Wow – where has the time gone? After last week’s seven game West coast road trip, the Jays have now completed 21 weeks of the 2011 season. With hope for the playoffs virtually extinguished, chatter has turned from making a postseason push, to who comes up in September, and where will Bautista finish in MVP voting. It seems like just yesterday that 2011 was kicking off. Brutal.
But there are still games to be played, and for the Blue Jays, there are still plenty of questions to be answered. All of the roster turnover we have witnessed in recent weeks is all aimed at bringing a championship back to Toronto, hopefully as soon as 2012. The rest of this season can be seen as an audition for next year – play well and a spot on the roster could be yours.
Here are three things from week 21:
Week 21: August 15 – August 21
Record: 4 – 3
1. Offense Dries Up In Oakland
The offense was rolling. In a span of six games (two vs. LAA, three vs. SEA, and one vs. OAK) Toronto plated 46 runs en route to five victories. But then something happened. Maybe they celebrated too hard after Ricky Romero’s CG 3-hit shutout on Thursday. Maybe they all got food poisoning. Maybe every member of the Jays offense became extremely depressed knowing they still had three more games to play in one of the most decrepit and unfriendly stadiums in all of professional sports.
Whatever the case, the bats that were scorching earlier suddenly turned ice cold. Rich Harden, Gio Gonzalez, and Guillermo Moscoso completely befuddled Toronto hitters on the weekend, helping the A’s take two of the final three games of the four game set. If it wasn’t for an outstanding pitching performance by Luis Perez and Casey Janssen, Oakland would have taken all three.
The Jays scored a measly two runs over the weekend, and managed a grand total of 11 hits. 11 hits! They were shutout for the fifth time this season on Saturday night and looked to be on their way to another shutout on Sunday before Bautista saved the day. Struggling in Oakland is nothing new to this team . In 2010 Toronto made one trip to the Coliseum, and scored only 9 runs on 20 hits in three games.
The good news? They left Oakland and took out their frustrations on their next opponent, a 16-2 win over Boston.
Look out KC – you’ve got some angry hitters coming at you tomorrow.
2. Roster Moves Galore!
Don’t recognize a large amount of this team from last week? I don’t blame you. Alex Anthopoulos was busy last week shuffling players here, there, and everywhere.
On Monday, Rajai Davis was placed on the 15-day DL, with Mike McCoy making yet another return to Toronto. On Tuesday, Jon Rauch was placed on the 15-day DL and Trever Miller was designated for assignment. Two lefties – Wil Ledezma and Rommie Lewis – were recalled from AAA Vegas to take their roster spots. Then on Thursday, lefty Brad Mills was shipped back to Vegas, and iin a somewhat surprising move, Joel Carreno was brought up from AA New Hampshire.
But that’s not all! On Saturday, journeyman pitcher Kyle Davies, fresh off a 1-9, 6.75 ERA stint with the Royals, was signed and sent to Las Vegas in what might be another attempt at a reclamation project by AA.
On top of those moves, Toronto is now dealing with an injury to Adam Lind after he was hit on the wrist by a pitch on Saturday. Though x-rays were negative, he still missed Sunday’s game, which happened to be the day after Jose Bautista missed Saturday’s game with a sore neck, and a few days after Aaron Hill was given a multi-game rest. On top of that, de facto closer Frankie Francisco was scratched on Sunday due a sore shoulder issue.
With all of these moves going on, it’s easy to forget that in just 9 days the rosters will expand, meaning one thing.
Get ready for even more moves!
3. Successful Auditions?
Toronto’s pitching staff has never been more wide open. The triple I’s (injuries, ineffectiveness, and inconsistency) has thrown the rotation and the bullpen into a state of flux, meaning jobs are up for grabs – not just for the rest of this season, but potentially for 2012 as well. Romero, Morrow, and Cecil seem pretty entrenched as starters, but poor play by Mills and Drabek, injuries to Litsch and Villanueva, and trades of Stewart and Rzepczynski have left the 4th and 5th slots wide open. Henderson Alvarez seems to be managing well in his audition, and if Sunday means anything it looks like the 5th starter slot could be solved as well.
Luis Perez was brilliant yesterday, taking a perfect game into the sixth. He finished with a line of 6 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, and 4 K, picking up his first win as a starter. He also threw 80 pitches, and while he tired rapidly in the 6th, he showed enough stamina and endurance to suggest that he will be able to handle a regular turn.
Similarly, Casey Janssen might have won himself a more trustworthy bullpen role. With Dotel traded, and Rauch and Francisco unavailable, Janssen pitched three scoreless innings in relief, striking out five. He allowed only one walk and no hits, earning his second save of the season. Might it be in the realm of possibility to see Janssen as a potential closer for the rest of the year?