Ryan heads young relievers; final spot still up for grabs

By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com , 02/07/2007 12:04 PM ET

這是藍鳥隊願意付出的代價,同時也是他們願意冒的風險。
多倫多在過去兩個季外都增加了他們的薪資總額,但是球隊仍然有他的財務限制。所以當多倫多用划算的合約去強化先發陣容時,牛棚變成球隊其中一個必須控制薪資的地方。

藍鳥隊有理由去把預算花在不同的地方,只要問問經營層就知道了。

“我一直認為牛棚的合約是所有位置中最難搞定的,”GM J.P. Ricciardi在之前提到。”那大概是所有的GM-包括我在內-都會犯的錯。你投資在一個去年投出成績的人身上,但是結果卻不如預期。然後你丟掉一名年輕人,突然他卻開竅了。”

而今年球隊將不只啟用一位年輕投手。

在牛棚中年紀較大的是去年入選明星賽,即將在十二月滿30歲的終結者B.J. Ryan。牛棚中6名應該有保障名單的中繼投手- Ryan、Brandon League、Jason Frasor、Jeremy Accardo、Brian Tallet和Scott Downs-平均年齡是27.8歲。

如果球隊再提出另外7人的名單,這個平均年齡還會再下降。而大約有20人左右會競爭這個位置。

“牛棚很年輕,”Ricciardi說。”我很高興我們的確有一些不錯的年輕投手。如果我們能幫他們找到正確的定位,我想會那會很不錯。”

“我說有一個你會去調整非常多次的地方就是中繼。”

Ryan在多倫多的角色是Closer。在2006開季前,這名6呎6吋的左投和藍鳥隊簽下一紙五年4700萬美金的合約。Ryan接著在藍鳥的第一個球季裡成為牛棚裡的王牌,投出1.37的防禦率並且拿下生涯最佳的38次救援成功。

Ryan的角色非常穩固。2006年球隊的setup man Justin Speier在今年季後和天使隊簽下了四年合約。而球隊計畫讓23歲的Laegue擔任新球季的第八局投手。

2006年是League破繭而出的一年。這名右投手的快速球可以到達100 mph,在33次的出賽裡他的防禦率是2.53。這些成績有一部分就是來自於第八局,當時Speier在傷兵名單中待到球季快結束時才回來。

除了League,在Ryan之前,多倫多也能夠派出右手的Frasor和Accardo。Accardo來自於七月的一筆和巨人隊的交易(換出Hillenbrand)。Frasor一開始的狀況很差而被丟到3A,但是在他最後18場的出賽,防禦率降到2.68。

藍鳥隊在左投方面有Tallet和Downs。Tallet去年在43場的出賽繳出3.98的ERA。而主要作為長中繼的Downs則有2.77的ERA,一但情況緊迫,他也可以充當先發。

“我想Frasor投得不錯、League投得不錯、Tallet幹得好而Downs幹得相當出色,”Ricciardi說”我們的牛棚戰力不逾匱乏—我們只需要確定每個人的角色。”

多倫多應該會試著不要像2006年一樣那麼操牛棚。在美國聯盟中,藍鳥的牛棚在三振排第一(451)、26勝並列第二、對手打擊率0.246排第四而ERA 3.98是第六名。

問題在於牛棚一共投了529局—聯盟第三多。先發各種不同的問題迫使球隊必須提早動用牛棚戰力。球隊在今年季後已經嘗試去加強先發的深度來避免這個老問題。

“希望今年先發群能讓我們儘可能地降低牛棚的使用程度”Ricciardi說到。

現在要說誰會進入最終的牛棚名單還太早了,要經過春訓我們才能略窺一二。

右手的Shaun Marcum、Josh Towers、Casey Janssen和Dustin McGowan會去競爭先發的位置。但是長中繼仍然是個問題。以現在的狀況來說Marcum和Towers比較有可能去填補這個位置,因為Janssen和McGowan應該會被送回3A去擔任先發。

左投的Davis Romero和右手的Francisco Rosario也有可能上來擔任中繼。23歲的Romero去年出賽7場,ERA是3.86。而已經被從先發競爭除名的Rosario在16場比賽的ERA是6.30。

附上原文:

It's the price the Blue Jays are willing to pay, and a risk they're willing to take.

