Blue Jays split squads beat Canadian junior team, Tigers
Canadian teenage pitcher Ben Onyshko has day to remember against Toronto
Bases loaded in the first inning, none out and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista at the plate.
A recipe for disaster for most pitchers. Especially a teenage thrower.
But it turned into a day to remember for 17-year-old starter Ben Onyshko who managed to hold Bautista and his $14-million US annual salary to a sacrifice fly. The Winnipeg native got out of the inning without further damage and yielded just two runs on four hits over his three innings for the Canadian junior baseball team.
"The experience of a lifetime," Onyshko said after leaving the game tied 2-2.
The young Canadians took it on the chin after that. A Toronto Blue Jays split squad rallied for three runs in the fifth inning, four in the seventh and three in the eighth en route to a 12-2 victory over the Canadian juniors Tuesday under the sunshine at Al Lang Field.
Jays down Tigers, Verlander
Justin Verlander pitched one-hit ball for four innings in his spring debut for the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The former MVP and Cy Young Award winner threw 52 pitches, giving up a first-inning single to Melky Cabrera and walking two. He had two strikeouts.
Don Kelly's two-run home run off Toronto starter Todd Redmond put the Tigers up 2-0 in the second inning.
Dan Johnson tied it for the Blue Jays with a two-run shot off Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, Johnson's third home run in 14 at-bats.
Redmond gave up five hits and two runs in four innings while striking out three.
Bradley Glenn's led off the 10th inning with a home run off Melvin Mercedes to win it for the Blue Jays.
Onyshko, who has accepted a scholarship to Stetson University, said he tried to just focus on the task at hand in the first when Bautista came to the plate after two walks and a Moises Sierra single.
"I've got to admit my mind was racing a little bit," the left-hander said with a smile. "It was surreal."
"I was scared for a split second when he [Bautista] hit the ball. Once I was able to get that first out, I think things started to roll a bit better. I settled in."
Onyshko, who recorded one strikeout, had his parents and sister looking on in the stands.
Jays starter Brandon Morrow, not helped by a Colby Rasmus error, gave up two runs on four hits. He struck out two and walked three.
Morrow, who threw 47 pitches, was happy with his split-fingered delivered but called his command of the fast ball "terrible."
"I was getting frustrated with myself out there, if you didn't notice," he said dryly.
Morrow was followed by Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar and Aaron Sanchez.
Onyshko gave way to Zach Pop of Brampton, Ont., J.P. Stevenson of Hunter River, P.E.I., and Isaac Anesty of Guelph, Ont.
The Jays finished with 12 hits to seven for the Canadians, who were tagged with three errors.
Delabar got the win and Sanchez the save while Pop took the loss.
Toronto broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the fifth off Pop, with Canadian Brett Lawrie sparking the charge with a double. A Canadian error helped the Toronto cause.
Highly touted outfielder Gareth Morgan of Toronto singled, walked and struck out for the young Canadians.
While other major league teams tend to put up prospects against the Canadian juniors, Toronto brought out some stars as well as a bevy of its own young Canadian talent.
Bautista, Adam Lind, Rasmus, Dioner Navarro and Munenori Kawasaki were in a starting lineup that also included Canadians Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont).
Lawrie, who used to be part of the Baseball Canada program, was 2-for-3 on the day.
Other Canadians who saw action for the Jays included Michael Crouse of Port Moody, B.C., Markus Knecht of Toronto, Justin Atkinson of Surrey, B.C., Mike Reeves of Peterborough, Ont., and Mike Nickeas of Vancouver.
Bautista talks to Canadians after game
It was no ordinary spring training game. Players from both teams mingled for a group photograph in the outfield before the first pitch, with Kawasaki and Bautista sticking around for their own shot surrounded by the young Canadians.
Bautista also gave the Canadian teens a pep talk.
The Canadian juniors play in the fall instructional league against young major league talent before their spring series in Florida in March and April.
This year, the Florida opposition includes teams from the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals as well as the Jays.
In May, the Canadians take part in the Dominican Summer League. The idea is to expose the young players to a professional environment and competition.
The Canadian schedule is built around a qualifying tournament in Mexico in September for the 2015 world junior championships in Japan. Canada is bidding to become one of four teams to emerge from the Americas.
With John Gibbons leading another Jays squad in Lakeland, Fla., against the Detroit Tigers, first-base coach Tim Leiper served as manager in St. Petersburg.
Leiper has Canadian ties.
He managed in the Montreal Expos' organization, including a stint at the helm of the triple-A Ottawa Lynx of the International League in 2002. He also served as a coach on the 2004 Canadian Olympic team as well as Canada's 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic squads.
He was part of the Baseball Canada staff that won bronze medals at both the 2008 and 2011 Baseball World Cups and gold in the 2011 Pan-American Games.
Leiper joined the Jays' coaching staff in the off-season after spending the past year as a special assistant to player development in the Toronto system.
With Files from The Associated Press