Jays Finish Road Trip, Dropping Finale in Texas

 

Marco Estrada deserved a better fate than what he got on Thursday. Estrada pitched six innings of one run ball giving the Blue Jays every chance to stay in the game. It went for naught as the Jays stranded the tying run on third in the sixth and seventh innings before Liam Hendricks came in and had his worst outing of the year with some help from Jose Bautista who over ran a ground ball and resulting in a 3 base error which at the time turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-0 hole that proved too much for the Blue Jays to climb back from.

The Blue Jays did get on the board in the eighth as Edwin Encarnacion doubled home Jose Bautista for the lone Jays run and ran his hitting streak to 22 games. The Jays were an out away from bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Rangers Closer Shawn Tolleson was able to get Troy Tulowitzki to line out to short with Ryan Goins at third base to end the game.

If some one had told me at the beginning of this road trip that the Jays would win 6 of 8, with six of those games against teams in the second wildcard spot I would have gladly signed up for it. So despite today’s setback the road trip was a successful one considering how the Jays usually fare on these Western road swings.

With the road trip out of the way, the Blue Jays will open up a nine game homestand Friday night against the Tigers who will send former Blue Jay Matt Boyd to the mound while the Blue Jays will counter with R.A Dickey. Drew Hutchison will make his return to the Blue Jays rotation on Saturday, and Mark Buehrle goes Sunday afternoon. The Tigers starters for the weekend will be Buck Farmer on Saturday and Alfredo Simon on Sunday. To be totally honest I really like the match-ups for the Blue Jays in this series.

As for the rest of the homestand the Jays will host Cleveland starting Monday night and then after an off-day on Thursday the Orioles come into town for Labour Day weekend.

Lastly if you’re into the magic numbers in the pennant races, The Blue Jays who are up  a game and half on the Yankees for top spot in the East now have a Magic Number of 35 for the Division, and for a playoff spot the Magic Number stands at 30. The Blue Jays are six games clear of both Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels who both sit at a half game back of the second wild card spot which is held by Texas.

 

 

Blue Jays 12 Texas 4, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

 

The Blue Jays offence once again showed their prowess as they hammered the Texas Rangers 12-4 The Jays record now sits at 71-55 and are now two games ahead of the Yankees. The Blue Jays finish off their eight game road trip tomorrow afternoon as they send Marco Estrada to the mound to face the Rangers Yovanni Galiardo.

The Good

The offence yet again was excellent as it was the 20th time this season that the Blue Jays have scored at least 10 runs in a game which is now a club record beating the previous record of 19 which was done by the 1993 team which this current team has drawn parallels to this season. Edwin Encarnacion ran his hitting streak to 21 games with his grand slam in the sixth inning that blew the game wide open. Kevin Pillar was 3 for 5 tonight and hit a solo shot to lead off the sixth inning that ended Ranger pitcher Colby Lewis’ night. Ryan Goins continued his impressive run of plate appearances walking three times, scoring twice and going 1 for 2.  Jose Bautista drew four walks tonight as the Blue Jays walked 10 times tonight. Ben Revere made one of the better catches you will see this year, with a great leaping catch against the scoreboard to rob Delino Deshields Jr. off an extra base hit in the third inning. David Price,who gave up a two run home run  in the first off Adrian Beltre, was excellent throwing six innings allowing five hits while striking out eight as he celebrated his 30th birthday picking up his fourth win as a member of the Blue Jays.

The Bad

Russell Martin’s struggles at the plate continued going 0 for 3 although he did draw two walks. His injury concerns were raised yet again by some on twitter after a ball got passed him in the fourth inning. Mark Lowe who hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to get into games recently had a rough outing allowing four hits and two runs in an inning of work tonight.

The Ugly

Nothing Blue Jays related tonight, however for a team that is in the Wild Card hunt like the Texas Rangers currently are you would expect to see a better crowd than what they got tonight. Only 20, 572 bothered to show up to Globe Life Park tonight and that number may be generous as it looked even smaller than that on TV.

Blue Jays 12 Angels 5; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

 

 

The Blue Jays finished off a weekend sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 12-5 win. The win puts Toronto in first place in the AL East a half game ahead of the Yankees who lost to Cleveland on Sunday 4-3. The Blue Jays finish off their eight game road trip with a three game series in Texas starting Tuesday night.

