March 1, 2013
Blue Jays to keep stacking defence against pull hitters
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
TAMPA - Over the past couple of years, the Blue Jays have been one of the most aggressive teams in baseball when it comes to defensive shifting, daring opposing power hitters to go against their natural tendencies by overloading one side or the other.
In a pre-game conversation, manager John Gibbons addressed his intention to continue along those lines this year and then proved it in the very first inning against the Yankees Thursday, overshifting on back-to-back hitters Mark Teixeira and Travis Hafner.
Brandon Morrow struck out Teixeira but Hafner provided textbook evidence for the defensive overload. He scalded a groundball that went off the tip of first baseman Edwin Encarnacion's glove. The ball rolled into right field where Brett Lawrie was waiting to throw Hafner out at first base.
If you're scoring at home, that's a rare 3-5-3 putout, on a ball that would have gone as a single.
"I like that," said Gibbons. (Brian Butterfield) was probably the originator and he was good at it. I know Luis (Rivera) has a lot of the info that they kept. When there's a definite tendency with some of those big guys like (David) Ortiz, then we'll definitely move into that shift.
"In addition I want (pitching coach Pete Walker) to get with some of the new pitchers, when they get their game-plan together, to sit down with Luis, who's our defensive guy, and go over things to see it all matches up."
One of the important ingredients in the Jays scheme of shifting is the presence of an athletic rover like Lawrie, whose range is often astonishing. He can cover a lot of ground in short right field