09/02/2002 1:53 pm ET
MLBeat: Jays work on Labor Day
Thurman makes first start of Major League career
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Monday was Labor Day, the holiday traditionally
set aside to mark the end of summer and the beginning of
fall. For people in most professions, it's a day off, a long
weekend to enjoy a final vacation.
Not so for baseball players -- 28 of MLB's 30 teams were in
action, with Toronto no exception. The Blue Jays
were at the ballpark early on Monday, ready to begin a
three-game set against the Chicago White Sox.
Only a few members of Toronto's team took batting practice,
though, because it was voluntary.
Just three days after baseball's historic labor settlement and collective bargaining agreement, the players were happy just to have games to play. An entire month of the schedule
remains, 26 games in Toronto's case. The Jays have only had
two days off since August started, and they only have two
for the duration of the season.
Baseball's 162-game schedule,
spread over six months, doesn't leave much time off. Not
counting rainouts, the Blue Jays have only had 19 days off
since April started.
Thirteen of those were in the first half of the season --
leaving only six after the midway point.
Of course, the off-season runs from October to February for most teams which gives an adequate amount of time for rest and recuperation to prepare for another long season.
Starting out: Corey Thurman was making his first Major
League start on Monday and his first outing off the starting
rubber in almost a year. Thurman, a Rule V draft pick, has
been used as a long reliever for the first five months of
the season. In 38 appearances, he's posted a 2-2 record with
a 3.72 ERA.
"I'm not saying I've been looking to be a starter, but I've
always been a starter in my career and it's something that
I'm used to," he said. "It's always positive to get a chance
to start. It's exciting, for sure."
Thurman (2-3) was supposed to be held to a strict limit of 65 pitches. He threw slightly more than that -- 69 -- in three-plus innings of work. Chicago reached the right-handed rookie for six hits and five runs, chasing him just three batters into the fourth inning.
"The idea behind the whole thing was to give him an opportunity to start," said Toronto manager Carlos Tosca. "We also want to give (Mark) Hendrickson a start. The next time that spot comes around, it will be Hendrickson. We'll kind of play it by ear. They're both interesting guys for us."
Thurman's last start was in Kansas City's organization, for
Wichita of the Double-A Texas League in the playoffs. He said his team won, but went on to lose the
Thurman, an effusive 23-year-old, was originally a
fourth-round draft pick by the Royals. He spent six years in
their organization before this season, when he joined
Toronto. In 131 games in the minor leagues, Thurman started
128. Only one of those games was above the Double-A
level, an isolated start in the Pacific Coast League.
Last season, the right-hander was a Texas League All-Star.
He went 13-5 with a 3.37 ERA, holding opposing batters to a
.207 average. He won eight of his last nine decisions to cap
a tremendous season.
Sweet relief: The Blue Jays had two sticky situations
in Sunday's game, but their bullpen got out of both of them.
Cliff Politte and Kelvim Escobar both came up with key
strikeouts to put the game on ice. Politte fanned Alfonso
Soriano to end the eighth inning, and Escobar got
Enrique Wilson to end the game.
"That was beautiful," Tosca said of
Politte's strikeout. "He threw him one slider in the whole
sequence, and he was right on it. They stayed away from the
slider. He got the ball in on him and he was able to elevate
the ball, intentionally, for the strikeout. It doesn't get
any better than that."
The last pitch in that at-bat, a 95-mph fastball, came after
Soriano fouled off a few equally nasty heaters. In the
ninth, the Yankees threatened again. With one out, Jason
Giambi homered to make it a one-run game. Escobar walked one
batter, then gave up a long fly ball to the warning track in
left field. Escobar rallied to strike out Wilson, ending the
game on an emotional note.
"As I've stated before, the last three outs are the toughest
ones to get," Tosca said. "Magnify that with the fact that
you're playing the Yankees and that's what they're known
Fantasy Edge: Politte posted a 2.45 ERA in August and
hasn't allowed a run in his last 12 appearances. The set-up
man has held left-handed hitters to a .231 average and
righties to a .156 clip.
Spencer Fordin, who covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com, can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This
story was not
subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its