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"We felt like it was a strong skate,"

 
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"We felt like it was a strong skate,"
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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After watching Esmil Rogers stumble, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons pulled out a baseball maxim. "Some of our top guys are putting together some good at-bats and some things like that," he said. "The key is pitching though. Thats going to take us as far as were going to go this year. Were trying to iron some things out, find out whos going to do what. We want strike-throwers." Rogers, in the mix for the Jays fifth starter, struck out six in his three innings Thursday in a 7-5 exhibition loss to the Houston Astros. But he also walked two and gave up four runs on five hits including two homers. "First inning he was good. Then he was shaky after that," was Gibbons pithy assessment of Rogers performance. "The key to him is throwing enough strikes. He could be a heck of a pitcher when he gets the ball into the strike zone. Weve seen it before, thats where he runs into trouble." With spring training entering its final weeks, the Jays are still looking wondering about their starting rotation. Gibbons pronouncement on pitching, while accurate, is hardly soothing to Toronto fans. Barring injuries, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow are expected to emerge as the first three starters. Rogers is competing against Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, Ricky Romero, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin and Dustin McGowan for the fourth and fifth spots. Hutchison has drawn praise from general manager Alex Anthopoulos -- "We think Drews got a chance to be outstanding" -- while Gibbons called Romero "the big talk of camp right now." But questions remain. Rogers likely did not do himself any favours Thursday after a 1-2-3 first inning that featured a groundout and two strikeouts. Things went downhill from there. "My pitches were a little bit high," he said. "I lost my control." Teenage shortstop Carlos Correa, a 19-year-old who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, and Jon Singleton hit back-to-back homers for Houston in the third inning off Rogers. Correa then drove in two more runs with a blast to centre in the eighth off Neil Wagner. In between, he made a slick fielding play in the fourth to throw out Brett Lawrie. Rogers said the Singleton homer came off a change-up, a pitch he suggested he might put aside for the time being. Starter Dallas Keuchel pitched four scoreless innings as Houston (7-6) posted its fourth straight win in the spring. The last time the Astros won four in a row in the Grapefruit League was in March 2011. McGowan was the best of the Blue Jays pitchers with two scoreless innings despite not having pitched in 10 days after being sidelined by a stomach bug that saw him lose eight pounds. The only blemish on his outing Thursday was a walk. McGowan still thinks of himself as a starting pitcher but, with only four spring innings under his belt, he is behind others. "Theres what I want to be," he said. "If Im there, great. If Im in the bullpen, also great. Its a win-win situation, I think." Houston went ahead 2-0 in the second on a Cesar Izturis single after Rogers dug himself in a bases-loaded hole with two walks and a single. Lawrie did his bit for the Toronto defence, gunning down Jesus Guzman at the plate before the Izturis hit. The Blue Jays (6-8) scored three in the fifth off Collin McHugh to cut the lead to 4-3. Houston made it 5-3 in the sixth via a sacrifice fly. Houston threatened again when Toronto pitcher Jeremy Jeffress loaded the bases in the seventh with no outs. He struck out one before giving way to Wagner, who struck out another and then escaped the inning when Ryan Goins made an eye-popping fielding play off a ball that flew off the pitchers body. There was action in the bottom of the seventh as Anthony Gose somehow turned a shallow fly ball into a triple when sliding Houston outfielder Adron Chambers was unable to chase the ball down. Kevin Pillar then was drilled by Josh Zeid with the Jays outfielder taking a long look at the Astros pitcher as he left the batters box. Gose scored on a fielders choice when Pillar was cut down stealing second, cutting the lead to 5-4. Gose also scored on a sacrifice fly in the ninth to make it 7-5 after Correas second homer extended the Houston lead. Keuchel has yet to give up a run in nine innings this spring. He scattered six hits over his four innings Wednesday, striking out two with no walks. The game featured half-brothers Cesar and Maicer Izturis, both starting at second base and batting ninth (the older Cesar for Houston and Maicer for Toronto). Toronto outhit Houston 13-12. The contest, which lasted three hours 11 minutes, drew 4,510 to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on a 15-degree day. Roberto Luongo Jersey . Halladays resume as a Blue Jay is among the elite in the franchises 36-year history. Over 12 seasons in Toronto, he was named an All-Star six times. He had arguably the finest campaign of his career in 2003 when he posted a 22-7 record, a 3. Florida Panthers Gear . Paul George and Darren Collison each scored 17 points and Roy Hibbert added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers (9-3), who won their third straight. http://www.nhlpanthersauthority.com/authentic-connor-brickley-panthers-jersey/ . Gorges is believed to have suffered the injury while blocking a shot with a hand during Montreals win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Canadiens added to their defensive depth this week by acquiring veteran Mike Weaver from the Florida Panthers. Aleksi Heponiemi Jersey . 