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1B Eric Hinske
2B Orlando Hudson: Occasional hamstring problems keep him from being the speed threat he often appears to be. A season of 600 at-bats is still possible.
SS Russ Adams
3B Corey Koskie: Koskie fought off a laundry list of ailments last year, from an odd sternum injury to ankle and hamstring problems. He’ll get no help moving off of Minnesota’s turf, though the Jays will have a new surface in ’05. He’s had more leg problems already this spring, missing time with a groin strain.
LF Reed Johnson
CF Vernon Wells
RF Alexis Rios
DH Frank Catalanotto: The F-Cat is coming off of groin surgery. (Go ahead, it’s okay to cringe.) He doesn’t rely on speed, so that’s not a concern. He’s likely to platoon/rotate in the OF and DH slot, so that reduces worries.
SP Roy Halladay: What’s the downside here? That he turns into Pedro Martinez Lite, minus the Jermaine Jackson do and the midget fetish? The shoulder wasn’t badly damaged, and his efficiency and command are still there.
SP Ted Lilly: Lilly tested the 200-inning barrier last season and loses a bit by being in a late THR. His shoulder problems in spring training appear to be minor, yet are still enough to light the yellow lamp.
SP Josh Towers: He’s good when his command is good, staff–and bleacher–filler when it isn’t. Towers has had ongoing shoulder problems that have kept his inning ceiling low. The Jays will need someone else to step up by midseason.
SP David Bush: The nearly 200 innings at two levels last year is somewhat worrisome. So is Bush’s near-unprecedented move from college closer to major-league starter. Bush is odd enough to make the system choke. My eyes like his smooth delivery.
SP Gustavo Chacin: Chacin really seemed to come out of nowhere, suddenly finding control and velocity last season in his fourth run at Double-A. He seemed to hit the wall at 150 innings last year. As the Jays’ fifth starter, he shouldn’t be forced to test his limits this season.
Some might think I’d go the easy route, reminding people of what happened the last time Brad Arnsberg held the keys to a major-league staff in his hands. Perhaps I cut the Blue Jays a bit too much slack, but I’ve heard from too many smart people in too many places that I was a bit too hard on Arnsberg, placing a bit too much of the blame squarely on his shoulders when his Marlins staff imploded, only to then go on to the World Series.
I believe in second chances and I believe in the Blue Jays front office. Of course, if there’s a run on Blue Jays-theme rosaries, tallit and sajada, well, I wouldn’t blame Jays fans either.
The Jays’ 2004 season was defined by one key injury, that being the shoulder injury to Roy Halladay. Halladay was brought back conservatively and showed good results late in the season, giving us hope that his efficiency in his exceptional 2003 season did indeed serve him well. Halladay’s ability to take the ball every fifth day holds the hopes of the Jays to get back into contention. Halladay sought advice from Curt Schilling in the offseason, smart since Schilling is one of the very few pitchers who have been able to return from labrum problems to their previous level of dominance.
The rest of the roster looks like a team in flux. There are veterans brought in for … well, I’m sure someone has a good explanation for Shea Hillenbrand. The team is beginning its shift from the first wave of “New Jays” such as Hinske and Catalanotto to the next wave, players like David Bush, Russ Adams, Gabe Gross and Guillermo Quiroz.
The uniforms may be gray and ugly, but the future looks better than that for the Jays. With their focus on smart acquisitions and a newly opened checkbook, this is a team that could push its way to contender status quickly if–say it with me–they can stay healthy.