3 Toronto Blue Jays With a young lineup that's loaded, this franchise is on the rise. Add a few arms and ...

March 31, 2003

By way of describing the Blue Jays, general manager J.P.
Ricciardi cooks up a culinary metaphor. "It's a pot of stew," he
says. "We've got some veterans and some really good young
players. We're cutting payroll. We're addressing our future in
the minors, between the draft and trading for younger players.
We're trying to create a mixture of everything." In Toronto's
kitchen Ricciardi is baseball's frugal gourmet. Since becoming
G.M. in November 2001, he has simultaneously chopped payroll by
$30 million, begun the long process of restocking a barren farm
system and infused the major league roster with enough young,
modestly priced talent to field a competitive club.

With a coupon clipper's thriftiness, Ricciardi has jettisoned,
among others, outfielders Jose Cruz Jr. and Raul Mondesi,
shortstop Alex Gonzalez and reliever Billy Koch. In their places
he has aggressively promoted prospects from the farm
system--creating starting jobs for lefthanded pitcher Mark
Hendrickson, second baseman Orlando Hudson, designated hitter
Josh Phelps, centerfielder Vernon Wells and shortstop Chris
Woodward--and filled out the menu with unflashy veterans on
short-term contracts.

The long-term prognosis is encouraging. Aside from leftfielder
Shannon Stewart, a free agent at season's end, and first baseman
Carlos Delgado, who has two years and $36 million left on
Toronto's only remaining albatross contract, the Blue Jays'
starting position players have, on average, 181 games of big
league experience. Pleasantly surprising, however, was Toronto's
revival under new manager Carlos Tosca, who was 58--51 after
replacing the fired Buck Martinez on June 3.

A stickler for fundamentals, who oversaw vast defensive
improvements by all four infielders, Tosca is on board with
Ricciardi's emphasis on plate discipline and power. "Our
philosophy is, Take the walk and hit the home run," Tosca says.
"We don't have the same experience that New York and Boston do,
but from a talent standpoint our players have just as high a
ceiling."

The most established among those players are Wells (.500 slugging
percentage, 19 home runs, 77 RBIs after Tosca took over) and
third baseman Eric Hinske (.465, 15, 52 under Tosca), but Phelps,
called up from Triple A Syracuse on July 2, truly makes the
pupils dilate. In his 74 games with the Blue Jays last year
Phelps hit .309, had a .562 slugging percentage and hit 15 home
runs. Growing up in the Idaho panhandle town of Rathdrum, the
quiet, cerebral Phelps prioritized his schoolwork and excelled in
math and sciences. "I was more academic than athletic," he says.
"It was something instilled from my parents, something I took a
lot of pride in. That was the deal."

Phelps reads two newspapers a day, and he recalls former Toronto
infielder Joe Lawrence, his roommate during spring training in
'01, who dissed him for watching CNN instead of ESPN. During the
hours of dead time that litter a season Phelps reads voraciously,
mostly Dean Koontz potboilers and Patrick McManus short stories.
(In mid-March he was plowing through a biography of Terry
Bradshaw--"Nothing profound in that one," he says.) Yet he takes
a less studied approach to his swing; he maintains his compact
power stroke entirely on feel. "The first time I started looking
at film last year is the first time I started getting in a funk,
because I never knew what my swing looked like before," says
Phelps. "You always have your own mental picture, and then when
you actually see it, it's a totally different thing. It just
confuses the senses."

Ricciardi has not yet found long-term solutions for his pitching
staff, aside from ace righthander Roy Halladay, 25. This summer
Ricciardi will attempt to use his most valuable bargaining chips,
Stewart and closer Kelvim Escobar--also in the walk year of his
contract--to cast for young arms. With Hinske and Wells signed to
nearly identical five-year, $15 million contracts in mid-March,
Toronto's offense is boiling. Although he's locked in third-place
limbo, Ricciardi will soon find similar solutions for the rest of
the club, from soup to nuts. --D.G.H.

COLOR PHOTO: JED JACOBSOHN/GETTY IMAGES TRADE BAIT Come July, the Blue Jays hope to swap Stewart for young pitching. COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES HUDSON

IN FACT

While pitching for the Devil Rays last season, Tanyon Sturtze
became the first pitcher in AL history to lead the league in
losses, runs allowed, hits allowed and walks in the same
year.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing scout sizes up the Blue Jays

"THERE ISN'T much about this team that I don't like. Carlos Tosca
has done a heck of a job getting his players to hustle. They run
the bases well, and they're aggressive. This lineup is going to
hit for average and has some power.... Shannon Stewart is having
one of the best springs of any player down here in Florida. I
think he's playing for a big contract after the season. My club
would love to have him leading off.... I'm going to put my money
on Jayson Werth eventually overtaking Frank Catalanotto in
rightfield. Werth has home run power, and he's got the best arm
on the team--you just don't run on him.... Vernon Wells has a
chance to be a franchise player. He's one of the best defensive
centerfielders in the game. He still has trouble with breaking
balls, but that's common with young players.... Orlando Hudson is
hitting from both sides of the plate, and he's made spectacular
plays in the field. He's going to be a good one.... After Roy
Halladay and Cory Lidle, I'm not crazy about their pitching. They
added Tanyon Sturtze, but he had horrible years with the Devil
Rays. The club is giving him every opportunity to stay in the
rotation."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

LF Stewart
RF Catalanotto
CF Wells
1B Delgado
3B Hinske
DH Phelps
SS Woodward
C Huckaby
2B Hudson

SHANNON STEWART

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 104 .303 10 45 14

FRANK CATALANOTTO [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 187 .269 3 23 9

VERNON WELLS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 37 .275 23 100 9

CARLOS DELGADO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 44 .277 33 108 1

ERIC HINSKE

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 76 .279 24 84 13

CHRIS WOODWARD

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 120 .276 13 45 3

KEN HUCKABY

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 266 .245 3 22 0

ORLANDO HUDSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 192 .276 4 23 0

BENCH

TOM WILSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 262 .257 8 37 0

MIKE BORDICK [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 363 .232 8 36 7

DESIGNATED HITTER

JOSH PHELPS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 85 .309 15 58 0

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Roy Halladay 9 19 7 7.0 1.19 2.93
RH Cory Lidle [#] 125 8 10 6.4 1.20 3.89
RH Tanyon Sturtze [#] 182 4 18 6.8 1.61 5.18
RH Pete Walker* 155 10 5 5.7 1.40 4.36
LH Mark Hendrickson(R) 217 3 0 6.5 1.01 2.45

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Kelvim Escobar 48 5 7 38 1.53 4.27
RH Cliff Politte* 136 3 3 1 1.15 3.67
RF Jeff Tam [#] 232 1 2 0 1.71 5.13

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Combined AL and NL stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

2002 RECORD

78--84
third in AL East

MANAGER

Carlos Tosca
second season with Toronto

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)