So I went to my first two live games of the season, and it was a study of contrasts. Friday night I sat behind the bullpen, and watched Casey Janssen eat seeds and chew his thumb for 90 minutes before getting to work.
It's a really weird place to watch the game, as I felt completely removed from the action, to the point that I wonder how involved relief pitchers feel in a game. It must be hard to be separate and then have to rouse yourself and perform in potentially high leverage, late inning situations.
It was an opportunity to watch pitching from above (which is not a common angle) and also the opportunity to study how badass Luis Perez is in hopes that when I grow up, I could be as badass. I got a little wave from him around the 6th. I waved to Perez, but yelled "NO!" when people were doing the wave while Romero was battling. And then Perez served up the Mike Saunders grand slam in extra innings after all that nonsense of errors in the 9th after a Cordero induced grounder that should ended the game. It was like the air was sucked out of the building.
Perez has emerged as the best reliever in this very young season and I kept my eye on him in the 'pen. He visited a few different guys, had long talks, wore his pants pulled over his shoes for no particular reason and then got down to work. John Lott wrote a great article about the emergence of Perez. According to Pete Walker, bullpen coach,
"He’s a very smart pitcher. He pays attention to the game. He knows situations. He attacks the hitters, throws strikes and he’s effectively wild at times, which keeps the left-handed hitters off-balance. And his breaking ball is exceptional.”
Perez signed with the Jays as an 18 year old out of the Dominican and kicked around the system for 9 seasons and despite the long wait to blossom, I've noticed the guy carries himself like he belongs.
“I never lost hope. I know everybody’s different. Some guys get here earlier, some guys take a little longer. I always felt like, at the time, I wasn’t ready. Now I feel like I’m ready and that’s what counts.”
John "Mr. John" Farrell did something relatively controversial by calling out Arencibia, basically saying that Lawrie's error was bad, but Arencibia's aggressive pick off throw that sailed over Lind was worse. It seems to be a situation where aggressiveness is encouraged, but that Farrell is still trying to find the balance between accelerating and putting pressure on the other team, and not letting it lead to crashing off the rails, as it did on Friday night or when Lawrie got caught stealing home a few weeks ago.
This team is young, and hungry. This manager is still a new manager. There are going to be rough plays, and people are going to stick their feet in their mouths.
To complete this study of contrasts, I sat in the 100 section on the 3rd base side and watched Brandon Morrow put on a command performance, using both his fastball and his slider to great effect. The game progressed, and then Encarnacion happened. EE has emerged as the dominant bat in that lineup since the All Star Break last season. He hit a homer in Friday's game and a double and a grand slam on Saturday. Edwin smiles are truly the best smiles.
Before the game on Saturday, all of Brett Lawrie's dreams came true. I don't know what's up with my face, but I think it's the heady mix of testosterone and maple syrup. Also, some of us are white, and some of us are very white.
Big ups to @biggles14, @catherine0626 and @ns_export for the time. Also, I finally met the Tao of Stieb. It's as good as you would imagine. I was also reminded that I am an amazon.