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Baseball Notes: The Blue Jays Come Alive

The Blue Jays broke out last year with a massive offensive attack only to have a slow start to this year currently sitting at the bottom of the AL East, but they still have the constant threat of overwhelming offense. Today I was able to make it out to see them playing the Twins in Target Field, sitting in the left field bleachers for the first time. It only took the first two batters of the game, Jose Bautista and AL MVP Josh Donaldson, to hit back to back homers and electrify the heavily Canadian crowd.

Michael Saunders in LF of Target Field on 5/22/16.

When I first got into baseball in the early '90's the Blue Jays were at the height of their franchise. They were anchored for offense by John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Devon White and Dave Winfield ('92) and Paul Molitor ('93). In '92 and '93 they had Jack Morris, Jimmy Key, Todd Stottlemyre, Juan Guzman, David Wells, Dave Stieb, Pat Hentgen, and Dave Stewart in their rotation. Looking back to both of those lists gives me such nostalgic feelings for that time in baseball even though the Blue Jays weren't quite a favorite team of mine, but they are interesting.

My wife asked me today if I like the Blue Jays and I thought for a little then said "They're not my favorite team, but they are interesting." She said, "I thought you would say that." They faded away after their World Series years despite having stars like Roger Clemens, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells but they sprung back to life the last couple years.

Last year, the Blue Jays erupted with an incredible offensive lineup after acquiring Josh Donaldson in the off season and Troy Tulowitzki during the season to accompany Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. This year will be their first full year with those players and they are continuing with the strategy of batting power hitters leadoff. Last year it was Tulo leading off, and today I got to see Jose Bautista as the leadoff hitter. I like seeing something a little different in a lineup and I think it's not a bad idea in an AL lineup to make the opposing pitchers have to see the best hitters on the team as much as possible. Because they don't have to make a pitcher hit, they can move the traditional lead-off or number two hitter to the bottom of the lineup and spark the game off with awe inspiring power at the start of the game.

One thing that makes the Blue Jays interesting this year is that they have a rotation of a knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, another initialed crafty pitcher J.A. Happ, two fun young pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez (not the Chopped judge), and Marco Estrada who gets his chance to not be on the Brewers. Stroman was drafted out of Duke where he was a closer and now is a budding ace who has shown he can make it deep into games.

The bullpen may end up being the most "interesting" part of the team, as in strange. They do have one of the youngest players in the majors, Roberto Osuna is their 21 year old closer in his second year in the role. He edged out Nationals former closer Drew Storen to retain the closer position, unfortunately Storen has not done very well this year.

Pat Venditte seems to be the most important player in the majors because he has a rule named after him and it only applies to him. The Venditte rule applies to the fact that he is the only ambidextrous pitcher in the league, and the first in 20 years. The last player to switch pitch did not do so until 10 years into his career so Venditte is the first to switch from pitcher to pitcher, perhaps in nearly 100 years. Apparently, based on the wikipedia page for switch pitchers, Yu Darvish practices switch pitching as a way to stay balanced in his conditioning but has never done it in a game. Most recently, Dennys Reyes who is naturally right handed, learned to pitch left handed after the Dodgers scout who discovered Fernando Valenzuela told him he only signs southpaws, but he only ever pitched left handed professionally. In sports, there are two other prominent examples of athletes playing with their non-dominant hands, Rafael Nadal's uncle convinced him to switch to playing left handed from his natural right hand, and Maria Sharapova is naturally left handed but was trained to play right handed.

Tune in next week for another episode of "Which Hand Is It In?"

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