Jays hitting in clutch, leaders growing on mound
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | 07:35 PM ET
Interleague baseball is back and man has it been amazing so far.
What an exciting weekend in Philadelphia as the Jays took two-of-three from the Phillies in front of a packed house. Even with all the injuries that the ball club is going through, the Jays are at .500 and only four games back heading into Monday.
How? Pitching and defence. And oh yeah, some clutch hitting too - starting with former Phillie catcher, Rod Barajas, who had a weekend to remember.
He got booed by the Phillies’ fans unmercifully at every at bat, but it fired him up. He went 2-for-3 on Saturday night and then on Sunday drove in the game-winning run as the Jays came from behind to beat the Phillies again.
Lyle Overbay showed me a couple of things the other day when he came in and hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the fifth to tie the game against the Phillies.
My first thought was his hand is 100 per cent now because he didn't cheat and open up his front side too early. He was closed and he exploded on a 90 mile-an-hour cut fastball up and in on him, which he crushed into the second deck! It was a thing of beauty!
I was also glad to see the Jays get some timely hitting from Shannon Stewart as well. He hit a clutch two-run double to right centre. It was a 95 mile an hour fastball down and in and he kept his hands inside the ball and drove it the other way. Hey, these guys are starting to use the whole field now. As a hitter, good things happen when you do that.
Leadership on the mound
On Sunday, there was not only one rain delay but two! Because of the long rain delays, both it forced both starters to leave the game early. But Roy Halladay came to the rescue when he told manager John Gibbons that he would be ready if they wanted to use him in relief.
I'm no manager, but I did coach, and I know that is a tough call for a skipper to make because it messes up your pitching rotation. But the Jays needed to win this game, so when the call for Halladay was made, he rewarded the team with a great relief performance. Now, that is what I call LEADERSHIP. You lead by example. I tip my hat to you, Roy.
Usually an everyday position player is one of the team leaders, but can a closer also be a leader? Absolutely! He just like an everyday player, he is out there on the mound a lot and has a huge impact on the game.
Just take a look at the Boston Red Sox without Jonathan Papelbon, or the Yankees without Mariano Rivera and their leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. These guys know how to take the pressure off the younger players by first of all doing their job and when things go wrong - and they will - they are the ones who stand up and talk to the media, not the young players.
Try an inner celebration
The way some these younger pitchers pump their fists after striking out hitters is crazy to me because all it does is fire the batter up for the next time he faces him. What is that all about? I even see that in my younger son’s junior college games.
Here is a five-foot-six pitcher who strikes out a six-foot-five hitter on a curve ball and he pumps his fist as if he blew him away on a 95 mile-an-hour fastball! Well, the next time up, that 510-foot homer stopped all of that. Revenge is so sweet. Listen, if you are a pitcher, just pitch and act like it's not the last time you are going to get someone out.
Sorry, that is just the hitter in me.
Some of you fans asked me about Alex Rios' throwing arm and it reminds you of mine. I appreciate the compliment because I realize you appreciate a strong arm and he defiantly has one.
The reason his throws sail to the right is because he doesn't consistently get on top of the ball when he makes his throws, which makes him drop his elbow. When that happens, the ball is going to tail on you instead of staying straight.
He's young and this is an easy thing to fix. So have patience while Alex adjusts to his new role in the three hole, he'll be fine.
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About the Author
Jesse Barfield returns to the booth with the Rogers Blue Jays Baseball
on CBC broadcast team for the 2008 season as an analyst, after making
his debut with the program in 2007.
Barfield, a favourite with Canadian baseball fans, was selected by the Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 1977 amateur draft, debuted with the club in 1981 and helped the franchise reach the playoffs for the first time in 1985.
A two-time Gold Glove winner with a cannon for an arm, Barfield led American League outfielders in assists for three straight seasons (1985 – 87). Barfield was selected to the American League All-Star Team in 1986, a season in which he blasted 40 home runs to lead the majors while driving in 108 runs. He was traded to the New York Yankees in 1989, where he completed his playing career.
In 1,428 career games, Barfield was a .256 hitter with 241 home runs and 716 RBIs.
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