rasmus off the Deck

Colby Rasmus spent the winter putting last season in his rear view mirror and working on his swing.

He got some immediate feedback Friday, belting a home run to right-centre, into a gusty wind off Toronto pitching prospect Deck McGuire.

“Got a good pitch out over the plate and took a hack at it,” Rasmus said. “One thing I’ve tried to work with myself this off-season is to not go out there in my at-bats and change things. I’ll work on my swing in the cage, work on my swing in BP but in the game but when I get in the game, see the ball, hit the ball.

“Don’t think about anything that’s going on with my mechanics. Just go out there like I’m 10 years old, having fun playing baseball.”

Vizqel impresses

Omar Vizquel scored an early point in his favour in the competition for a spot on the Jays team as a utility infielder during the intersquad game Friday. The 44-year-old went to his left at shortstop to pick a groundball off the bat of Brett Lawrie, then threw out the fleet third baseman at first.

“He made a great play up the middle. For many years we took those kinds of plays for granted and he’s still making them today,” said manager John Farrell. “As we talk about Omar and what he can provide to us we don’t want to short-change his skills.”

 


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