DUNEDIN, Fla. – On a day where Toronto pitchers were handing out hits like Halloween candy, a stingy Justin Germano stood out.
The journeyman right-hander threw two scoreless innings of relief, striking out four. The Houston Astros feasted on the rest of the Jays pitching, collecting 18 hits in a 10-1 Grapefruit League win Wednesday.
“He was really the only one that was sharp today,” said manager John Gibbons. “Everybody else got hit around pretty good or they had trouble locating the ball or (were) behind everybody. That’s two good ones in a row for him. But he can pitch, that’s what he does.”
Germano has done it for more than a few organizations, albeit with varying results. Prior to signing a minor-league contract with the Jays in November, the 30-year-old right-hander had stints with the Padres, Indians, Reds, Cubs, Red Sox and South Korea’s Samsung Lions.
He struck out four in his two innings work Wednesday.
“I was able to throw strikes with all three pitches, got a few strikeouts and I felt it was a pretty good outing,” said Germano.
His career major-league record is 10-30 with a 5.27 ERA in 93 appearances.
But Germano has a perfect game on his resume. Pitching for the Columbus Clippers, he blanked the Syracuse Chiefs 3-0 on July 26, 2011, in triple-A ball.
He was just happy to get the off-season call from Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos.
“Alex called me himself and told me about the opportunity that was here and it sounded too good to pass up,” he said. “Obviously nobody knew they were going to do what they did and it’s not the most ideal situation for me but I’m happy to be here and hope to be a part of this team because they’re going to do something special this year.”
There are a lot of pitchers competing for two spots in the Jays bullpen. Gibbons, who is looking for a reliever who can “eat some innings up,” said Germano helped his cause Wednesday
“You never know. He’s got some experience.”
The Jays, who led the majors with a 24-7 spring record last year, slipped to 2-4. Houston improved to 3-2 on a sunny afternoon before 2,691 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
It was a sloppy performance by Toronto.
“It usually happens when you’re getting beat around on the mound,” said Gibbons, who also pointed to some good young talent in the Houston lineup.
Houston prospect George Springer homered twice and drove in five runs to trigger the Astro offence.
Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia hit his first homer of the spring, drilling Wesley Wight’s first pitch in the third over the centre-field fence to reduce Houston’s lead to 4-1. Arencibia also threw out two Astros trying to steal third.
Springer, a 23-year-old centre-fielder ranked 37th on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list, hit a three-run shot in the fourth and a two-run blast in the fifth. He was hit by a pitch in the seventh.
The six-foot-three 200-pounder has not played above double-A ball other than in spring training.
Jays starter Brad Lincoln didn’t survive the first inning, giving up three runs on four hits and a Melky Cabrera error. He gave way to Vancouver right-hander Trystan Magnuson, who promptly gave up another double before registering a strikeout to end a four-run Astros first inning.
Lincoln threw 24 pitches, 12 for strikes.
Germano restored some order on the Jays mound in the second and third innings.
But the Astros had their way with the next Jays pitcher, with Jeremy Jeffress giving up four straight hits — including Springer’s three-run shot — and a wild pitch before his first out of the fourth.
Houston led 7-1 after four and increased the lead to 10-1 in the fifth on Fernando Martinez’s RBI double and Springer’s homer off Claudio Vargas.
Toronto’s Alex Hinshaw pitched his way out of the seventh after a walk, hit batter and Mike McCoy error at shortstop loaded the bases. In the eighth, Tommy Hottovy escaped Astros on second and third.
Toronto loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth but was unable to profit.
Right-fielder Moises Sierra and catcher Josh Thole combined to get Houston’s Trevor Crowe at the plate in the ninth as he tried to reach home from second on a Marc Krauss single.
Starter Alex White made his debut for Houston, giving up just one hit in two scoreless innings. He threw 25 pitches, 14 for strikes.
White went 2-9 with Colorado last season with a 5.51 ERA before being traded to Houston in December for reliever Wilton Lopez.
NOTES — A tough day for singer Jeff Fuller at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, who flubbed both the U.S. and Canadian anthems. He tried to restart “O Canada” but the crowd continued without him. The disconsolate singer did get to shake hands with a sympathetic Jays manager John Gibbons afterwards … Brandon Morrow starts against the Yankees Thursday in Tampa. J.A. Happ, who broke Curtis Granderson’s forearm with a pitch Sunday, is also slated to see action … Pitcher Mark Buehrle briefly showed off Slater, his infamous pit bull, outside the Jays clubhouse. Slater, along with the Buehrle family, is skipping the season in Toronto due to Ontario’s anti-pit bull regulations.