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MLBeat: Jays work on Labor Day
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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 series.

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 for."

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 spencer.fordin@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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