THE GOOD

The offence all weekend was on fire as they set a new franchise record for runs scored in a three game series with 36.  The 2-3-4 of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were 9-15 in the game. Bautista and Encarnacion also added back to back home runs in the fourth inning. Encarnacion has extended his hitting streak now to 20 games. Troy Tulowitzki had a pair of hits on the afternoon and hopefully it’s the start of Tulo starting to get the bat going. Ben Revere had another great day at the plate as well as he had a pair of hits, giving him seven for the weekend. Kevin Pillar also added three hits on the day. The Bullpen did their usual bang up job today as Brett Cecil, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna with the latter striking out the side to end the game in the ninth. Troy Tulowitzki’s heads up play on David Murphy’s double, keeping the tag on Murphy as his feet lost contact with the base, the safe call that was made on the field was overturned on replay, turning the double into a single.

THE BAD

R.A Dickey’s first inning was, well, awful as he got touched up for six hits and five runs in the first inning and for a time looked like he may not survive the inning as the bullpen was warming up. Once he got out of the first inning he was excellent as he was able to give the Blue Jays five shutout innings the rest of the way. Josh Thole was 0 for 3 in his return to the big leagues, with the Jays now carrying three catchers on the rosters Thole will probably on catch on days when Dickey is pitching chances of Thole getting any kind of regular at bats will be slim so I don’t expect much from his bat.

THE UGLY

The only ugly today was the Angels defence which looked bad all weekend and I would imagine drove Angels Manager Mike Scioscia nuts.

 

The Early Friday Notebook

(Mark Blinch/CP

(Mark Blinch/CP

 

With Dave Dombrowski now off the market in Boston it has brought up more questions about current Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’ future beyond October 31st when his current contract expires. It has also for the moment not regurgitated this past winters rumours of Dan Duquette coming to Toronto. But back to Anthopoulos for a moment, as it has been pointed out by some there is a possibility that he cashes in on his high demand this offseason and ends up going elsewhere. I suppose it’s a possibility, he will after all be a free agent that is free to go where he pleases, and there is also no guarantees that whoever is Paul Beeston’s successor won’t want to bring in his own guy to be the team GM. It would also be some pretty awful PR for Rogers if Anthopoulos were to get away in the off-season.

I do have a solution that some have also have suggested. Why not do what some MLB teams are doing now and go with two people at the top like the Red Sox are doing. The Jays could promote Stephen Brooks who is currently is the VP of Business for the Jays as the actual President and have him look after the Business side of the ball club and give Anthopoulos the title of President of Baseball Operations which isn’t much different from what he is currently doing for the ball club. Hell, if they don’t want to go that route they can always talk Beeston into sticking around another year, no I’m not kidding.

 

There seems to be lot’s of discussion around Russell Martin and his ailing left leg/hamstring and why the Blue Jays even had him playing. I wouldn’t have played him Wednesday night in Philadelphia and the reason isn’t completely related to the injury. First off Mark Buehrle has been having Dioner Navarro as his personal catcher as of late and things have been working out rather well. Navarro has caught eight of Buehrle’s starts and even though it is a small sample size the numbers speak for themselves. In those eight starts opponents have a slash line of .239/.274/.411 he has pitched 55 innings in those starts with an ERA of 2.62. In the 16 games that Martin has caught opponents have hit .281/.306/.425 in 104 innings and a 3.83 ERA. Second the Phillies are the bottom feeders of the National League and with two big series with the Angels and Rangers it made all the sense in the world to start Navarro. I understand that Martin is the Blue Jays big off-season investment but two days off in a row would have helped him out and let’s also point out the Blue Jays need him in September as healthy as he possibly can be and it just seems foolish for the Blue Jays to be running him into the ground right now. His numbers for August .111/.184/.111 would also show that maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Martin to take a few days off  and try to heal up. It’s also quite plausible that come September when the rosters expand Josh Thole will be one of the September call-ups and will probably catch R.A Dickey.

