Tagged: Emilio Bonifacio

Cabrera hits DL; Kawasaki back with big club

It didn’t take long for Munenori Kawasaki to make his return to the Blue Jays clubhouse.

Melky Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee tendinitis on Thursday night and Kawasaki got the call up after being sent down to triple-A just two days earlier when Jose Reyes returned from the DL.  Cabrera’s legs have been an issue all season and you have to wonder if this was intentionally timed to line up near the upcoming allstar break to give the veteran a few extra days off after he is eligible to come off the DL.

Kawasaki, 32, hit .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases in 60 games with the Blue Jays as Reyes’ primarily replacement at shortstop. Kawasaki also made his mark with a big smile and ability to come through in the clutch.

Without Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista are the only three pure outfielders on the roster, but Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa can also play in the outfield.

I expect Davis will see most of the time in left field and Bonifacio will spell him occasionally, opening up a spot on the infield at 2B for Kawasaki from time-to-time.

Let’s hope Davis can hit righties over an extended period.  He’s struggled with it throughout his career.

@IHRTBJs

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Is Kawasaki here to stay?

There is some speculation that Munenori Kawasaki might be here to stay.  You have to wonder if the Blue Jays would still sign Maicer Izturis if they could do it all over again.  Izturis signed a 3-year, $9 million deal this past offseason and it was suggested he would be the starting 2B.  But after the trade with the Marlins that included Emilio Bonifacio, Izturis has lost playing time at 2B as Bonifacio has established himself as the everyday player at 2B (you might not agree, but I stand by this decision).

Yet, with Jose Reyes going down early with a severe ankle sprain it wasn’t Izturis that received the nod to start at SS in Reyes’ extended absence.  Instead, the Jays called upon former Japanese baseball allstar Kawasaki.

Kawasaki, instantly a fan favourite for his praying antics and gracious bows, is a sub-average utility middle INF at best.  But for some reason, he is getting constant at bats over Izturis.  It’s a bit mind boggling.

I can see why Jays fans (mostly casual band wagon jumpers who have had little to cheer for this year) love Kawasaki.  He hustles, he battles and grinds every at bat, and he uses his speed.  He has to use his speed – his approach is to slap the ball and try and beat out infield singles.  Very occasionally he gets a ball into the outfield.

But he does walk and get on base.  His batting average leaves a lot to be desired for a contact guy at .205.  Yet, with a .322 obp he’s doing the job out of the 9 hole.  But a .264 slugging percentage?  Yikes.  See what a mean about his “beat one out” approach?

The Jays, though, seem to want to find room for Kawasaki when Reyes comes back (probably late June).  With Brett Lawrie on the DL, they might be able to do so for a bit longer.  However, when Lawrie comes back, the Jays need to lose an INF and Kawasaki appears to be on the block.  Izturis is earning too much to be traded, Mark DeRosa is a much more valuable bat off the bench with a healthy team, and Kawasaki just doesn’t hit enough to stick around.

Jays fans love Kawasaki and as a fan watching the little guy play the big league game, even I have a soft spot for him.  But the club is a better team with Izturis starting at SS over the course of several games and it’s annoying that the Jays never let that take place.  Kawasaki would have been a great call up to be the reserve middle INF.

Instead, he’s a guy everybody hopes will do well.

@IHRTBJs

Blue Jays need a win today

After winning four in a row backed by a red hot offence that bats have gone cold in Yankee Stadium – and the Blue Jays can’t find a way to win at Yankee Stadium.

Friday night, Hiroki Kuroda was virtually unhittable.  Not much you can do when a top line pitcher throws like that.

But yesterday’s loss was one that got away.  The Jays managed to make David Phelps look like a Cy Young candidate.  A rally killing pick off of Jose Bautista to end the 1st inning was very telling of how this game would play out.  The Jays went 1-9 with runners in scoring position and left 14 men on bases in total.

And Brandon Morrow, making his first start in a couple weeks, looked sharp.  He’s line didn’t reflect how well he threw.  He had a live fastball and excellent command.  Really the difference in this game was Robinson Cano – with his two homers he moved into first place tie in the American League home run race with 12.

But there are issues in the Jays line up.  J.P. Arencibia is ice cold.  He is that sort of player.  When he is hot, he’s on fire.  When he’s cold, they need to bat him 8th in the line up.  And right now he is ice.

I mentioned it before and I know that the Jays did win 4 straight with the new-look line up of Melky Cabrera, Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion batting 1, 2, 3, but I’m still not a huge fan.  In the last 6 games with this line up, Emilio Bonifacio (who has finally been given consistent playing time – it’s about time) has hit .304.  He should be leading off.  Period.

Cabrera is the hottest hitter on the team.  You have to have someone hitting in front of him with a chance to get on base.  Cabrera has been raking doubles lately and you have to wonder how many would score Bonifacio from firstbase.  Probably any of them if he was on.

Today we have R.A. Dickey vs. CC Sabathia.  This one could go either way, but we really need a win.  Lose today and we’re 11 back in the division – ouch.  With a win, we can crawl back to Toronto down 9 with the next 7 games vs. AL East opponents.  Let’s hope the knuckleball is doing its thing today.

Lefties are only hitting .195 vs. Sabathia so look for a righty heavy line up today.

For the record, for the 90 win season we need to go 73-46 in the remaining 119 games (play .613 ball the rest of the way).  This is still possible, but it’s becoming much less probable with every series loss – especially vs. AL East opponents.

The hope is with Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes on the mend, the Jays can hang in long enough to get the stars back and they play like stars.  That’s all we can hope for at this point.

@IHRTBJs

Morrow pushed back yet again, Ortiz gets start today

How rusty will Brandon Morrow be when he pitches again for the Blue Jays?  Will he avoid a trip to the DL?  These are the questions fans have to be asking now that Morrow has been pushed back a third consecutive time due to neck/back spasms.  While he was supposed to take the mound today to end the 2-game mini series vs. the Giants, the Jays are now hoping he can pitch this weekend  on Saturday vs. the division leading Yankees.

Pros and cons – the Jays have a better chance winning with Morrow on the mound today and it would be nice to head to New York with 4 straight wins and a bit of momentum vs. the red hot Yankees.  On the other hand, it will be nice having Morrow throw in the Yankee series assuming he’s not too rusty and is able to go.

Nothing against Ramon Ortiz, who will fill in for Morrow for the second straight time.  He is the best internal option right now.  But he is a triple-A depth player at this point in his career and the Jays bats will have to continue to produce should they hope to win tonight.

Even though the results have been there over the last three games, I can’t say I’m a fan of the new line up with everyone bumped up a slot (Melky Cabrera leading off, Jose Bautista second, Edwin Encarnacion third, etc.)  I’d rather see Emilio Bonifacio lead off since he is starting to hit up and have the bulky bats hitting behind some obp and speed.  That would mean starting Bonifacio on a regular basis – something I’ve been saying they need to do for weeks now.

With the rotation battered, yesterday and Thursday’s off days couldn’t have come at a better time.  Let’s hope Morrow can go this weekend in New York and take a game from the Yanks.

One last comment – I hate that there is fan voting for allstar games but particularly hate how early it starts in baseball.  However, if I have to be honest and say which Jay(s) are deserving of an allstar nod this year based on performance so far in 2013, there is only one guy I would send: Casey Janssen.  He is 10 for 10 in save opportunities and boasts an incredible line: a 0.69 ERA, 0.31 WHIP, .093 opponents batting average to go along with zero walks and 13 K’s in 13 innings.  Wow!  Is there a better closer in the game this season?

@IHRTBJs

Off Day Monday Thoughts

So, the Blue Jays did what I hoped they would do at the very least – they finished 4-3 on their recent road trip despite a patched together rotation and being 1 hit by John Lester.

Surprise call up, Chad Jenkins, pitched well and got away with mistakes on Sunday to earn much needed win.  By winning Sunday, the Jays won just their second series of the season.  Yikes.

Jenkins is now 2-3 with a 4.38 ERA over 37 major league innings.  With his outing vs. the Red Sox, he earned another start in my opinion, especially with Josh Johnson and J.A. Happ on the DL and R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow pitching with back and neck spasms.

That’s if Morrow pitches.  The whole reason Jenkins got the unlikely call up from double-A (Jenkins had only 1 minor league start in the minors this year since he was recovery from a shoulder injury) was because Morrow was unable to go.  Morrow originally scheduled to pitch last Friday but had his start bumped out due to back and neck spasms so Ramon Ortiz got the nod.  Then on Sunday, Morrow still wasn’t ready so Jenkins got the call up (and took advantage by throwing strikes).  Now the Jays are aiming for a Wednesday start from Morrow.  My guess is if he misses it, he’ll land on the DL.

If Morrow is able to go Sunday, I actually like our chances to take the 2-game mini series (and 2-game mini home stand) vs. the Giants tomorrow and Wednesday.  We have Dickey going tomorrow and hopefully Morrow Wednesday.  When on either of these guys can steal a win.  Also, it looks like the offence is starting to hit a bit.  Forget the game vs. John Lester – he was just unhittable for any team that night – the Jays hitters are really seeing the ball right now and having good at bats.

Happy to see Emilio Bonifacio get a couple starts.  We need to give him at bats and get him going.  He has too much talent to sit on the bench 3 out of 4 games.

Casey Janssen – what can I say?  He’s been the best closer in the American League so far this young season and the Jays only allstar in my opinion.

With our “win 90” count down, the Jays now have to go 75 – 48 in the remaining 123 games.  That’s .610 ball.  Not impossible, but certainly not easy (especially with the patched up rotation).

Let’s steal two from the Giants!

@IHRTBJs

Last Night’s loss – May 2, 2013

I’m tired of losing.  Even more so, I’m tired of losing to John Farrell’s Red Sox.  

Last night the Blue Jays dropped another game to lower their record to 10 – 19.  That’s the 27th of 30 MLB teams.  Only the Houston Astros are worse in the American League.  

I never expect to win a game when our starting pitcher walks 7 batters.  It rarely happens.  But with all the walks (10 in total) allowed to Red Sox hitters, the Jays only surrendered 3 runs and definitely had a chance to win.  

Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded.  He’s been making solid contact for the past two weeks and really hitting it hard every time he puts it in play.  On a 2-0 pitch, he rolled over on a slider and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.  

Adam Lind came to the plate with two out and the bases loaded later in the game.  He has been seeing the ball as well as any Blue Jay lately (11 walks in his past 9 games).  He worked the count full and then struck out on a fastball at the letters.  

So the offence had its chance.  Bad start for J.A. Happ?  Definitely.  He couldn’t command anything.  But the staff gave us a chance to win last night and the offence, yet again, let us down.  

This next comment might sound a bit like I’m just bitter and looking for excuses for the Jays – I’m not.  They have played horrible baseball and deserve their record.  I really think they will go on a run, but they deserve to be 10 – 19 with the way they’ve played so far.  So keeping in mind this is not an excuse….what the hell was up with home plate umpire Gary Darling last night?  His strike zone was inconsistent to say the least.  He gave Ryan Dempster so many pitches off the outside corner, which I’m totally fine with if it was going both ways – but it wasn’t, and poor Happ couldn’t get a call when he was on the plate.  It was downright ridiculous.  Now, this umpiring did not lose the Jays the game.  The lack of clutch hitting lost them the game.  But you have to wonder if all the previous whining about balls and strikes over the past couple seasons is catching up with the Jays with umpires around the league.  

On a positive note, only Brett Lawrie complained last night.  Usually it’s Lawrie, Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, and the list goes on.  I’m happy Bautista has shut his trap the last couple games.  You have to think John Gibbons had a private conversation with him about it.  

This is going to sound weird to some since the offence sucked again last night, but I think they are really close to breaking out.  The at bats are getting much better.  It was rare that they chased and it really looks like most guys are starting to see the ball well.  The only two that looked lost at the plate were Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio.  Cabrera is in a funk and Gibbons has now moved him back to the 2-hole where he is certain to see pitches while hitting in front of Bautista – thank you Gibbons (you should have never moved him).  And Bonifacio just isn’t getting enough consistent at bats, so it’s tough.  He should be starting nearly every night and Munenori Kawasaki should be on the bench to spell Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis when they need a night off or to come in for Bonifacio as a defensive replacement late in a game if the Jays have the lead.  How many times do I need to say this?  

And Gibbons, I really do like you as a manager and don’t want to see you go (despite what some of the fan base is saying), but how can you not pinch hit for Kawasaki in the bottom of the 9th when he represents the tying run at the plate?  Really?  Mark DeRosa was available.  Hell, even Maicer Izturis has more pop than Kawasaki.  Just a bizarre decision to pinch hit for Bonifacio with Rajai Davis and not pinch hit for Kawasaki when he represented the tying run.

I realize it sounds like I really don’t like Kawasaki but I actually do.  I just don’t like him as a starter or at the plate representing the tying run in the 9th inning.  

Let’s hope Ricky Romero’s new mechanics can hold up tonight vs. Felix Hernandez.  And let’s hope the bats come alive.

@IHRTBJs

Do the Blue Jays still have a shot at the Postseason?

A lot of people I know have been asking me whether I think the Blue Jays postseason hopes have already been crushed.  And it’s still the month of April.

But let’s face it.  Nobody expected a 9-17 start out of this group and if they did, they most likely wouldn’t have thought it was the offence that was hurting the team.

The Blue Jays have scored 3 runs or less in 15 of their 26 games.  They have a major league worst .259 batting average of ball in play.  Their last 7 games have been decided by 2 runs or less.

What does all this mean?

The Jays are due to score a lot of runs.  They are do to have some of those “at’em balls” find holes and even better, due to have some bloops fall in.  They are due to blow out some teams very soon.

Baseball is a game were nothing lies after 162 games and this team has too much talent not to turn this around.  It’s only a matter of time, in my opinion.  Once they string a few wins together, they could go on a huge run.

But will it be too late when they do?  Well, you can’t win a division in April but you can certainly lose one.  Already the Jays have dug themselves into a deep hole.  Not always, but normally 90 wins gets you a playoff spot (the Rays won 90 last year and missed).  To win 90 games, the Jays need to go 81-55 over the remaining 136 games.  That’s playing nearly .600 ball (.596 to be exact).  Can they do it?  Absolutely.  But it needs to start right not.  Boston will not finish the season playing .720 baseball.  They are due to lose.  Neither John Lester or Clay Bucholtz have lost a game and sport ridiculously low ERAs (2.27 and 1.19 respectively).  Both Morrow and Buehrle are due for wins.

In baseball, assuming talent is there, usually the hot teams are about to cool off and the cold teams are about to heat up.  It’s time to even things out.

One request – can we please get Emilio Bonifacio into more games?  He should be starting at 2B and Maicer Izturis should be at SS.  You can bring in Munenori Kawasaki if you have a lead late or if someone needs a day off.  Bonifacio is hitting .188 with a .232 obp over 64 at bats vs. a career .264 avg and .325 obp.  Kawasaki is hitting .225 with a .313 obp vs. a MLB career (admitted sample size) .201 avg and .273 obp.  So which player has more upside?  Look at Izturis: he was batting .174 ten games ago and then hit .243 to bring his average up to .200.   His career average is .271.  Logic says he’ll continue to produce and probably go through a period of hitting over .300 for several games.

Let’s start playing .600 ball!

@IHRTBJs