1. AMIR JOHNSON: Nice to see him back in the lineup Tuesday night in Washington DC. Played with great energy and purpose. Its amazing when a guy gets those few precious days to recover what it does to the bounce in their step and overall game/confidence. Derek MacKenzie Jersey . However, the intensity and physicality that has characterized the postseason so far has caught Gretzky by surprise. "Its a little bit risqué right now," Gretzky told Philadelphia radio station 97.PARIS -- Patrick Chan knows the pressure on him will be intense at the Sochi Olympics after breaking three of his own world records on the way to his fourth victory at the Trophee Bompard. The three-time world champion crushed the competition to win the event by more than 30 points on Saturday -- eclipsing his own best scores in the short program and free skate and beating his best combined mark. The 22-year-old from Toronto knows his composure will be tested much more at the Winter Games. "A score like that -- if I put that up at the Olympics I think it will be very, very hard to beat," he said. "This is a grand prix event Ive been to many times. The Olympics is only the second time (for me) and Im competing against the best skaters in the world so its a very different circumstance, a very different atmosphere." Meanwhile, American skater Ashley Wagner successfully defended her title despite finishing second in the free skate. "Tonight was a pretty decent night for me," Wagner said. "I think theres still room for improvement." Chan scored 196.75 in the free for an overall mark of 295.27 -- smashing his previous best combined score (280.98) and his free record (187.96) from the 2011 worlds. Japans Yuzuru Hanyu tallied 263.59 overall to finish second, and American Jason Brown scored 243.09 for his first senior medal. Both are 18. Chan expects a much fiercer challenge in Sochi, where he will need all of his mental strength. "Its going to be a goal of mine to be able to click and think about moments like today and yesterday to do the exact same thing at the Olympics," he said. Chan chose his favourite piece of music to skate to -- Concerto Grossos "Four Seasons" -- and performed with such grace and precision that the Paris crowd rose as one to give him a deafening ovation as he blew kisses back to them. "Its a piece of music that really meshed well with me," he said. "I could time my knee bends, my breathing to the music." Chan will be hard to stop at the Dec. 5-8 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan. He nailed his opening quad toeloop-triple toeloop, his quad toeloop and his triple axel jumps with remarkable ease. "I felt truly ffree and I was really able to have ownership of every moment I could skate," Chan said.dddddddddddd "Thats why we compete. Not for the medals or the money. You kind of feel unbeatable and indestructible. I was happy, free and light." Chan usually scores so highly in the short that he has room for error in the long. "Today was a challenge because Ive done very well in the short program in the past and havent had a good track record with the long," he said. Hanyu recovered brilliantly after a nervous start where he stumbled on his opening jump -- a quad salchow -- and then fell attempting a quad toeloop. He shook his head as he left the ice as the crowd warmly cheered him. Wagner, who was second at Skate America behind Japans Mao Asada last month, scored 194.37 and beat Adelina Sotnikova -- who had the best score in the long -- by five points. The 15-year-old Anna Pogorilaya was 10 points back in third spot. Both Russians and Wagner are qualified for the GP Final. Earlier, Olympic runners-up Pang Qing and Tong Jian won the Trophee Bompard pairs for the first time in their final season. World bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmerton, Ont., finished second, securing their place for the Fukuoka event, which will feature the top six skaters in each category. "Were incredibly proud of ourselves to make the final with the pressure we put on ourselves," Radford said. Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin took the bronze medal. Also, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., followed up their success at Skate Canada by winning the ice dance. The Canadians were nine points better than European runners-up Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia, who beat Cup of China winners Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France by less than a point. "We felt like it was a strong skate," said Moir. "There were some great moments and it was a better skate than at Skate Canada especially the ending. Still we left some points out there. Technically we cant afford to do those little mistakes." Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Okotoks, Alta., were eighth. 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