 

 

Early Season Thoughts

(Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

(Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays have now played nine games, and yes, it’s ridiculously early, there is reason to feel excited about the prospects of what could happen this season despite some of what the fan reaction was in the Blue Jays first two losses at home where the offence was M.I.A

The offence which has shown some early splashes of success along with their fair share of struggles. It also seems to me that every season the Jays offence looks anaemic in April and like the weather heats up in May. It also seems to me that some in the Blue Jays fan base have hit the panic button on Russell Martin, one in particular referring to him on twitter as Russell Clarkson. It’s a week and a half into the season, it’s too early to be burying players that are struggling, every player goes through a 1 for 21 stretch at some point during the season. The big reason Martin was brought here was because of the intangibles he brings to a ball club as well as his defence and pitch framing. As for his offence, he’ll be fine.

I’ve also been impressed with the bottom of the line-up, something that couldn’t be said the past few years. Kevin Pillar is going to make John Gibbons decision on playing time very difficult once Michael Saunders comes off the DL. Devon Travis has been impressive at second base, so maybe, just maybe the black hole that has been second base the last few years will be no more.

The defence has been really impressive too, led by Pillar who has had some absolute web gems so far this year, and the infield defence has been great as well, Jose Reyes has looked great at short so far and if this new turf at the Rogers Centre plays slow the whole season it could really help Reyes as well as the rest of the team. It’s been an adjustment for players to get used to playing on the new turf but in a few more weeks the Jays could really have a home field advantage over their opponents with this new turf.

The bullpen seems to have righted itself from it’s early hiccup in New York last week. I’ve been impressed with Gibbons use of his bullpen too bringing Miguel Castro into Tuesday nights game in the seventh inning, and not being afraid to take Brett Cecil out of the closers role after one game. It shouldn’t really be a surprise, Gibby’s strength has always been how he manages his bullpen and I’m sure there will be high leverage situations in the seventh or eighth inning that Castro will come into a game then instead of waiting till the ninth inning. I mean, after all it makes perfect sense to use your best reliever in the highest leverage point of a game. Speaking of high leverage it seems like Gibby has his four guys he likes in those roles with Castro, Cecil, Aaron Loup and Roberto Osuna. The rest of the pen to me could change and I’d be ok with it. The man at this point that could be out of luck when the Blue Jays decide to go to a seven man pen is Todd Redmond, with Marco Estrada and Liam Hendricks in the bullpen it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense keeping three long men around.

The starting pitching hasn’t been all that bad either. Aaron Sanchez had a stinker in Baltimore Saturday night and chances are that both he and Daniel Norris will have some bad outings as they start out their careers as starters but let’s not write a guy off after his first big league start. R.A Dickey has looked pretty good too, save for the fifth inning of the home opener and maybe could have his best season as a Blue Jay. Drew Hutchisonn hasn’t looked bad either despite the start in Baltimore Sunday and could very well put up the best numbers of any pitcher on the Blue Jays this season.

 

Blue Jays And The City Of Dunedin Close On A New Spring Training Complex?

A year after a proposed shared Spring Training facility with the Houston Astros in Palm Springs was nixed by the locals it would appear that the Blue Jays are close to signing to a deal with the City of Dunedin and Pinellas County to build a 50-80 million dollar baseball stadium with updated amenities according to The Globe and Mail’s Robert MacLeod.

According to MacLeod the deal would also include a 30-year lease at the new complex, which according to Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski could be ready “within three years”.

Although the deal isn’t close to being completely finalized both sides are confident that a deal will get done.

“That’s the hope,” Ward Bujalski told the Globe and Mail. “Our agreement is up in 2017, so we want to have a deal, at least the majority of a deal, struck before Mr. Beeston retires. And get working immediately.

The only downfall to the new complex is that there will not be a parcel of property available to be able to fit both the stadium and a training facility on the same property so they would again have to have separate facilities like they do now.

Although in an ideal situation we’d prefer everything to be on one site, I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Beeston, . “Bobby always [liked] that the minor-leaguers aren’t looking over the fence to find out what the major leaguers are doing,” Beeston said, referring to Bobby Mattick’s preference when he was with the Ball Club. “With two sites, the minor-leaguers have got their own area, they can be focused, they can be developed. Same with the coaches.

