Yusei Kikuchi finished off his excellent Spring Training by striking out six of the eight batters he faced

No matter what happens next, this year’s Grapefruit League play will always be remembered as the Spring of Yusei Kikuchi.

Kikuchi capped off an excellent performance in Spring Training on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He came into the game in the sixth inning and tossed two-and-two-thirds of clean innings and struck out six of the eight batters he faced. The Phillies certainly didn’t put their best lineup out there for the final game before the start of the regular season, but that’s an impressive result nonetheless.
All told, Kikuchi tossed 20 2/3 innings over seven outings during Grapefruit League play and posted a 0.87 ERA. He struck out 31 batters, walked 10, and didn’t allow a home run.

Yusei’s Day: 6 Ks, 0 ER 😤
Yusei’s Spring: 0.87 ERA 😱 pic.twitter.com/fqnzVSsAds
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 28, 2023

Other things worth mentioning…

Kikuchi’s performance was the only positive note when it came to pitching on Tuesday. Jose Berrios got the start and allowed four earned runs on four hits and three walks over four-and-two-thirds innings. Tim Mayza came into the game and allowed three hits but couldn’t record an out and Adrian Hernandez recorded just one out in the ninth inning before allowing the Phillies to score the game-winning run on a walk-off double from Darick Hall.
In terms of offence, Bo Bichette was the star of the day as he launched a two-run bomb off Bailey Falter in the second inning. Brandon Belt also drove in a couple of runs with a bases-loaded single.


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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Maple Leafs beat Edmonton Oilers 7-4: The stars came out to play

This is the game Leafs Nation circled on their calendar. Cody Ceci. Zach Hyman. Jack Campbell (sort of). There’s no other reason why fans would be excited. Nada.
In the last game between the two Canadian powerhouses, with two of the most passionate online fanbases, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to erase a 3-1 deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers 7-4 in front of a packed Scotiabank Arena. Sure, the building was quiet at times, and it was definitely not a perfect effort, but it worked out in the end.
Fans got their money’s worth on Saturday. A couple of the game’s brightest stars taking centre stage on Hockey Night in Canada. All eyes were on Bay and Lakeshore, and it didn’t disappoint. That is, of course, unless you were one of the traveling Oilers fans out to watch with the Nation Vacation – sorry, boys and girls!

— Oilersnation.com, Oily Since ‘07 (@OilersNation) March 12, 2023

Fans got their money’s worth on Saturday. A couple of the game’s brightest stars taking centre stage on Hockey Night in Canada. All eyes were on Bay and Lakeshore, and it didn’t disappoint. That is, of course, unless you were one of the traveling Oilers fans out to watch with the Nation Vacation – sorry, boys and girls!
And, predictably, the game lived up to the hype. The teams traded goals early in the first (Noel Acciari for Toronto, Mattias Ekholm for Edmonton) before the Oilers snuck out to a 3-1 l …

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Author: Steven Ellis / The Leafs Nation

Exploring three internal injury replacements for Mitch White

Heading into this spring, most of the Toronto Blue Jays roster was already set, with 25 of the 26 spots decided upon, leaving room for internal competition involving the final bench position. But another role could open up in the bullpen if Mitch White isn’t ready by Opening Day.
White, acquired by Toronto from the Los Angeles Dodgers at last season’s trade deadline, was impacted by a right shoulder impingement over the winter and entered spring training behind schedule. The injury is behind him, although it significantly delayed his off-season throwing program, forcing him to build up his stamina in camp with the team before being cleared for game action.
The 28-year-old is still a ways out from that progression, though, as he has yet to face any live hitters thus far. And he’s starting to run up against the clock. He did throw a 40-pitch side session over the weekend, which is a step in the right direction, but he still has a few hurdles to jump before making his 2023 spring debut.

