Toronto blue jays: A guide for the part time fan week 8

It’s been a week full of roster moves. Guys called up, and guys sent down. While the Jays have been busy shuffling several pieces around, Chad Jenkins has certainly received the worst of it. By our count, Jenkins has been moved between Toronto and AAA-Buffalo four times in the last three weeks. Talk about living out of a suitcase. 

So, should you not recognize a couple of names in the lineup, don’t panic – even we’ve had moments of ‘who’s that guy?’ A name you should try to recognize, however, is closer Casey Janssen. Since his return to the bullpen, Janssen’s already earned two saves for the Jays. Another name you should write down if you don’t already know it is Adam Lind – he’s been tearing it up since his recent return from injury.

Newcomer Juan Francisco, who we discussed last week, continues to swing a hot bat. And in order to keep the third baseman in the lineup, fan favorite Brett Lawrie has been reassigned to second base. Lawrie claims (not very convincingly) that he’s, um, okay with that…? “I’m not a second baseman. I’m here to play third base, but if it helps the team, that’s what I’m here to do.” Luckily, winning makes everything better. 

It was announced Thursday that underdog hero Dustin McGowan will be moved to the bullpen. After a couple of promising starts, McGowan has struggled to find the endurance to take him into the later innings. The hope is that his skills will be more effective in a specialized role. Manager John Gibbons has not announced who’ll fill the vacated spot in the starting rotation. But we’re hoping that whoever it is, they have some tiger blood in their veins.   

Finally, the oft-ailing hamstrings of Colby Rasmus have been given an official hiatus. Rasmus was placed on the 15-day disabled list, allowing the Jays to recall prospect Anthony Gose to patrol centerfield. With Rasmus in the final year of his contract, this should give Gose an opportunity to convince Jays management that a homegrown option exists if Rasmus’ hammies can’t handle another year.

Insider Stuff
Touted as a key piece of the Jays’ future, pitching prospect Marcus Stroman made his major league debut last week. Many thought it was too early, and that Stroman should be left the full season to learn his lessons at AAA-Buffalo. But circumstance (see: desperation) dictated a fast-tracked arrival for the 23-year-old. Thus far, the verdict is still out. He’s neither dazzled nor distressed Jays fans, though his attitude and overall makeup appear positive and determined. He’s been working as a reliever so far, but there’s talk of giving him an opportunity to start. With McGowan’s move to the bullpen, Stroman seems the likely candidate for the starter’s role.

Buzzword of the Week: Tommy John
This entire week, the baseball community has been abuzz with talk of Tommy John surgery after it was confirmed that Florida Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez is out for the year. The 21-year-old Fernandez is the 18th pitcher this season to require Tommy John surgery, which, in just seven weeks, nearly matches last year’s season total of 19.  The pundits are beside themselves.

At a glance, you might suspect Tommy John is a doctor. After all, it’s known as ‘his’ surgery. But, in fact, Tommy John was a major league pitcher who played for 26 seasons. In 1974 at the age of 31, John suffered an elbow injury, permanently damaging his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). At the time, this was a career-ending injury. However, John underwent an experimental surgery performed by Dr. Frank Jobe that would replace the damaged elbow ligament with a tendon harvested from his right forearm. The surgery was dubbed a ‘miracle’ and John returned to the majors in 1976. He continued to pitch successfully until his retirement in 1989.

Today, Tommy John surgery is no longer the ‘experimental miracle’ it once was. The term has become commonplace among baseball’s headlines. Probably because the surgery has a near 90% success rate, causing some pitchers to opt for the surgery rather than attempt to nurse a partly damaged UCL back to health. Players even get creative, decorating their Tommy John scars with tattoos. And though praise for the surgery is deserved, it would seem avoiding injury altogether is the better plan. So why are an ever increasing number of pitchers diagnosed Tommy John cases? That’s the million-dollar question – literally.

In most cases, the injury to the UCL is not suffered as an eventful injury, but rather a breakdown that develops slowly over weeks, perhaps years. Over the last decade, teams have taken to managing all aspects of a pitcher’s workload, and not just at the major league level. From Draft Day forward, young prospects are monitored closely and held to strict pitch count limits in hopes that these conservative measures will shelter them from injury. Meanwhile, Nolan Ryan and other players from the ‘old-school’ have contested that these over-protective measures may be partly to blame for the increase in injuries. They suggest that players that are ‘babied’ during development may never build the strength and endurance to ward off serious injury.

Amidst differing views, most experts agree that younger players (think little league and high school) are asking too much from their growing bodies. Unlike the closely monitored MLB pitchers, these teenage players’ daily routines are relatively unsupervised. In addition, many have yet to learn proper mechanics and end up throwing too hard, too soon, and with too few days rest between outings. Well-intentioned parents beware: the race to be ‘the next big thing’ may be what causes your child’s downfall. 

So what have you learned?
The Jays keep shuffling players like they’re LMFAO. (So far, no big crash.) Casey Janssen is back in the bullpen taking names and saving ballgames. The mostly tween-based Brett Lawrie fan club doesn’t recognize the new guy at third, but he hits the ball a ton so they’ll have to get over it, or grow up – whichever comes first. Colby is on forced relaxation, while Gose proves he belongs in Toronto. Marcus Stroman has yet to prove anything, but his go get ’em personality may yet deliver the goods. Finally, an epidemic seems on the horizon for young pitchers needing Tommy John surgery. Parents should leave the radar gun at home and let the kids have some fun instead. We suggest you rest four to five days between starts and we’ll see you back next Friday with more alarming facts on the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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