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Litsch dominating in final spring tuneup

Litsch dominating in final spring tuneup

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It's time for Jesse Litsch to haul out the scouting reports. After a dominating showing in his final tuneup for the regular season on Wednesday night, the Blue Jays' fifth starter can begin reading up on the Red Sox.

Come April 5, Litsch will be on the mound at Rogers Centre, where he'll be given the task of taking on Boston in his first start of the season. If his final two outings in Grapefruit League play are any indication, the young right-hander appears more than ready to begin the campaign.

"Now," said Litsch when asked how soon he'd begin studying up on Boston's hitters. "You start studying as soon as possible. I'm going to stay back here and try to get ready and meet with the team in New York."

Following a pair of exhibition games in Philadelphia this weekend, Toronto opens the 2008 season at Yankee Stadium on March 31. Instead of joining the Blue Jays for Opening Day, Litsch will remain on his throwing program in Florida and meet up with the team during the three-game series in the Bronx.

On Wednesday the 23-year-old Litsch took the mound at Knology Park, where he spun a gem against Cincinnati. Relying heavily on his sinker -- a pitch he's worked on extensively this spring -- he dominated the Reds' lineup and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Cincinnati's first 19 hitters went hitless against Litsch, but shortstop Jeff Keppinger put an end to that streak by drilling a pitch up the middle to lead off the seventh. Litsch finished with two runs allowed on two hits with two strikeouts and one walk over seven innings in which he threw 76 pitches, including 52 strikes.

"I felt good," said Litsch, who induced 15 outs via ground ball. "I went out there, and I was just working on my pitches, working on my sinker again and trying to keep the hitters off balance. The outcome was what I wanted today. It just felt good."

In his previous start, Litsch had nearly as impressive an outing against a potent Detroit Tigers lineup. Over six innings in that appearance on Friday, he allowed three runs on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. During one stretch between the first and sixth innings, he retired 16 batters in a row.

"You're trying to get ready for the season," said Litsch, who went 7-9 with a 3.81 ERA as a rookie last season. "You have to go out there every day and try to get better and get ready for the season. I feel like I'm almost where I need to be to go out there and pitch my first game."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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