Toronto has been able to increase its payroll in each of the past two offseasons, but the club still has its financial limitations. So, while the Jays have used lucrative contracts to strengthen their roster as a whole, the bullpen is one area that Toronto has kept relatively inexpensive.

The Blue Jays have their reasons for filtering their funds into different parts of the roster -- just ask the club's architect.

"I've always found the 'pen to be the most risky business," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said earlier this offseason. "It's probably the one mistake that most GMs make -- me included. You bank on a guy with a track record and he doesn't come through. Then you take a shot on a young guy and all of a sudden he does better."

This year, though, the Jays' inexpensive bullpen has them taking a shot on a young group -- not just one guy.

The elder of the relief corps is All-Star closer B.J. Ryan, who turned 30 in December. The six relievers who appear to be locks for bullpen jobs -- Ryan, Brandon League, Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Tallet and Scott Downs -- have an average age of 27.8.

That average will likely drop even lower once Toronto identifies its seventh reliever, who will probably be one of a number of 20-somethings competing for the last bullpen spot this spring.

"The 'pen is young," Ricciardi said. "The one thing I like is that we do have some good arms. If we could just find the right roles for them, I think we'll be all right down there.

"I'd say the one area where you really roll the dice a lot of times is with middle relief."

Ryan is locked in his role as Toronto's closer. Before 2006, the 6-foot-6 left-hander signed a five-year, $47 million deal with the Jays. Ryan was then dominant in his first season out of the club's bullpen, posting a 1.37 ERA and notching a career-best 38 saves.

The roles in front of Ryan are less certain. In 2006, the Jays had veteran setup man Justin Speier in the fold, but he signed a four-year deal with the Angels this offseason. With Speier out of the picture, Toronto plans on using the 23-year-old League as the main eighth-inning pitcher.

League had a breakout year in 2006. The right-hander, whose fastball regularly tops 100 mph, posted a 2.53 ERA in 33 appearances. Some of those outings came in eighth-inning situations when Speier was on the disabled list late in the year.

Besides League, Toronto can help bridge the gap to Ryan with right-handers Frasor and Accardo -- a hard-throwing pitcher who was picked up in a trade with the Giants in July. Frasor bounced between Triple-A and Toronto's 'pen in 2006, but he finished the season strong, posting a 2.68 ERA over his last 18 games with the Jays.

The Jays also have lefties Tallet, who posted a 3.98 ERA in 43 games, and Downs. Downs, who had a 2.77 ERA in relief, will likely fill the long-relief role, but he could also be utilized as an emergency spot starter.

"I thought Frasor pitched well. League pitched well. I thought Tallet did a good job for us and Downs did a great job," Ricciardi said. "Our 'pen is not lacking -- we're just trying to define roles."

Toronto will also try to avoid turning to the bullpen as much this year. Among American League bullpens, the Jays ranked first in strikeouts (451), tied for second in wins (26), fourth in opponents batting average (.246) and sixth in ERA (3.98).

The problem was that Toronto's relief corps also logged 529 innings -- the third most in the league. Various issues with the rotation forced the Jays to turn to their relievers earlier in games than the club would've preferred. Toronto has attempted to build up its rotation depth during the offseason to avoid a similar problem.

"Hopefully our starters will help us minimize how much we have to use everybody," Ricciardi said.

It's not clear right now who will emerge as the final member of Toronto's bullpen, either. A group of pitchers will vie for that job during Spring Training.

Right-handers Shaun Marcum, Josh Towers, Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan will all be competing for starting jobs, but long-relief roles might not be out of the question if they don't make the rotation. That type of job might be considered more for Marcum and Towers than for Janssen or McGowan, who would both likely be sent to Triple-A to work as starters.

Left-hander Davis Romero and right-hander Francisco Rosario could also be in the running for a relief job. Romero, 23, posted a 3.86 ERA in seven appearances for Toronto in 2006. Rosario, who is out of options, had a 6.30 ERA in 16 games for the Jays.

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