03/14/12 5:27 PM ET
Blue Jays' spring record has deeper meaning
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Exhibition play is more about getting ready for the start of the season than it is about final results. Starting position players often leave games early or take days off while pitchers gradually build up arm strength over a period of time.
That's why the Grapefruit League season isn't necessarily an indicator of things to come, but for Blue Jays manager John Farrell, it does paint a clear picture about the current state of the franchise.
"I think what it shows is that the quality of depth in players in this organization is growing by the year," Farrell said. "What's really impressive is that the drop-off to the next level of talent is not drastic. That speaks to the overall health of the organization.
"I think guys have had a great camp in terms of their attentiveness, their awareness and what we're trying to get done and that has played out on the field."
March has been a time for the club to showcase some of its upcoming prospects. Travis d'Arnaud, Anthony Gose, Adeiny Hechavarria, Mike McDade and others have all taken center stage at multiple times this spring, and Farrell is optimistic about what he has seen so far.
"These are all guys that have had good years in the Minor Leagues, but they've won," Farrell said of those players, who all spent at least part of last season with the Eastern League champions, Double-A New Hampshire. "There's an overall expectation that is being fostered and developed that a player coming to us at the big league level ... we're hopeful not to just develop a Major League player but a winning Major League player and that takes a different mind-set.
"We can't just expect a young player to come to the big leagues, and now all of a sudden there's a sense of urgency where development was the priority leading up to the big leagues and now all of a sudden they're expected to win. I think those have to go hand in hand and we're starting to see that."
Encarnacion adding left-field reps to his duties
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In a two-homer game against the Yankees, Edwin Encarnacion got his first start in left field on Wednesday afternoon as the Blue Jays continue to find ways to increase his overall versatility.
Encarnacion will begin the year as Toronto's everyday designated hitter, but he also has the ability to play first base, third base and now potentially left field.
The development began late last year when Encarnacion began working out in left and the work continued in winter ball, but he has yet to appear in a regular-season game at that position. Encarnacion did make two spot appearances in left earlier in camp, but Wednesday was his first start.
"Shagging fly balls is one thing and game action is certainly another," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said prior to Wednesday's game against the Yankees. "He hasn't really been tested [in left] all that much, and that's why we're trying to get an idea.
"We want to get the repetition, and we're following through on what we initiated last September, and today will be another step in that."
Encarnacion was only tested once in left field against the Yankees, and he made a somewhat awkward-looking catch on a fly ball off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. Encarnacion's ability to play left field could come in handy during Interleague Play, but he is not expected to get into many games at the position during the year.
The Blue Jays already have Travis Snider and Eric Thames competing for the starting job in left, while Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco will be on the club in reserve outfielder roles.
"I would categorize Edwin in left field as a continuation of what we did a year ago," Farrell said. "The more reps he gets out there, we'll see. The one thing for sure is we want to be sure we have his bat in the lineup regardless of where that might be: first, third, left field, DH. His versatility just adds to his overall value."
Cecil's latest outing pleases Farrell
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell came away impressed with what he saw from left-hander Brett Cecil during Tuesday's game against the Twins.
Cecil extended his scoreless innings streak to six by allowing just one hit in three frames, but more importantly, he began controlling his pitches down in the zone.
The 25-year-old wasn't happy during an outing earlier this spring against the Yankees because of an inability to consistently keep the ball low, but that wasn't the case on Tuesday.
"He had better finish to his stuff," Farrell said of Cecil who reportedly was once again throwing his fastball in the high 80s. "He was down in the zone a little bit more consistently with his fastball. You could see the finish and just the arm speed at the end, or the release, being a little bit improved over his last outing, and that's what allowed him to get the ball down in the strike zone better.
"He wasn't trying to get his velocity early in his delivery, which would spread him out and pitch up in the zone, so he did a good job. His changeup is always the pitch that he can go to, to slow a hitter down, and he did that again yesterday."