Mitch White, whose spring build-up has been delayed by a right shoulder impingement, is expecting to throw a 40-pitch side session this weekend at Blue Jays camp.
Next steps after that would be facing hitters in a live bullpen and then getting into games.
— Arden …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Leafs Rumours: Last call for trades

Leafs Rumours: Last call for trades

It’s deadline day. Rumours are somewhat pointless at this stage as everything will go down in a matter of hours, but nevertheless, we’ve got to start somewhere and here’s what is out there in the grand scheme of Leafs rumours…

Connecting dots on #Leafs cap after McCabe/Lafferty trade:
1. Either Toronto is not planning to activate Matt Murray until the playoffs.2. Or Toronto is now moving one of Kerfoot / Engvall / Holl before the deadline.
Seems to be some smoke recently with Kerfoot and #Canucks.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 27, 2023

Kerfoot remains one of the most likely Leafs to be on the move, especially if the Leafs are looking to do something big. Frank’s rumour predates the Schenn trade, so maybe the smoke around the Canucks wasn’t related to Kerfoot at all.
There still could be something around the Canucks, if they’d rather have Kerfoot’s one year cap hit of $3.5M and are willing to eat a bit of Garland’s contract to make a swap there.
As for Kerfoot, he’s not a completely undesirable option for playoff bound teams, his prorated $775k salary is easy for sellers to take on if there is a worry about actual dollars being paid, but there is a complication when it comes to Alex having a 10 team no trade list.
I continue to believe it is far more likely that David Kampf would be the odd man out as Kerfoot is a more versatile option for the Leafs.
Justin Holl lands on Chris Johnston’s trade bo …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Potential target: Scott Mayfield

This past Saturday the Islanders lost 6-2 to the Bruins. A far bigger loss, however, was Matt Barzal. The dynamic forward left the game with a lower-body injury, and his status is week-to-week. Barzal has put up 51 points in 58 games and is heavily relied upon at even strength and special teams.
The Islanders are hopeful he may return before the playoffs, but they will undoubtedly be without their most skilled player during the push. New York currently sits in a wild card spot, and they have virtually no chance of catching the high-flying Devils, Hurricanes, or Rangers. Despite currently sitting in a playoff spot, the Red Wings, Sabres, and Penguins all have a higher point percentage.
Off the back of losing their star man and with hungry teams licking their chops just below them, could the New York Islanders become sellers? Perhaps they don’t fully tear it down, but instead, look to capitalize on some of their expiring contracts. If that becomes the case, the Leafs should consider acquiring Scott Mayfield.
Mayfield has spent his entire career with the New York Islanders having been drafted by them in the second round of the 2011 NHL draft. He’s played 406 games and amassed 102 points so far. He …

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Author: Bennett Jull / The Leafs Nation

News and Notes: Matt Chapman is taking a wait-and-see approach to free agency, Orioles owner says team has “overachieved,” and more!

Matt Chapman is in line for a huge payday this winter.

He’s entering the second season of the two-year, $25 million contract that he inked with the Blue Jays last March after he was acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s and he’ll be eligible to hit the open market as a free agent for the first time in his career once it’s finished.
There isn’t much doubt that Chapman will get paid. The question is who’s going to be paying him.
Might it be the Blue Jays? Chapman spoke with Gregor Chisholm of The Toronto Star over the weekend and said that he would be interested in sticking around with the team but his plan has always been to play out his two-year contract and see what happens…
“I know the Blue Jays enjoy having me here and want to continue having me here,” Chapman said. “I know I want to continue to be here and be a part of this team. I’m sure conversations will be had along the way but, when I signed that two-year deal, I was anticipating they would have to pay Bo and Vladdy and all these young guys.
“So, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was excited to get out of the arbitration system, not have to worry about that and I felt fortunate to have some security. I kind of always anticipated playing out …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Bobby McMann’s strong push, Keith Petruzzelli’s effort, and more: Marlies Weekly

The Toronto Marlies had their hands full this week with the finishing of a postponed game, a school-day (11 a.m.) game, and two regularly scheduled games.
Joseph Woll got the start in last Sunday’s two periods of action against the Manitoba Moose. It was the continuation of a game that was postponed in early January due to a medical emergency involving a fan.
It was 1-1 at the end of the first period in that one, and Toronto was able to add three more goals on Sunday, winning the game 4-2.
Woll only allowed one goal on 22 shots for a stellar game as he continues to bungee up and down between the NHL and AHL.
The Marlies’ next game came on Wednesday against the Utica Comets in what was the school-day game. This matchup had plenty of kids, and if I had to be honest, it was the loudest game I’ve ever been to at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
That game ended in a 2-1 win for Toronto. Bobby McMann and Dryden Hunt had the goals while Erik Kallgren stopped 45 of 46 shots in what was arguably his best game as a Marlie.
“It’s nice to show what I can do.” Said Kallgren on Wednesday. “I know that I can play at a high level, so it feels …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays and Bo Bichette reportedly avoid arbitration with a multi-year contract

Well, this was rather unexpected!

