Big League Stew - MLB

Good news in Toronto: B.J. Ryan's back is fine!

The rest, not so good.

The Blue Jays haven't won a game in May, Roy Halladay's ERA and velocity are headed in opposite directions, another starter just went on the DL, Frank Thomas is gearing up for another run at Comeback Player of the Year (2008 edition) and the local papers have bid adieu to the 2007 season.

The Blue Jays were swept, in order, by the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, a nine-game wobble in which they were outscored by 45 runs and subsequently replaced the New York Yankees as the AL East team most likely to remove the sharp objects from the clubhouse.

The trouble started early. Setup man Brandon League hasn't thrown a pitch because of a shoulder ailment that might yet require surgery. Reed Johnson, Gregg Zaun and Gustavo Chacin are on the DL, and Troy Glaus came off two weeks ago. Ryan shut it down in mid-April, and then, for the first time in medical history, a sore back necessitated Tommy John surgery.

Turns out, Ryan was having elbow issues all along, beginning in spring training, which was the organization's little secret. GM J.P Ricciardi explained, "It's not lies if we know the truth," which is an interesting way of endearing the locals to a team that's just gone 13 years without a playoff game.

FIVE …

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Grady Little's choice in Florida yesterday afternoon in a scoreless game, one out in the bottom of the ninth, runners at second and third, his starter – Derek Lowe – still on the mound:

      • Pitch to Josh Willingham.

      • Walk Willingham and pitch to – gulp – Aaron Boone.

Little, who had something of a seminal moment with Boone a few Octobers ago, admitted the situation dictated loading the bases. Lowe, who had thrown 93 pitches, indicated the decision was left to him.

Willingham, of course, homered. But, while Lowe made the wrong pitch (fastball, middle, hit-me sign), he made the right choice, and in this case I don't mind Little leaving it to the guy who's been out there for 25 outs. Willingham had been hitless in six career at-bats against Lowe, including a strikeout and two ground-ball outs – one leading to a double play – Thursday. No wonder he felt good about that. Boone had doubled two innings before, his second double in six career at-bats against Lowe.

Jonathan Papelbon told Fox Sports New England that Curt Schilling's Barry Bonds riff "wasn't too professional," but that the Red Sox would, "not really worry about what he has to say about other players. … We've got our agenda to stick to and win ballgames." And then Coco Crisp jumped in on radio. He told a Providence station that a player who used steroids, "should be ashamed of yourself," but since the evidence against Bonds is circumstantial, "go out and support him." We'll leave it to Terry Francona to sort out.

Jeff Weaver, who has allowed at least six runs in five of six starts for the Seattle Mariners and doesn't seem to be getting any better, probably is headed to the bullpen. He'll be replaced in the rotation by Cha Seung Baek, who beat the Detroit Tigers with a complete game Wednesday. Bill Bavasi's next call should be to the St. Louis Cardinals, who made something of Weaver last season after a similar – but about half as gruesome – start for the Los Angeles Angels. The Cardinals should expect to pay only about a quarter on the dollar on Weaver, who spurned a two-year Cardinal offer in the offseason for the greater one-year payday ($8.3 million) in Seattle.

• Under the radar, right-hander Kelvim Escobar is 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts for the Angels. His loss came on April 8, when the Oakland A's beat him, 2-1. A scout in Anaheim on Thursday – Escobar didn't walk a Cleveland Indians batter in a 103-pitch complete game – said it was the best he'd seen Escobar in a long time. The key: fastball command.

• Just more pitching for the Angels, who don't seem to be getting anywhere in their search for a hitter. Maybe because by "search" we mean actually going out and looking. Carl Crawford can be had. That'd be a good place to start.

… AND FLY

Tampa Bay Devil Rays third baseman Ty Wigginton, ejected from Thursday's game in Baltimore, angrily flung his cap into the stands on his way off the field. The Orioles fan who caught it … threw it back.


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