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Pat Gillick is forever in my head. I can still hear him telling me, and anyone else who would listen, to never believe anything you see in spring training or September baseball.
And because it was Gillick talking, the Hall of Fame architect of three World Series winners in Toronto and Philadelphia and playoffs teams in Baltimore and Seattle, including the Mariners team that won a record 116 games, well, you had to pretty much take it seriously.
So here we are in September and the Blue Jays are actually winning some games and Teoscar Hernandez and Richard Urena look like ball players and better yet, they look like athletes, and John Gibbons is gushing over the lefthander, Tim Mayza, another bullpen arm, and Carlos Ramirez to name another. This would all be uplifting and exciting and something to pin the future on if I could only get Gillick and his damn expressions out of my head.
Gibbons has liked what he has seen in Hernandez and Urena and so many of the callup pitchers and he likes the energy and enthusiasm they have brought and frankly, the way, so many of his callups have contributed in this dead-body of a Blue Jays season.
“I form opinions,” said the Jays’ manager, asked about September. “My coaching staff form opinions. I liked Richie (Urena, the 21-year-old shortstop) the last couple of years. I didn’t really know Teoscar before. You can see there is talent there, natural talent in all those guys.”
There was Urena, on Tuesday night against the Orioles, in the ninth inning, tie game, and Zach Britton on the mound. The once great and basically unbeatable Britton. Urena won the game with a line drive to centre field that set off a crazy celebration.
That hit gave him a .324 batting average since his callup from AA, a .429 average on the homestand. What’s not to like about that?
Except that he had a .286 on base percentage in New Hampshire. He struck out 100 times and walked just 30 times in double A. Then he gets the call to the big leagues and what happens — he has a three-walk game against Baltimore.
The numbers don’t add up, too much, too soon, too early and everything Urena looked not to be in the minors he is accomplishing in September. Against teams playing for something.
Pat Gillick in my head: This is September.
Gibbons is talking about Mayza, the reliever, who people who were talking about in spring training in rather glowing terms. We saw him in the spring and now in September. The numbers are quite terrible this month, but every once in a while there is a glimpse of this lefty and Gibbons sees a big league finish line.
“He has everything he needs to be to be a dominant lefthanded reliever in the big leagues,” Gibbons said. “It’s important to get his innings in. As good as his stuff is, he can be as good as any lefty you can see.”
Mayza’s Blue Jays numbers are the opposite of that of Urena and Hernandez. But he’s a part, another part, someone who could be part of a future. “Bullpens change year to year,” said Gibbons, who then stopped to pay homage Ramirez, the converted outfielder turned pitcher.
Ramirez has pitched just nine innings for the Jays, given up one hit, struck out nine, and been absolutely dominant in a short stint since being called up. “Sure, you get excited about it,” Gibbons said. “It beats the hell out of having a bad month, doesn’t it?
But what does it really mean? There’s no place for Urena to play if Troy Tulowitzki is healthy. And based on his double A numbers, he’s probably at least a year away. His offensive numbers need to improve.
Occasionally, there are the few who hit major league pitching better than they hit minor league pitching: But still, that’s unusual.
Hernandez, the addition from Houston, has the look of an athlete who can challenge for a corner outfield spot on a team that will need two corner outfielders next season. The best part of his September — other than his two home run game — is that six of his 11 hits have gone for extra bases. Hernandez is clearly an athlete, the kind the Jays don’t have enough of, just not the smoothest of outfielders. What kind of ball player he will eventually be will be determined after this September and another spring training — when the next really meaningful ball is played by the Jays.
The Jays have had one winning month this dismal season. They were nine games under .500 in April, four under in June, three under in July, two under in August. It was four wins in a row heading in to Wednesday night. They didn’t get to five.
But there were moments. For now you can watch and you can enjoy.
Just remember Gillick: This is September, it may not mean a thing.
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