Beeston has already submitted his wish list on what the new complex would have, including a request for a 7,000 seat stadium.

The article also states that the chances are that the City of Dunedin will tear down the current stadium and build the new stadium in that spot and then refurbish the Bobby Mattick Complex.

The time for a new Spring Training Complex in Dunedin is long over due and let’s hope that the deal with the Blue Jays and the city can get done. It would be Paul Beeston’s retirement gift to the fans.

Playing Pepper

(Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

(Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

As some of you may or may not know, this site Blue Jay Musings is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, every spring the site Cards Conclave send around what they call Playing Pepper, a questionnaire to bloggers of every team in Baseball about their view on the off-season and questions about the upcoming season.

So without further ado here is our version of Playing Pepper.

1) What are your thoughts on the team’s off-season?  Did they do what they needed to do?

The biggest question marks going into the off-season where second base and the bullpen. They didn’t necessarily address those needs quite the way most Blue Jays fans wanted too. At second base they acquired Devon Travis who was a highly thought of prospect with the Tigers, but, he’s still just a prospect who will likely start the year in Buffalo. Maicer Izturis is looking to bounce back from missing almost all of last season with a knee injury and if he can show that 2013 was a fluke then he should bring some offence to that position. As for Ryan Goins, sure he’s a plus defender at second, his bat still hasn’t developed to the point where he deserves Major League At Bats.

Alex Anthopoulos passed on the bullpen arms in Free Agency this winter and I like the fact that they didn’t bite on the asking price for some free agent arms. Don’t forget, the Blue Jays’ pen was one of the better one’s in 2013 and bullpens are one of the more trickier positions to fill on a team because of the uncertainty year to year. I would expect the Blue Jays to be able to build the bullpen in house and probably the best thing for the pen would be if Aaron Sanchez is in it.

Did they do what they needed to do? in some ways yes and in some ways no. The Russell Martin signing is a huge upgrade behind the plate and he will do wonders working with the young arms in the Blue Jays rotation. Josh Donaldson was also a huge acquisition, nothing against Brett Lawrie who was a great defender, but having a guy that has proven he can stay healthy and that has hit for power playing most of his games in pitcher friendly parks in Oakland and Safeco and is also a plus defender and has playoff experience is huge for a team like the Blue Jays that have play-off aspirations this year.

 2) So how will the off-season GM drama affect the team, if at all?

The Dan Duquette-Ed Rogers-Paul Beeston drama from this past winter won’t have any affect on the team on the field. We probably won’t hear anything about a new president until November which is after Beeston’s contract is set to expire and he will head off into retirement.

3) What’s the strength of this team?

Easily the offence, with a 3-4-5 combination like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson they have arguably one of the best 3-4-5 combinations in all of baseball. Russell Martin should be able to put up similar numbers to what Melky Cabrera put up last season and I think Michael Saunders could be a nice addition to the line-up. Lets also not forget about Dioner Navarro who will be a nice bat off the bench and can fill in at DH and catch when Martin is not in the line-up.

4) What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

Marcus Stroman, I know he had a helluva of a rookie season with the Blue Jays, but I believe that he will only get better this year. Another year under the tutelage of Mark Buehrle will help as well. It should be interesting to watch Stroman develop this year and see his sinker that he worked on when he entered the rotation last year get even better. I honestly think that Stroman has ace potential and will be a stud for years to come.

5) What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?

I think the Blue Jays will finish anywhere between 85-90 wins and with all the question marks with every other team in the AL East I think they have a really good chance to win the division. I do believe that this will be the year that they end their 21 year postseason drought this October.

 

We are looking at doing a Mailbag feature every couple of weeks here. Send your Blue Jay related questions to bluejaymusings@live.com

Blue Jays’ Unveil New Canada Day Jersey

Getty Images

Getty Images

On Saturday the Blue Jays sent out a tweet of Russell Martin modelling off the new Canada Day jersey that the team will wear on Canada Day when the Blue Jays face the Boston Red Sox.

It will be the first time since the team has gone to a special Canada Day jersey that it won’t be red. I’m not quite sure that I really like the new jersey, I think it’ll make me miss the all red jersey that the Jays had used the past three seasons. At least this one looks better than the protocol that Ian over at Blue Jay Hunter had come up with right?

And, hey, it gives Rogers another chance to make a bunch of money off these new jerseys that are slated to go on sale online at http://www.jaysshop.ca in June.

 

Blue Jays’ Ink Dayan Viciedo To A Minor League Deal

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays have added more depth to their outfield by signing former White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo to a minor league deal according to a Ken Rosenthal tweet

Viciedo, according to a tweet by Shi Davidi, will see time in Left Field, Third Base and First Base although Viciedo has limited experience at the infield positions.

Viciedo a career .254/.298/.424 hitter in his five big league seasons with the White Sox, and has some power in his bat hitting more than 20 home runs two of the past three seasons. He excels more against lefties than he does right handers, hitting .291/.331/.507 against left handers.

If Viciedo makes the major league roster he would be under team control until 2017 and will be in the battle to win a spot as the teams fourth outfielder and could get action in left while Michael Saunders recovers from his meniscus injury.

The Thursday Night Notebook

saunders

The Blue Jays haven’t even had their full squad report for Spring Training yet and the injury bug had bitten already as Michael Saunders tore his meniscus and is reportedly out until All-Star Break. Saunders did talk to the media on Thursday morning and said that his goal is to be back before the Break.  The worst part is just how freak the injury is. Saunders hurt his knee taking fly balls on one of the back fields at the Blue Jays Bobby Mattick Complex when he ran into a sprinkler.

For those keeping score at home that is the third freak injury in as many years to happen to a Blue Jay, in 2013 Melky Cabrera suffered a tumour in his back which made him look like an old man, last season Maicer Izturis completely tore his lateral collateral ligament in his knee when he stumbled down the dugout steps in Baltimore and now Saunders inadvertent run in with a sprinkler. Some one should tell the Baseball Gods it’s time to lay off of the Blue Jays, they’ve dealt with enough injuries in the last three seasons regardless of whether they were of the freaky variety or not.

As for who the Blue Jays plan on putting in Left field until Saunders comes back? Alex Anthopoulos said for now they will look internally at the outfielders they have, my guess is that Kevin Pillar is the most likely to be in left on Opening Day, but that they could also make a move at the end of Spring Training. Shi Davidi also dropped an interesting name into the mix when he appeared on the MLB Network tonight saying that Danny Valencia who has played some outfield in his career could get some playing time in left as well. I guess it’s a better option than trying Edwin Encarnacion in left like the Blue Jays did last year when Jose Bautista was hurt.

BLUE JAYS SIGN SANTANA 

The Blue Jays also announced Thursday night that they had came to terms with former Cy Young winner Johan Santana to a minor league deal. Santana will make his appearance at camp tomorrow according to reports. It’s yet another low risk, high reward signing for the Blue Jays who have been making a habit of doing these type of signings this winter. Santana, 35, hasn’t pitched in the Big Leagues since 2012 when he pitched with the Mets. He has missed the past two years rehabbing a shoulder injury, which happened to be his second in three years.

On the positive side of things if Santana can prove that he’s healthy and that he could contribute would give the Blue Jays another option for their starting rotation, most likely he will start the season in Buffalo and add more pitching depth for the Jays’ which in the past has been proven that you can never have enough depth.

Of interest to note, Current Blue Jay Josh Thole was the catcher that caught Johan Santana’s no-hitter when he was with the Mets in 2012. It was the first in Mets history.

GIBBY MUM ON OPENING DAY STARTER

This came as a surprise to me when Scott MacArthur tweeted out that John Gibbons wouldn’t commit to starting R.A Dickey on Opening Day, saying that when they knew, we would know. Not that it really matters and we really shouldn’t read much into it. MacArthur later tweeted out that if Dickey were to start the second game of the season in New York he would avoid facing the Orioles, who Dickey doesn’t fare well against, and that it would give Dickey three starts under the Dome in the Jays first homestand of the season. That makes sense and Dickey is a guy who has said he prefers to pitch in a controlled environment so making three of his first four starts inside the Dome rather than unpredictable outdoor weather in April is probably a good thing.

As for who starts the Grapefruit League opener next week, according to MacArthur Gibby is leaning towards starting Aaron Sanchez.

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