McDade Flashes The Leather For Jays

DUNEDIN, FLA. — First baseman Mike McDade was determined not to let his second-half hitting funk last season affect his fielding.

McDade prides himself on his defense. During his hitting drought at Double-A New Hampshire last season—which he refuses to blame on a knee injury sustained in July—he talked about having an on/off switch. When he was done hitting, he'd turn the offensive button off.

"You have to, you can't drag your offense into the defense," he said. "My biggest thing on defense is helping my teammates, helping the infielders, helping the pitchers."

The differences before and after the Eastern League all-star game were dramatic. In 88 games before the break, the switch-hitter batted .310/.355/.525 with 14 homers. In 37 games after the break, he hit .214/.265/.297 with two homers.
Assistant general manager Tony LaCava said the knee injury did hamper McDade.

"It definitely bothered him," LaCava said. "It wasn't an injury that was going to hurt him long-term, it was  a matter of being able to tolerate the pain. He was in a lot of pain, his numbers did suffer as a result. No question. He played through it and he was a big part of the championship."

McDade, a sixth-round draft pick in 2007, could open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, the city where he was born, though first baseman David Cooper could be returning there as well after a big 2011 season.

McDade might be coming in under the radar among Blue Jays prospects, but what he brings is not lost on the organization.

"He's a good athlete," LaCava said. "He really understands that we as an organization value two-way players.

"He keeps hitting better each year. We keep challenging him with higher levels. He maintains both sides. He's a guy we think has power and can be a middle-of-the-order hitter."


• The Jays signed righthander Rick VandenHurk to a split contract. To make room for him on the 40-man roster they placed righthander Alan Farina, who is coming back from elbow surgery, on the 60-day disabled list.

• Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler worked out for the Blue Jays in the Dominican Republic, as did pitchers Armando Rivero and Omar Luis and outfielder Henry Urrutia.