TORONTO – It’s a beautiful evening in Toronto; the roof is open — the first time ever for a playoff game here. And the stadium – Skydome to Rogers Centre – has been in operation since 1989.
We’ll see if there’s an obvious boost to the offenses with more wind circling through. A quick statistic for you: This year, as a team, the Blue Jays are hitting .274 with 1.49 homers per game with the roof open and .236 with 1.03 homers with the roof closed.
Truth is these two teams don’t need much help.
As executive vice president Dan Duquette mused as we were talking during batting practice today: “Lot of power on both sides, huh?”
One thing I guarantee about the Rogers Centre tonight: It will be loud.
Here are some more random thoughts:
Looking at the Orioles’ 25-man Wild Card roster
Very few surprises for me here. Trey Mancini and Drew Stubbs making it might be considered mildly surprising, but it’s one game. You don’t need 12 or more pitchers. So, naturally, you err on the side of offense, and guys you think that can fill a role, like pinch-hitting or pinch-running.
I guess if there is one omission that struck me is that swingman Vance Worley was left off. Personally, I would rather see him pitching in long relief than Ubaldo Jimenez, who is on the roster and available out of the bullpen.
To me, Jimenez is your likely starter on Thursday, if the Orioles make it to Texas. And Dylan Bundy is on this roster, too. So I would have taken Ubaldo off and had Worley – who has done an excellent job as a long reliever – available.
“We felt like we had enough length, and we felt like, if you look at some of the matchups, it might work a little bit better in our favor,” Showalter said about not including Worley. “I can’t tell you that it was easy or clear-cut.”
Remember, they’ll be able to reset the roster for the ALDS if they reach it. I’d expect Worley to be on that one, as well as Kevin Gausman and either Wade Miley or Yovani Gallardo.
Which Stroman shows up?
Marcus Stroman, one of the better young pitchers in baseball, has not met expectations this season. He was 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA in 32 starts.
His numbers are ugly against the Orioles: 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in four starts. But those are skewed by one atrocious performance on June 19 in which he lasted just 3 2/3 innings and surrendered seven runs. He also had one quality start and two middling outings, including allowing four runs in seven innings in his last outing of the year versus the Orioles on Thursday.
It’s kind of been that way for Stroman this season though he has been fairly good in September. My sense is that Chris Tillman will bend and not break, but he’s likely going to give a few runs. So the Orioles need to jump on Stroman early and make it a bullpen game – which will give the Orioles the advantage.
How short is Tillman’s leash?
I’m on record as saying I would have chosen Chris Tillman as the Wild Card starter over Jimenez. But I’m not sticking with him for long if he runs into trouble. The Orioles have a great bullpen, especially with Bundy back in it, and Showalter shouldn’t hesitate to make moves to get the best matchups.
My guess for Tillman is that he pitches into the sixth and gives up two or three runs in five-plus innings.
Manfred talks CBA, Cuba, MASN
Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media before tonight’s game. Various topics were brought up, but here are three of local interest:
MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expires in December. The sides are working on a new deal, but one of the urgent issues is the controversial qualifying offer process, which allows teams to gain a draft pick if a free agent signs elsewhere after rejecting the qualifying offer. The question is whether the process can be changed before players become free agents at the end of the World Series.
“The truth of the matter is I don’t know the answer to that,” Manfred said. “My hope would be that we would resolve the new agreement before the free agent market starts.”
It’s a key point for the Orioles because both Matt Wieters and Mark Trumbo are potential qualifying offer candidates.
Manfred was asked about having an exhibition game in Cuba next March. The Orioles would love to return – they made the first trip in 1999 – but Manfred said the 2017 World Baseball Classic next spring makes a Cuba trip “somewhat unlikely that in the same spring period when we are doing the WBC that we would go back to Cuba.”
And, there was the requisite question about the legal dispute between the Orioles and the Washington Nationals over MASN television revenues. The dispute remains in litigation, and Manfred said: “I feel about it how I feel about the litigation in general. It’s out of your hands is how I feel about it. … I think it is a good example of why in general our rules prohibit litigation between clubs. Once you’re into that court system, sometimes it’s hard to find your way out.”
So, no timetable revealed for that one.