Blue Jays' split squad beats Canada juniors12-2By JEFF ODOM , Associated Press
Mar. 11, 2014 5:39 PM ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Brandon Morrow gave up four hits over three innings, Jose Bautista drove in a run and a Toronto Blue Jays' split squad beat the Canadian junior national team 12-2 Tuesday.
Making his second start and third appearance of spring training following a season-ending forearm injury last May, Morrow allowed two runs — one earned — walked three and struck out two in a 47-pitch outing. He gave up five runs and six hits in three innings against Pittsburgh on March 5.
Morrow said he worked exclusively on his fastball and splitter but was not happy with his efficiency.
"My fastball command was terrible," Morrow said. "I was getting frustrated with myself out there. I felt good. ... I just need to tighten up my fastball command. That's been my problem the last two times out."
Despite the early struggles, Morrow expects to improve.
"I'm not worried," he said. "It's going to get there eventually. I'll just keep working at it next time out."
Bautista went 1 for 2 with a double and a first-inning sacrifice fly off 17-year-old Ben Onyshko.
Colby Rasmus returned to the Blue Jays' lineup after missing seven games with a stiff neck. He was 0 for 2 with a walk.
Canada: Onyshko allowed two runs and four hits in three innings with one walk and one strikeout. The left-hander was nervous early but said pitching against the Blue Jays was something he will never forget.
"It was a mixture of excitement and nerves," Onyshko said. "At first, the ball was up and I was nervous. Eventually, I was able to settle in and it was an experience of a lifetime."
Onyshko said the most nerve-racking moment came Bautista stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the first. With his heart pounding, Onyshko managed to keep his cool and hold the slugger to a sacrifice fly.
"I tried not to think about it, I tried to execute my pitches same as always, but I've got to admit my mind was racing a little bit," he said. "It was surreal."
Rasmus said he felt good in his first game back and does not expect to miss any more time.
Rasmus, who had been sidelined since March 2, was charged with an error in center field during the second inning when he dropped a fly ball that led to a run.
"I only played two games, but I don't think it will be long," he said. "Just getting back into my normal routine and what I've been doing. And getting to do my normal stuff will get be right back in there and I'll be fine. I'm not worried about it."
For the Canadian junior national team, this week provides a rare opportunity for its players to see what it is like to play against major league clubs.
In addition to its meeting with the Blue Jays on Tuesday, the team will play split-squad games against Atlanta on Wednesday, Detroit on Saturday and Pittsburgh on Sunday at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.
"To have the opportunity to come out on the field and play against players that you watch on TV and inspire to be like is incredibly special. Especially when it's Canada's team," manager Greg Hamilton said.
Gareth Morgan, 17, who is rated as one of the top outfield prospects for the 2014 amateur draft, singled off Morrow in the first. He said it was a "cool and humbling" experience, especially getting to play against his favorite player, Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie.
"It's an honor to be a part of this team and get an opportunity to do this," Morgan said. "It's not every day you get to put a uniform on and play against big leaguers."
LITCH RETURNS TO MOUND
Former Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litch threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Adam Lind before the game.
The 29-year-old Litch spent five seasons in the majors — all with Toronto — before a serious shoulder infection and multiple surgeries forced the right-hander to step away from baseball in 2012.
Litch's toss was a strike down the middle.