Per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, shortstop Bo Bichette and the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a three-year deal, avoiding arbitration.

Per sources, #BlueJays have now avoided arb with Bo Bichette on a multi-year deal.
Terms still unclear but sources said a three-year term was under active discussion this week.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) February 8, 2023

While the monetary terms have yet to be announced, this was a rather surprising development as their arbitration date was set for this upcoming Thursday.
The Blue Jays are considered a file and trial team, meaning that if the two parties cannot agree on a one-year deal before the deadline, there will be no one-year deal without arbitration. However, that doesn’t exclude them from signing a multi-year deal which they apparently have.
If you recall, the Jays thought Bichette’s salary for 2023 should be $5 million, while Bichette wanted $7.5 million. This was the most significant gap in this year’s arbitration, so it was a good thing that it was sorted out before Thursday.
Last season, Bichette slashed .290/.333/.469 with 24 homers in 697 plate appearances, earning him a career-high 129 wRC+. His defense at shortstop took a hit though, as he registered a -16 Defensive Runs Saved and a -7 Outs Above Average, with the former being the worst for a shortstop, and the second worst DRS in 2022.
Despite the poor defense and iffy four months to start his 2022 season, Bichette managed to post a 4.5 Fangraphs WAR, slightly below his 5.1 fWAR in 2021.
As more details are announced, this article will be updated. However, it’s nice to see that at least two seasons of arbitration will be bought out for Bichette, and potentially all three!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Is Fred VanVleet’s improved play here to stay after Raptors beat Rockets?

Is Fred VanVleet’s improved play here to stay after Raptors beat Rockets?

This season has not gone according to plan for the Toronto Raptors, but it was incredibly disappointing on a multitude of levels, but the poor play of All-Star guard Fred VanVleet was one of the most shocking developments. After a historic season last year, VanVleet has looked completely out of sync for weeks at a […]
Is Fred VanVleet’s improved play here to stay after Raptors beat Rockets? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Winter League wrap-up, final edition: Rainer Núñez’s team falls in the finals, Bowden Francis dominated in the semi-finals, and more!

This will be the last edition of the Winter League wrap-up… This means that we’re getting closer to the start of the 2023 season!

While most of the leagues haven’t finished, there are no more Blue Jay prospects playing, so it’s time to wrap up the wrap-ups.
In this article, we’ll look at prospects who played in their team’s playoff rounds. In a two-part series, I looked at how all the Jays prospects did in LIDOM (you can read that here), as well as in the other three winter leagues (which you can read here).
Let’s start by focusing on the Dominican Winter League.
Licey del Tigres win the Dominican Winter League:
On Wednesday night, Licey won their 23rd title in LIDOM, beating Rainer Núñez’s Estrellas 2-1 in the final game to win the series 4-1.

Nate Pearson is emerging as that high leverage, swing and miss the 2023 Jays are lacking.
11 IP0 ER5 H15 K (36.59 K%)4 BB (9.76 BB%)34 swinging strikes (43.59 whiff%)36.75 CSW%
Here is every whiff & strikeout this season.#BlueJays #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/YCmlr3Ypo7
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) November 13, 2022

As you may know, Nate Pearson was a big part of Licey’s early success, pitching in relief and doing so quite well. Finishing in mid-November, the 26-year-old posted a 36.6 K%, a 9.8 BB%, and a 43.6 whiff %. Moreover, he didn’t allow an earned run in the 12 innings he pitched in. I wrote more about his adventure in the Dominican Republic here, but he’s emerged as a potential bullpen piece for the Blue Jays next season.
Sadly for Núñez, he didn’t quite perform as he did during the regular season, which saw him win LIDOM’s Rookie of The Year award. In the four-team round-robin, he slashed .167/.219/.167 with 11 strikeouts in 32 plate appearances for a 34.4 K%.

¡DOBLETE de Rainer Núñez que remolca la primera de las @EOBASEBALLCLUB! 🐘🌟#LIDOM #CopaBanreservas ⚾️🏆 pic.twitter.com/Mnx8FYvZwT
— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) December 8, 2022

It’s possible that the 22-year-old first baseman was dealing with exhaustion, as he had been playing since April 2022. Either way, Núñez certainly made an impression and ranked as Blue Jays Nation’s 16th-best prospect heading into 2023.
Criollos de Caguas bow out in the semi-final:
Although Blue Jays p …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation