Last week, the Blue Jays signed veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez to a minor league deal. Hernandez was released by the Dodgers on June 22nd. The 37-year-old wasn’t getting much playing time with the Dodgers – only 55 at bats this season – and hit .208. Hernandez is a career .263 avg, .327 obp, .417 slg. This year was his 15th MLB season.
A depth move but a smart one. Henry Blanco was cut so that Josh Thole’s offence wouldn’t hurt the Jays when J.P. Arencibia was getting a day off. Thole has hit .121 avg, .194 obp, .121 slg since being called up from triple-A. I expect him to improve on these numbers – it would be hard not to – but Hernandez provides a bit of insurance.
After R.A. Dickey threw his best start of the season and Henry Blanco rose his obp to .262, Blanco was designated for assignment (which basically means he was cut from the team since he’s 41 years old) and Andy LaRoche and Josh Thole were added to the 25-man roster.
The Blue Jays are saying that they need more offence from their back up catcher. Hmm….the starting catchers obp is under .240. The back up has the responsibility of catching Dickey. Period. He has done it fairly well. This move makes no sense.
If the Jays didn’t trust Blanco’s bat, they should have never had him break camp with the club. Thole was having a great year at the dish so far…..in triple-A. He was hitting .322 with 7 homers….in triple-A.
Yes, Thole is a career .260 hitter at the MLB level. And yes, he caught Dickey all season last year during the 20-3 Cy Young year. But since Dickey is a knuckleballer, it’s not like Thole calls a better game than Blanco. So it comes back to the same statement: if you didn’t trust Blanco’s bat, then take Thole north after spring training and cut Blanco loose in late March.
For the record, I always thought the Blanco signing was a head scratcher. But if they guy makes the club, don’t give up on him when he hasn’t played poorly. He has been exactly who you thought you were getting (which begs the question, why sign him).
If the Jays are worried about production from the C position, they need to look at Arencibia. 70+ strikeouts, only 5 walks, an obp under .240 and mired in a horrible slump. He looks as if he is guessing whether or not to swing before the pitcher has even started a wind up. I don’t ever recall a hitter chasing so many first pitch sliders low and away and well out of the zone. I’ll say that one more time: first pitch sliders out of the zone – don’t swing – it’s not what you were looking for.
In the end, do I think the Jays are a better team with Thole? Marginally, yes. But I would have never signed Blanco to begin with (and you can read my past blogs to prove it).
If the Jays are saying that we need the offensive production from the bats of LaRoche and Thole to be able to compete in the tough AL East, we might as well pack it in.
We need our starters to get healthy and pitch to their respective capabilities. If that happens, we play .600+ baseball. If it doesn’t, well, you already see the results.
In last night’s victory over the Rays, Jose Bautista played like a team leader. He went 4-4 with two homers and all 4 of the team’s RBI. And he didn’t whine once about the strike zone.
Bautista, who got off to his second slow start in the past two seasons, has stopped complaining about every borderline call that goes against him and is focusing on playing solid baseball. It’s about time.
This trend started a few weeks ago and the attitude change (probably brought on by a talk from John Gibbons) is paying dividends in Bautista’s game. He’s hitting .412 with 4 homers and 10 RBI in his last 10 games.
I hope that this new, positive attitude Bautista is bringing to the field everyday will eventually rub off on guys like Brett Lawrie. You can already see J.P. Arencibia’s attitude changing for the better at the plate (although we now need the results to follow). It’s easy when guys are cold to complain about borderline pitches. But real pros hardly ever complain or sulk when they make an out because their attitude is that they will get the next one. Lawrie can’t say that right now – he is a walking temper tantrum. And here’s a tip for you Lawrie: Don’t call people out on social media networks when you’re hitting less than your listed weight. Just focus on playing the game. He’s late on almost every fastball and early on breaking pitches. He’s just stuck in between right now. Arencibia must also be feeling the heat lately (in the words of Dirk Hayhurst yesterday “Happy 1 month anniversary, J.P. It’s been a month since your last walk). In fact, he has 2 walks vs. 55 K’s so far this season. His obp is now .239. Yikes.
With J.P. slumping (which will happen – he’s a streaky hitter that can carry a team when hot and be non-existant when cold) and Lawrie still yet to find his groove after 122 at bats (hitting .180), it’s nice to see Bautista step it up.
But we’re going to need guys like J.P and Lawrie to pick it up. Bautista won’t hit .412 for the rest of the season.
Let’s get 3 of 4 from the O’s. With Brandon Morrow and R.A. Dickey both pitching this series, I feel good about at least a split. Let’s hope one of our fill ins can steal a game and the offensive helps take the pressure off.
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.
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.
The Blue Jays will be well represented at the upcoming World Baseball Classic that runs from March 2 – 19. Brett Lawrie (Canada), J.P. Arencibia (USA), R.A. Dickey (USA), Jose Reyes (DR), Edwin Encarnacion (DR), Melky Cabrera (DR) and Esmil Rogers (DR) were all named as participants for the 16-team tournament.
One player who did not receive permission to play is slugger Jose Bautista. The right fielder is recovering from August surgery on his injured left wrist, and the club would like to avoid the possibility of a setback.
Bautista began swinging a bat in December and has been taking part in daily workouts, but with a lack of actual games before the Classic, the risk of injury is one the club is not willing to take. Bautista instead will have to take on the role of a fan as he watches teammates Reyes, Encarnacion, Cabrera and Rogers play for his home country, the Dominican Republic.
For those worried about Arencibia and his need for time to practice catching Dickey’s knuckleball, I have two comments:
1) Look for Josh Thole to get the bulk of the work with Dickey during the season. The Jays wouldn’t have pushed for him in the trade if they didn’t plan on using him and Dickey obviously has a high level of comfort with Thole.
2) Arencibia might just catch Dickey in the WBC, as both players are suiting up for team USA.
I love this tournament and attending the last Canada vs. USA game in 2009 at the Rogers Centre. It was probably the best atmosphere of any sporting event I’ve ever attended. Can’t wait to see this year and hope Canada does well, but glad it wraps up by March 19th so I still get to see our boys in Spring Training when I’m down there March 21 – 24.
All WBC games will be streamed live at MLB.com
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